After suffering decades of oppression, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are now caught between two fires from the country’s repressive military junta and the rebel Buddhist Arakan Army, according to local Arakanese activists.
The UN and other international human rights organizations have called the violence against the country’s Rohingya “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide,” saying the Muslim group is “the most persecuted minority in the world.”
Mohammed Rafik and Nay San Lwin, Arakanese activists spoke with Anadolu Agency about the rights violations that Rohingya Muslims have been facing since the February 2021 military coup.
Saying that what has been done to Arakanese society is not new, Rafik stressed: “In addition to human rights violations, numerous military campaigns have been carried out to eliminate and render Arakanese Muslims stateless in their own country and in neighboring countries where they have taken refuge.”
“Calling them the 'most persecuted' doesn’t solve the problems,” he said, adding: “The UN has failed on the issue of Arakanese society.”
“With the exception of a few 'concerns' that have reached the deaf ears of the oppressors in Myanmar, justice has not been achieved for this community,” he underlined.
“In 1978, about 300,000 Rohingya Muslims were deported to Bangladesh with Operation Dragon King (Nagamin).
“In 1982, a citizenship law was passed and the citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims was taken away overnight,” he stated.
“Deprived of basic rights such as health services, education, and the right to property, the Rohingya were also left vulnerable to torture and harassment,” he stressed.
“Gen. Than Shwe similarly forced more than 200,000 Rohingya, including me and my family, to leave the country with Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation in 1991-1992,” he said.
Rafik underlined that President Thein Sein, who served from 2011 to 2016 after an election held by the army, also displaced 120,000 Rohingya Muslims with "systematic policies.”
"About 100,000 of them live in internally displaced persons camps. These rights of Arakanese Muslims, who had the right to vote and be elected from independence in 1948 until 2015, were completely taken away,” he lamented.
“Between 2016 and 2017, two more major genocide campaigns were carried out,” he continued.
“Due to these two campaigns, 75% of the population of Arakan (Rakhine state) was displaced and became asylum seekers in Bangladesh.”
Bringing the story to the present day, he said: “In November 2022, the army declared empty Arakanese villages property of the border forces. The Rohingya, who were once equal citizens of Myanmar, are now deprived of citizenship, their homes, and basic human rights."
Pointing out that Rohingya Muslims are still the "largest, only Muslim community" that has been stripped of citizenship in Myanmar, Rafik added: "One of the policies of successive governments since 1962 is to refuse to grant citizenship to Rohingya Muslims.”
“Other Muslims living in different parts of Myanmar have citizenship and basic human rights. They are also being targeted due to hate campaigns spread by extremist Buddhist monks in the early 2000s, but their citizenship has never been taken away," he said.