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Rohingya: The Now and the Future


What is happening to the Rohingya now?


The Rohingya still face fatality risks as half a million of them still reside in Myanmar’s Rakhine. UN investigators have warned that there is a "serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur". This minority group is stripped of its citizenship in every country it lodges and gets denied the right to any territory, making them the largest stateless population. Myanmar recently announced the construction of Transit camps where repatriated Rohingya would be held against their will.


Today, over 9,00,000 of them are being hosted by Bangladesh in the same basic bamboo structures as when they first arrived, in 34 camps at the Cox’s Bazar District. The overcrowded conditions such as in Kutupalong Camp, which is now the largest and densest refugee settlement in the world, make them susceptible to dangerous conditions.

Vulnerable towards disease outbreaks and infections, deprived of educational and healthcare opportunities, prey to trafficking and sexual exploitation, the Rohingya require our significant concern. Most of the Rohingya girls and women have particularly suffered gender-based oppression, domestic violence, assaults and child marriage. The refugees face travel and work restrictions and remain wholly reliant on Humanitarian aid. During the seasonal rains in Bangladesh, their shelters become prone to floods and landslides, making their conditions worse. Furthermore, the refugees are facing new challenges under the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from that, the psychosocial stress, separation from caregivers, loss of friends and loved ones make it harder to say they wouldn’t be living a traumatic life.


Role of the Myanmar government:


The role played by the Myanmar government is an antagonistic one. They have persecuted the Rohingya for decades, denied them citizenship, basic rights and freedom. Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya were declared “Non-national”, in spite of tracing their origins in Burma back to the 15th century and were segregated from other civilians to create “Muslim-free spaces.”


Starting off with 2014, the government conducted its first census in 30 years. Initially, the Muslim minorities were allowed to identify as Rohingya, however since they were not among the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, they received threats from Buddhist nationalists to boycott to the census and were only allowed to register if they identified as Bengali.


Speaking on the matter of the right to participate in elections, people with a white card were allowed to vote in Myanmar’s 2008 constitutional referendum and 2010 general elections. In the 2015 constitutional referendum, President Thein Sein cancelled the temporary identity cards given to the minorities in February, effectively revoking their newly gained right to vote. Furthermore, the 2015 elections, which were considered free and fair by several international monitors, had no parliamentary candidate who was of the Muslim faith.


The government also had strong control over fundamental aspects of their lives such as marriage, education, employment, family planning and freedom of movement. In the northern towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, Rohingya couples are not allowed to have more than two children. They also required permission to marry, which may call for them to bribe and provide photos to the authorities with a clean-shaven face or without headscarves, which goes against their religious beliefs. Government approval was necessary for them to relocate to a new home or travel outside their townships.


To add on, one can note the visible disparity between the economic and social conditions of the regions home to the Rohingya and other parts of the country. In fact, the Rakhine state is in Myanmar's least developed region, with the poverty percentage at 78 as compared to the 37.5 national average. This imbalance of freedoms, power and economy widens the gap between the Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Nationalists.


How humanitarian committees helped:


Although the Myanmar government isn’t taking responsibility for its actions, many international bodies have pointed out their horrifying crimes. Several organizations are also providing aid for refugees. Countries across the world are showing their support for the Rohingya, amassing donations and condemning the actions of the Myanmar state.


The UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2018, so that they would jointly register the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Also, the exercise was used to establish their former residence in Myanmar and their right to return.

The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said that the country would amass up to A$5 million to help the refugees. By mid-September of 2017, the government had contributed A$75 million to the cause.

In Canada, along with a promise to offer C$1 million for the relief support of refugees, a unanimous decision had been taken to revoke Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship.

The countries of Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Kuwait all donated to the cause. Several countries showed their disapproval and supported the UN commission of inquiry. They urged for permanent solutions to the conflict and said humanitarian aid. According to the UN’s data from October 2020 so far nearly US$2.8 billion-plus USD 700 million from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank

Organizations like World Vision partnered with Bangladesh and various UN agencies to provide life-saving assistance and improve the living conditions in refugee camps that face various problems mentioned previously.


Why we should care:


The Rohingya crisis affects the very morals our society is built on. The persecution of a community on only religious grounds reflects just how far we still need to go to make this world a better place. By staying silent we become bystanders witnessing the atrocities faced by the Rohingya that could even be inflicted onto another community in the future if we don’t stop Myanmar’s actions immediately. We must speak up against Myanmar’s crimes, we must show that we do not support or accept the terror they’ve spread.


How can we help?


Though we may feel powerless and weak at times we must realize that we can all make a difference. We can choose to advocate for human rights across the globe, donate to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, World Vision, share articles and learn more about the issue.


Conclusion


Four years after the mass exodus from Myanmar, the future of the Rohingya people looks as uncertain as ever. The situation that led to the mass killing and forced displacement in 2017, remains unchanged in Myanmar, owing to the lack of accountability and inability to criminalize genocide by Myanmar. The emergency has become a protracted crisis, with no end in sight. Hence, we write this article in the hope of giving this resilient minority called the “Rohingya” the recognition that they so rightfully deserve. For it takes some grandiose amount of strength to endure the atrocities they endured. To ensure their chance to have a better future, and to ensure that these threats to their existence never resurface again, we must show our support and give our aid. We must take action.

- Krishya Nema

- Zoya Pankhania



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