The Rohingya Genocide must come to an end | The Triangle

The Rohingya Genocide must come to an end

Content Warning: Intense depictions of rape, violence, and homicide

“They’ve been described as the most persecuted people in the world,” according to the opening line of the CNA Insider documentary ‘Are the Rohingya To Remain Stateless Forever?’, which details the horrors that the Rohingya people have had to endure since the start of the genocide in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim group in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, which shares its northern border with Bangladesh. Myanmar, however, is a Buddhist-majority country, with almost 90% of the population identifying as Buddhist. The Rohingya have faced persecution for decades by the government and Buddhist nationalists who spread fear and claim that the Rohingya are actually Bangladeshi people illegally living in the country. Many Buddhists and non-Muslims living in Myanmar have even begun incorrectly calling the Rohingya “Bangladeshi,” implying that they are not citizens of Myanmar. The Rohingya argue against these claims and state that their ancestors have lived in the area for generations.

Indeed, the history of Myanmar is complex, as is often the case with history and geopolitical affairs. Prior to British colonial rule, Myanmar was a land of feudal kingdoms; from 1858 to 1947, during the British colonial empire’s rule over the region, Myanmar (then known as Burma) and Bangladesh were treated as a single region within the British Raj. Movement of people and goods throughout the area was common. Following World War II, the Burma Independence Act 1947 granted Myanmar their status as a sovereign nation. Democracy was new to this region of the world, leading to power vacuums and opportunistic individuals who wanted to find a way to rise to power.

The military filled this gap and controlled the country for much of its independent existence. Waves of anti-Rohingya sentiment existed for decades, but hatred for them reached new heights in 2016 when the military attacked Rohingya living in the Rakhine State. Stories from the Rohingya peoples detail unthinkable atrocities: Men lined up shoulder to shoulder and shot execution style in mechanically efficient fashion, thousands of women raped and beaten. Small babies tossed into the air, and in some cases directly towards the sky with the intent to catch them with the sharp end of a knife as they came cratering back down to Earth. Videos and photos of these atrocities  have been captured and displayed online for the world to see.

In 2022, five years after the start of the second wave of the Myanmar government’s continued assault in the Rakhine State, the United States declared these actions a genocide. Nearly a million Rohingya people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh as a result of these atrocities. Once they arrive, they are often treated with hostility by people who live in the region and are unhappy about the one million new refugees living in the area, while others in the region welcome the Rohingya and seek to help them. In any case, the fear they have for their safety prevents them from returning to the Rakhine State. Some Rohingya hoping for a better future have begun searching for new places to live, including Malaysia and Thailand. The long journeys they take to these destinations are primarily done via rickety boats, which sometimes capsize in the ocean, killing everyone on board.

The United States is the leading donor of humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya, providing over $2.4 billion dollars in aid since 2017, and other nations have joined the US in condemning the actions of the Myanmar government. The humanitarian crisis is not just morally wrong, but has also become a national security risk. The Rohingya are a stateless people with limited rights in Bangladesh and even fewer in Myanmar. As the people lose hope, they turn towards desperate measures to get by; some have radicalized and join terrorist groups to harm those they view as enemies. The United States must do more to ensure our security, along with the security of our allies in the region.

There will no doubt be more protests held over the summer for various global conflicts. The continued dialogue we are having around these conflicts are all valuable opportunities to talk about the genocide of the Rohingya people taking place in Myanmar. The violence and persecution against them must not be kept in the dark. Now is the perfect time for people to draw attention to one of the worst genocides of the 21st century. Do not allow the Rohingya people to suffer in silence any longer.