Lo­cal Ro­hingya call­ing on Canada to help end vi­o­lence

Waterloo Region Record - - FRONT PAGE - Anam Latif, Record staff

KITCH­ENER — The con­stant news cy­cle sad­dens Nur Hasim.

Nearly 400,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled bru­tal vi­o­lence in Myanmar in re­cent weeks and all the lo­cal Ro­hingya man can do is watch help­lessly.

“It’s very sad news to hear ev­ery day,” he says. “It keeps get­ting worse. In the fu­ture it will not get bet­ter.”

Some of Hasim’s rel­a­tives, in­clud­ing an aunt, niece, nephew and cousin, were among those who aban­doned their homes to cross the bor­der to safety in Bangladesh.

The lo­cal Ro­hingya ad­vo­cate wants the Canadian gov­ern­ment and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to put pres­sure on Myanmar, for­merly known as Burma, to end the vi­o­lence.

“Our free­dom has been stripped. It’s im­pos­si­ble for us to live side by side with the Burmese, un­til we have our hu­man rights.”

On Fri­day, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced an­other $2.55 mil­lion in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, in­creas­ing to $9.18 mil­lion Canada’s con­tri­bu­tion to help the Ro­hingya this year.

“Canada re­mains deeply con­cerned about the vi­o­lence in Rakhine State and the dis­place­ment of more than 375,000 peo­ple into Bangladesh since late Au­gust,” Canada’s Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said in a state­ment Fri­day. “The sup­port Canada is an­nounc­ing to­day will help part­ners pro­vide life-sav­ing as­sis­tance to peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence.

“We also urge the au­thor­i­ties in Myanmar to take mea­sures to pro­tect all civil­ians from the on­go­ing vi­o­lence, and we call for the full, unim­peded re­sump­tion of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance ac­tiv­i­ties for UN and in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions in Myanmar.”

While aid is help­ful, Hasim said po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic pres­sure is needed to win fair treat­ment and end the vi­o­lence. He wants the Ro­hingya to get

equal rights and ci­ti­zen­ship.

This lat­est round of vi­o­lence be­gan on Aug. 25, but it isn’t any­thing new for the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity, who mostly live in the north­ern Rakhine State of Myanmar. They have been de­nied ba­sic rights and ci­ti­zen­ship since the 1960s.

Hasim can at­test to that as a liv­ing sur­vivor of what he calls eth­nic cleans­ing. He left Myanmar as a teenager in 1991 to es­cape forced labour. Hasim said mil­i­tary of­fi­cials would round up young Ro­hingya men to carry their ra­tions.

“I knew peo­ple who never came back. They were killed af­ter they fin­ished.”

So Hasim packed up his things and took refuge across the bor­der in Bangladesh. There he met and mar­ried his wife and raised four chil­dren in a refugee camp un­til they ar­rived in Canada 11 years ago.

Now he is an in­ter­preter and ad­vo­cates for the Ro­hingya with his Kitch­ener-based group, Canadian Burmese Ro­hingya Or­ga­ni­za­tion. There are about 300 Ro­hingya liv­ing in Canada, with about 80 of them liv­ing in Water­loo Re­gion.

Hasim is pay­ing to dis­trib­ute bags of rice to feed stranded refugees in Bangladesh. It’s all he can do for now, he says.

“The camps are full. There is no shel­ter, food or wa­ter.”

Photos from refugee camps at the bor­der of Myanmar and Bangladesh show hordes of des­per­ate peo­ple seek­ing re­sources. Many of them, like Hasim’s own rel­a­tives, trudged through rainy jun­gles and dan­ger­ous ter­rain, dodg­ing mili­tia to get to safety.

“Canada’s gov­ern­ment should open its doors to take more refugees from Bangladesh to start a new life in Canada, like we did,” Hasim said.

“When we came to Canada, our life com­pletely changed.”

The United Na­tions es­ti­mates that 40 per cent of Myanmar’s Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion has fled the coun­try since Oc­to­ber last year.

“The sit­u­a­tion is a text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing,” UN High Com­mis­sioner of Hu­man Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hus­sein, told the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Geneva ear­lier this week.

Myanmar has also re­fused ac­cess to hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors so the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion can’t even be prop­erly as­sessed, he added.


Des­per­ate Ro­hingya refugees wait for aid hand­outs of cloth­ing and food on Fri­day in Tankhali, Bangladesh.

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