Hu­man­ity in the age of Hu­man Rights: A tale of Ro­hingiya’s Mus­lims

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents - Se­har Sabir

Echo­ing with am­ple cre­dence, hu­man of preva­lent in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, it would be an un­de­ni­able truth to say that we are liv­ing in an age of hu­man rights. Statutes, con­vents, char­ters and man­i­festoes of al­most ev­ery, na­tional, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion seems to in in­com­plete with­out hu­man rights. Hu­man­i­tar­ian in­ter­ven­tion, biopol­i­tics and Re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect, (R to P or R2P) are the cur­rent norms that in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has coined in the name of Hu­man Rights pro­tec­tion, in or­der to pun­ish the ‘mass atroc­i­ties’ i.e. eth­nic cleans­ing, geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity. Although tremen­dous ef­forts have been done in­ter­na­tion­ally to check, pre­vent and pun­ish abuses of hu­man rights, but still in sev­eral re­gions hu­man­ity is suf­fer­ing de­spite the hu­man rights rhetoric. Re­cent geno­cide and forced dis­place­ment of Ro­hingiyan Mus­lims is one of such crimes and has raised many ques­tions for the hu­man rights pro­tec­tion, norm set­tlers, sup­port­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers.

The con­tem­po­rary po­si­tion of this ethic mi­nor­ity of Myan­mar is that of In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPs), refugees liv­ing in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Malaysia, In­done­sia and Thai­land. Their plight has called abusers of hu­man rights to ex­ploit the sit­u­a­tion, made them vul­ner­a­ble The sit­u­a­tion was fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rated when, af­ter 2012 ri­ots be­tween Mus­lims and Bud­dhists, in 2014 the Myan­mar Gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy asked them ei­ther to pro­vide proof that their fam­ily has lived there for more than 60 years and qual­ify for sec­ond-class cit­i­zen­ship, or be placed in camps and face de­por­ta­tion. Con­se­quently the new wave of mi­gra­tion led these mi­grants to states re­fused to ac­cept them as they were stranded at the sea. Myan­mar shares its western bor­der with In­dia and Bangladesh, eastern, south eastern and north eastern borders with Laos, Thai­land and China re­spec­tively. These im­me­di­ate bor­der­ing states should bear the re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect Hu­man Rights as the mem­bers of in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. But in the mi­gra­tion thou­sands of state­less peo­ple were com­pelled to move into the sea and no state was ready to ac­cept and the re­sponses of these states has been crit­i­cal in ag­gra­vat­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the re­gion. Bangladesh is bear­ing 200,000 mi­grants liv­ing in the refugee camps those who are en­rolled by United Na­tions High Com­mis­sion for Refugees (UNHCR) are looked af­ter but un-en­rolled are fac­ing de­plorable plight. But the re­cent wave of mi­grants wit­nessed Bangladesh’s re­sponse with closed borders. In­dia al­leges these mi­grants to be in­volved in ter­ror­ism on In­dian soil. Thai­land, one of the state en­gaged in talks re­cently con­ducted in Malaysia on the is­sue, has been ac­tively con­duct­ing crack­down against Malaysia be­ing wealthy and short of un­skilled la­bor urged to ac­cept 7,000 Ro­hingyas as tem­po­rary mi­grants. In­done­sia which has been also en­gaged in re­cent talks has agreed on the sim­i­lar stan­dard as that of Malaysia.

Ro­hingyas are one of the mi­nor­ity eth­nic groups re­sid­ing on the ter­ri­tory of Burma (Myan­mar), the di­ver­gent views of their ori­gin lies at the heart of that at­tracts in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tions to­wards the is­sue. The Burmese Gov­ern­ment’s claim is founded on the mi­gra­tion that took place dur­ing Bri­tish an­nex­a­tion of Burma in 19th cen­tury, while that of Ro­hingya’s is founded on the his­tor­i­cal Mus­lim trad­ing and res­i­dence in the area dur­ing 12th cen­tury. The Mus­lim sat­u­ra­tion was

mostly in Arakan (Rakhine) re­gion of Burma. In 1942 dur­ing WWII, Ja­panese in­va­sion and Bri­tish re­treat re­sulted into com­mu­nal vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims. Be­fore in­va­sion the Bri­tish had promised to form a Mus­lim Na­tional Area_ that never came true_ in North­ern Arakan re­gion, re­sulted into Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion’s mi­gra­tion to Bangladesh, for­mu­lated Army and de­manded the sub­mis­sion of Mus­lim Ma­jor­ity area into the-then East Pak­istan (now Bangladesh). This cre­ated sense of in­se­cu­rity among the Rangoon Govt. and af­ter in­de­pen­dence in 1948 they de­clared Rhongyan Mus­lims as illegal mi­grants and were de­nied any rights of cit­i­zen­ship or na­tion­als of Burma. They didn’t have any right to be part of the civil­ian jobs rather were re­placed by Bud­hhist Burmese. In 1950 the-then Prime Min­is­ter of Burma rec­og­nized their claim to be eth­nic mi­nor­ity of Burma, but his ap­proach lacked prag­matic ef­forts and proved noth­ing ef­fec­tive. Fur­ther­more his ef­forts (po­lit­i­cal move) were rolled back by the next gov­ern­ment which rose to power af­ter coup’d’état. The 1974’s Emer­gency Immigration Act re­quired all the Ro­hingyas to have For­eign Reg­is­tra­tion Card (FRC) in­stead of (NRC). 1975’s Na­gamin (King of Dragons)-a cen­sus op­er­a­tion to check into the coun­try il­le­gally” re­sulted into hu­man rights abuses in Arakan re­gion and caused 200,000 Ro­hingya mi­gra­tions to Bangladesh and Malaysia in 1978. As a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and na­tional ex­clu­sion the mi­nor­ity group’s eth­nic recog­ni­tion turned into guerilla war­fare in 1991. Since then the re­turn­ing mi­grants are treated as rights.

Pak­istan be­ing the Mus­lim state of­fered grant of US $5 mil­lion in the form of food for the mi­grants liv­ing in the camps in In­done­sia, Malaysia and Thai­land and de­cided to sub­mit letters to the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Pres­i­dent UNSC and OIC to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and ad­dress the root cause of the is­sue by in­creas­ing diplo­matic pres­sure on the Myan­mar Gov­ern­ment to re­solve the is­sue. Tur­key played benev­o­lent role to send ship to res­cue the Ro­hingyan mi­grants stranded at sea. Saudi Ara­bia and United Arab Emarates (UAE) also agreed to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to the refugees. Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil con­demned the cause and urged in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and civil or­ga­ni­za­tions so­lu­tion.The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion ap­pointed spe­cial en­voy who rec­om­mended plan of ac­tion call­ing the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion against peo­ple pro­mot­ing hate speech and in­sti­gat­ing vi­o­lence, sug­gests for hold­ing in­ter-com­mu­nity and in­ter­faith di­a­logue, al­low in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple (IDPs) to re­turn to their homes, in­vest in the so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the Rakhine re­gion, and open up for in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to reach the com­mu­nity that was af­fected by the eth­nic vi­o­lence that broke out in 2012. The United Na­tions has been ac­tively en­gaged in pro­vid­ing re­lief to the refugees through UNHCR it also urged re­gional na­tions to pri­or­i­tize sav­ing the lives of those who are re­fused to pro­vide refuge and are stranded at sea, but no ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion has been pre­sented to ad­dress the root cause and iden­tity of the Ro­hingyan Mus­lims.

Although there have been ef­forts by the states, civil so­ci­ety, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance but af­ter in­tense in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, yet the in­evitable. Not only have the re­li­gious, but so­cio-po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic Ro­hingya com­mu­nity is fac­ing iden­tity cri­sis since 1948, de­nial of cit­i­zen­ship rights ex­posed them to be dis­crim­i­nated so­cially, po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally. They were po­lit­i­cally ex­cluded and had never been given right to vote prior to 1991, even when they were given this right the re­sult of the elec­tions was never ac­cepted by the mil­i­tary rulers. They were so­cially con­sid­ered as given cit­i­zen­ship rights, dis­crim­i­nated in civil ser­vices and are still state­less. Their so­cial ex­clu­sion re­sulted into lack of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and eco­nomic de­plorable plight. Fur­ther the re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion com­pelled them to be prone to be ex­e­cuted re­lent­lessly.

So­lu­tion to the prob­lem lies in ad­dress­ing the root cause of the is­sue. So­cial in­equal­ity, in­ac­ces­si­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties, re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion, na­tional and po­lit­i­cal ex­clu­sion cred­its the is­sue. They should be repa­tri­ated to their state af­ter as­sur­ing the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­clu­sion of this mi­nor­ity in Myan­mar by the United Na­tions Peace Oper­a­tions. For that the unity of in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is re­quired. To mit­i­gate the re­li­gious cleav­age in­ter­faith di­a­logue and peace­ful set­tle­ment is the dire need. All that needed is they should be treated as hu­man be­ings, but if in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity fails to ad­dress such is­sues it would leave a ques­tion for the value of hu­man­ity in the age of Hu­man Rights.

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