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The Plight of the Rohingya Has Anything But Ended

One of the first and largest camps outside of Sittwe, Myanmar, where the first wave of Rohingyans fled when Buddhist mobs began attacking their villages and burning their homes to the ground. Photo: Andrew Stanbridge for Al Jazeera

By Yusuf Khan
January 26, 2014

To anyone not familiar with the Rohingya people of Myanmar, commonly known by its former name Burma, here's a quick primer.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnicity living in a predominantly Buddhist state.

They have been subjected to quite possibly every form of persecution due to their religious affiliation: harassment, educational and employment discrimination, verbal and physical abuse, lynchings, beatings, rape and even deliberated genocide fully licensed by the state.

The same kind of ethnic cleansing that the world did not believe would be possible in this day and age until it began happening before our very eyes in Bosnia is now happening again, this time in Myanmar.

Since Myanmar is not an oil or uranium-producing region, international intervention is unlikely unless public outcry reaches critical mass.

Officially recognized as 'the world's most persecuted minority' by the United Nations, the much-deserved media attention due to this helpless, defenseless community is commonly wasted on celebrity divorces and awards ceremonies.

Here are some quick facts: the Rohingya, though indigenous to Burma, have been denied citizenship by their own country.

Now stateless, they cannot be deported as no foreign nation will claim them. At the same time, the Rohingya continue to be treated as illegal aliens within Burma, the only homeland they've known, just as they have been for decades.

The Rohingya are barred from traveling freely within Burma, they cannot practice their religion, and they cannot work as physicians or educators which further fuels the educational crisis in their community.

Moreover, the Rohingya require specific government authorization to get married, and are the only ethnicity in Burma prohibited from having more than two children.

Obviously, inhumane and ridiculous stipulations such as these by the government leads to frustration and clashes between the Rohingya and the state.

When that occurs, the Rohingya are quickly labeled as 'troublemakers' and 'terrorists', and are promptly demonized by the local media to ensure that little or no support comes their way.

The Rohingya population of Burma, once reported at 5 million, has over the years dwindled to 1 million.

Just this month a savage attack was leveled on a Rohingya refugee camp resulting in the massacre of 48 women, children and men.

If the world continues to ignore them the way it has been, the cruel and senseless persecution will continue until the only remaining mention of the Rohingya is a passing reference in history books of a community that once was and is now no more.

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