Today we are facing a horrifying humanitarian crisis, which has been underreported until recently. In the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority, are being persecuted and forced out of the country by the Buddhist majority. The Rohingya have a history of persecution since their large-scale internal migration during the time that Muslim Bangladesh and Buddhist Myanmar were both under British rule.
After gaining independence, Myanmar has effectively stripped rights away from the Rohingya people and the effects are drastic. Currently, the Rakhine province ,where the majority of Rohingya live, is one of the poorest in Myanmar. In 1982, Myanmar passed a citizenship bill that removed citizenship from the vast majority of Rohingya people. By removing their citizenship, the Myanmar government has made the minority stateless. The Myanmar government has rejected the Rohingya from all aspects of life, leading them to flee to Bangladesh and other southeast Asian countries. However, Bangladesh is struggling to continue to support the large-scale migration of the Rohingya people, leading to heightened security along the border. Even refugees who make it out are left poor and with scant opportunities.
2016 and 2017 saw a spike in government-sanctioned violence against the Rohingya people. After an attack by the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) that killed nine border officers, the state clamped down on security and lead a campaign to find and destroy all terrorist cells from the Rakhine state. However, the Myanmar military is going after Rohingya people indiscriminately with cases of mass rape, murder, and torture, leading to a mass exodus of refugees. The Myanmar government has denied these allegations, even though there is salient evidence of their common torture tactic: burning villages. The United Nations define these actions as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”
There seems to be no end in sight to the Rohingya crisis, since the current President of Myanmar, Htin Kyaw, has no control of the military. Even with resounding international condemnation, the military continues its operations with impunity. The recent violence adds another chapter to the arduous history of systemic oppression for the Rohingya. Both increased awareness and immense humanitarian aid are necessary to remedy the myriad of challenges Rohingya refugees face.
To address the plight of the Rohingya the best they can, the Brooklyn Tech MSA (Muslim Students Association) led a fundraising effort to assist Rohingya refugees. With the help of the STAND club and NHS, as well as the generosity of students and faculty here at Tech, over $1,500 will be going to help those in need. The weeklong effort was an example of the Tech community uniting to fight for social justice.