Amnesty: Rohingya Muslims suffered under ‘apartheid’ regime for years before brutal crackdown


Cii Radio|Ayesha Ismail|21 November 2017|02 Rabi ul Awal 1439

Rohingya Muslims were suffering under a humiliating “apartheid” regime for years before a brutal military crackdown in August forced over 600,000 to flee their homes in northern Burma to Bangladesh, a new report by human rights group Amnesty International has claimed.

The 110-page report, Caged without a Roof, follows a two year Amnesty investigation into the “ghetto-like” existence of the Rohingyas in Rakhine state, putting into context the recent wave of violence, where security forces have torched villages and killed and raped civilians.

Rakhine’s 1.1 million Muslim minority have been segregated and abused in what amounts to an “open air prison”, struggling to access healthcare and education, and facing severe restrictions on their freedom to travel or even tend their crops, Amnesty reveals.

“The Myanmar authorities are keeping Rohingya women, men and children segregated and cowed in a dehumanising system of apartheid. Their rights are violated daily,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty’s Senior Director for Research.

“Although these rights violations may not be as visible as those that have hit the headlines in recent months, they are just as horrific,” she added, calling for the cycle of abuse to end, to allow Rohingya refugees to return home and live with dignity.

The repression of the Rohingya has intensified dramatically since 2012 when violence between Burma’s majority Buddhist and Muslim communities swept across the state.

In central Rakhine state, the Rohingya has been kept strictly locked down in their villages and displacement camps, and sometimes not even allowed to use roads, say activists.

Those who manage to gain permission face frequent police checkpoints where they are allegedly harassed, forced to pay bribes, physically assaulted or arrested.

One Rohingya man told Amnesty how he had personally witnessed such abuse when his bus was stopped by police.

“There were four police in total; two of them beat the guys with a cane on their backs, shoulders and thighs. Another slapped the lady four or five times with his hand…After that they took them to the police station,” he said.

Travel restrictions have become life-threatening barriers to urgent medical treatment, and prevented access to markets and fields, leading to malnutrition. Rohingya children are no longer allowed to attend previously mixed government schools.

Ongoing repression led an armed, but disorganised, group of Rohingya insurgents to attack security checkpoints on 25 August, which in turn sparked ruthless army “clearing operations” and a mass exodus of civilians.
Amnesty has called for the end of apartheid conditions in Rakhine and for the Rohingya to be granted citizenship rights.

“Rakhine state is a crime scene. This was the case long before the vicious campaign of military violence of the last three months,” said Ms Neistat.

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