Staff Editorial: We need to recognize the Rohingya genocide

By Duke Staff

After the Holocaust, the world said never again. After Rwanda, the world said never again. After Bosnia, Darfur and Syria, the world continued to say never again. Yet, we are once more facing a horrendous genocide, this time in Myanmar.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in a predominantly Buddhist nation, live in Myanmar’s poorest state. While the Rohingya trace their presence in Myanmar to the 1400s, Myanmar’s government has consistently refused to recognize them as citizens. They are forced to live in squalid camps where they have little to no access to healthcare or education.

The recent bout of horrible violence began in late August after a small group of Rohingya, calling themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, attacked several Myanmar police and army stations. The resulting response has been swift, devastating and unsparing.

There have been numerous accounts of rapes and murders, many of the victims children. The Human Rights Watch has satellite photos which show entire Rohingya villages burned to the ground. So far the UN roughly estimates that more than 1,000 people have been killed in what they call “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The greatest effect of this violence is that it has caused more than 370,000 Rohingya to flee their homes in the past four weeks. The highly publicized refugee crisis on the Mediterranean, on the other hand, saw only 200,000 refugees in six months during 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration. Most of the Rohingya are fleeing to Bangladesh, a country ill-equipped for this sudden and massive influx of refugees.

At the same moment that this crisis is emerging, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration and agreed to uphold the ban on refugees until formal court arguments are heard in October. Just when our country should be opening its arms, it still continues to hold the door shut.

Imagine if Georgia refused to allow in people fleeing Florida from Hurricane Irma or if states blocked Texans from escaping Houston? Does it really make sense disregard the plights of people in even worse situations? We mustn’t allow for the genocide of the Myanmar to go unnoticed, and we mustn’t allow ourselves the comfort of ignorance. When we look with hindsight to the human rights disasters of our not-so-distant past and say never again, we need to mean it. We need to take a stance sooner rather than later, because by the time the word of this little-known atrocity reaches our history books, it’ll be too late.

The most important thing one can do is get educated. We encourage you to learn about Myanmar, its history and its people, and to be an active voice against the apathy that has allowed our silence for far too long. Put pressure on those in power to do something. The Rohingya people need the attention of the world and our help. If we, as a nation, are dedicated to preventing another human catastrophe, then we have to get serious and speak up. Never again is now.

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