Rohingya identity and the limits to history

Rohingya identity and the limits to history


  Public discussions around Rohingya people currently fleeing violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, have often involved arguments about history. While critical historical analysis is useful in offering insights into conflicts, History—if treated as a single, knowable past—is not. This is especially true when dealing with ethnicity. Whatever the past was, no amount of historical research can justify the current violence against Rohingya people.

The debate around Rohingya ethnicity lacks awareness of wider historiography (the history of historical research). On the one side, those denying that this is ethnic cleansing argue that there is no such thing as a Rohingya ethnic group. It is claimed that these people are actually Bengali Muslim migrants. The writings of historians such as Jacques Leider have been used, by some, to support this position. He argues that the use of the term Rohingya to connote this Muslim population, although noted by eighteenth-century European travelers, is a modern one. For him, Rohingya is primarily a political identity. On the other side, Rohingya activists have resisted this characterisation. They have countered that there is evidence of Muslims living in the Rakhine region for centuries, and that these groups have periodically been called Rohingya.

Writing in The Diplomat last year, one commentator attempted to disentangle these debates by arguing that “the Rohingya are not an ethnic, but rather a political construction. [emphasis in original]”. This is wrong. Not only wrong in the sense of it being inaccurate, but wrong in two other ways: 1) in that it relies on a false division between the categories “political” and “ethnic”, and then treats the two as if they are mutually exclusive; and 2) in that it assumes that we can definitively know people’s ethnic identification in the past. Read more ›

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From international darling of democracy to disgraced pariah

From international darling of democracy to disgraced pariah

Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Reuters

Mary Fitzgerald
December 30 2017 2:30 AM

This year has witnessed few more dramatic falls from grace than that of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese Nobel peace prize laureate began 2017 facing a growing hum of criticism over the plight of the Rohingya minority in the country where she is now de facto leader.

The year draws to a close with the UN’s human rights chief saying she could potentially face genocide charges in future.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, told the UN Human Rights Council in November that the widespread and systematic nature of the persecution of the Rohingya by the army in Myanmar (also called Burma) meant that genocide could not be ruled out. He also said it constituted “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. In a recent interview, he talked of culpability of the country’s leadership – both civilian in the case of Suu Kyi – and military.

“Given the scale of the military operation [against the Rohingya], clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” Al Hussein told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.”

It was not so long ago that Suu Kyi was affectionately known as The Lady and internationally feted as a pro-democracy activist who sacrificed much for her cause. She was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1991 while under a house arrest that was to last for almost 15 years.

A Rohingya refugee woman holds her child after they crossed the Myanmar-Bangladeshborder on Christmas Day. Photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica

“Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, she opposed all use of violence and called on the military leaders to hand over power to a civilian government,” her biography on the Nobel prize website read. “The aim was to establish a democratic society in which the country’s ethnic groups could co-operate in harmony.” Read more ›

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Allegations of Human Rights Violation in Myanmar

Posted by  HR Rashed posted a video to his timeline.

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Why humans kill other humans

Why humans kill other humans

Tage Rai, Piercarlo Valdesolo, and Jesse Graham 

December 22, 2017

At last count, more than 600,000 of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority had fled the country for Bangladesh. Ever since Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police outposts, resulting in a dozen deaths in August 2017, Myanmar security forces have begun a campaign of ethnic cleansing. They have burnt down hundreds of Rohingya villages, and murdered, raped, and beheaded the Rohingya they have encountered.

What has driven Myanmar security forces to engage in this act of ethnic cleansing? Do they fail to recognize the inherent humanity of their victims, or do their acts represent an excess of morality, morality that can be satisfied only by punishing a fellow human? What’s the motive that spurs on this violence?

A popular explanation for horrific violence is that perpetrators see victims as little more than animals or objects, and so they feel little remorse in abusing, torturing, or killing them because it is easier to hurt an animal or break an object than it is to hurt a human being. This process of dehumanization has been invoked to explain acts of violence ranging from the Holocaust and the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib to the ethnic violence against the Rohingya people. However, our recent research suggests that this explanation is mistaken. After all, the failure to recognize someone’s humanity predicts indifference  toward their welfare, not an active desire  and delight in bringing about their suffering. To understand the active desire to cause pain and suffering in another person, we have to look to a counterintuitive source: human morality. Read more ›

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Conditions are Severe for Rohingya Women in Refugee Camps in Bangladesh

 Conditions are Severe for Rohingya Women in Refugee Camps in Bangladesh

December 29, 2017 2:30 AM     ●Steve Sandford

Watch Video :Conditions are Severe for Rohingya Women in Refugee Camps in Bangladesh


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Perpetrators of Crimes against Rohingya Muslims Must be Brought to Justice

Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:35

 Perpetrators of Crimes against Rohingya Muslims Must be Brought to Justice 

Rohingya refugees landing on the bank of Naf River on a makeshift raft after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

TEHRAN (FNA)- On the occasion of Iran’s positive vote registered at the United Nations to a resolution on the violation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims, the world body should call for peace and human solidarity with the minority group in Myanmar.

On Tuesday, December 26, Tehran sent an official letter to the UN Secretariat announcing its vote in favor of the resolution, given “the significance of the country’s foreign policy considerations and core principles of its foreign policy.”

This came after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on Myanmar to end military operations that have “led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights of Rohingya Muslims in the country’s Rakhine state.”

The resolution, tabled by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, was adopted by a vote of 122 to 10 with 24 abstentions. Iran had initially abstained from voting due to the “politicized” nature of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. Still, Tehran condemned brutal crimes by Myanmar’s army against Rohingya Muslims and said the core policy of the Islamic Republic is to support the rights of all Muslims across the world, particularly the oppressed Muslims in Myanmar. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry cited “some technical” issues as the reason for Iran’s refusal to attend the session voting on the resolution. Read more ›

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The Rohingya and the World

December 28, 2017.

The Rohingya and the World

By  Elliott Prasse-Freeman

 Ending Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya will require confronting both local elites and foreign capital.

An elderly Rohingya man in the Kutapalong camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh,
November 25, 2017. RussellWatkins / Department for International Development

“ In Myanmar’s ongoing massacre of the Rohingya — a two-million person strong Muslim minority — the country’s military has burned hundreds of villages, destroyed thousands of homes, and slaughtered 6,700 peopleGang rape, torture, and infanticide have punctuated the egress of the Rohingya, more than 660,000 of whom have fled from northwestern Rakhine state into Bangladesh. These obscenities have not been occasional excesses but rather, according to a United Nations Human Rights investigation, part of a “consistent, methodical pattern” — an ethnic cleansing.”

The horror, in its seeming boundlessness, feels alien. And yet, in its popular renderings, there is also something all too familiar about it. The images of Rohingya enduring injustice blur with images of other groups, enduring other injustices in other places.

Critic Suchitra Vijayan argues that Guardian photo essay “completely reduces the politics of Rohingya exodus to ‘captivating’ theatre.” An Intercept photo essay asserts that “the best one can say” about the complex Rohingya identity is that it is “rooted in fluctuating kingdoms, Muslim conquests, colonialism, nationalist movements, ethnic cleansing.” Where this statement isn’t simply incorrect (“Muslim conquests,” whatever that could mean, were not part of the area’s history), it is vague to the point of meaningless, revealing the writer’s disinterest in the actual conditions that produced the crisis. Read more ›

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Witness to horror
The Rohingyas

The cover of the Rohingya; A short account of their history and culture