The most persecuted people in the world -- and the "living saint" who refuses to help them
If there is any group more heavily persecuted than the Palestinians of Gaza, it would have to be the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar (formerly Burma). They have been subjected to such a vicious program of ethnic cleansing that many of them have sought escape on the open sea in overcrowded boats, arriving in Thailand or Malaysia with absolutely no possessions. Most of them show up emaciated and starving; no-one wants to take them in.
Although this minority group has been under fire for many years, their persecution escalated in 2012.
Since June 2012, several hundred Rohingya have been killed because of their religion and ethnicity in widespread, systematic attacks led by Rakhine Buddhists. Over 140,000 Rohingya have been displaced in inhumane internment camps, and thousands have fled the country. Hundreds more, mostly men and boys, have been arrested on false charges.
In October 2012, a more targeted surge occured against the Rohingya Muslim population. Rakhine Buddhist communities formulated vigilante mobs, surrounding homes and razing them to flames, and Rohingya villagers fled.
Most alarming is the direct involvement of the local, state, and national government in the violence. Government officials have enforced explicitly racist policies for decades, and have failed to intervene and even participated in violent attacks against Rohingya. The government has been accused of implementing the crime against humanity of persecution against the Rohingya, and Rohingya are increasingly considered to be targets of potential acts of genocide.
The situation worsened last year...
On January 13, 2014, Rakhine mobs and security forces entered Du Chee Yar Tan, Maungdaw Township, and slaughtered over 40 Rohingya. A UN report confirms the gruesome deaths – severed heads of at least 10 Rohingya, some children, were found bobbing in a water tank.
I am sad and infuriated to see that the extraordinary Aung Sang Suu Kyi, a.k.a. The Lady -- the symbol of resistance against the cruel military junta which had ruled her country for decades, a woman often considered a living saint -- has refused to speak up for the most downtrodden citizens of her nation.
When pressed for comment on this, Suu Kyi speaks of the need to “clarify” questions of citizenship, while saying that all ethnicities should be treated equally. She is deliberately vague about what ought to be done with the Rohingya if they’re not – as the government and majority of Burmese believe – “genuine” citizens.
This is typical of the rhetoric Suu Kyi has employed when asked about the human rights perpetrated systematically by the regime against the Rohingya: She strives to seem neutral and non-committal on these matters. If silence is deafening, her stage-managed diplomacy isn’t much better.
A writer for Al Jazeera has even harsher words for her:
So, where does Suu Kyi fit into all this? Well, for a start, her silence is inexcusable. Her refusal to condemn, or even fully acknowledge, the state-sponsored repression of her fellow countrymen and women, not to mention the violence meted out to them by Buddhist extremists inspired by the monk Ashin Wirathu (aka "The Burmese Bin Laden"), makes her part of the problem, not the solution.
In a BBC interview in 2013, for example, Suu Kyi shamefully blamed the violence on "both sides", telling interviewer Mishal Husain that "Muslims have been targeted but Buddhists have also been subjected to violence".
Yet in Myanmar, it isn't Buddhists who have been confined to fetid camps, where they are "slowly succumbing to starvation, despair and disease". It isn't Buddhists who have been the victims of what Human Rights Watch calls "ethnic cleansing" and what the UN's special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar has said "could amount to crimes against humanity". It isn't Buddhists who are crowding onto boats, to try and flee the country, and being assaulted with hammers and knives as they do so. It isn't Buddhists, to put it bluntly, who are facing genocide.
A few days ago, The Independent published a particularly powerful editorial:
In October 2013, in an interview with Mishal Husein, Aung San Suu Kyi claimed that the 2012 violence was not ethnic cleansing but the product of ‘fear on both sides… it is not just on the part of Muslims but the Buddhists too. Muslims have been targeted but also Buddhists have been subject to violence’. Our research makes clear that to equate the suffering of the Burmese with the suffering of the Rohingya is risible.
The Rohingya have now faced what genocide scholar Daniel Feirestein describes as ‘systematic weakening’, the genocidal stage prior to annihilation.
Aung San Suu Kyi is an ambitious politician, who has set her sights on one day ruling Burma. The entire Rohingya population has been disenfranchised, ahead of elections to be held later this year, and thus they hold no electoral power. It is true that to speak out against the genocidal persecution of the Rohingya is likely to lose her many votes among the Burmese Buddhist majority, but it might not.
In other words, The Lady has become The Hillary. A saint has become a mere politician.
1. Al Jazeera has lost a great deal of its own moral standing as well. It hasn't exactly been forthcoming about the Shiite funders of ISIS and the Nusra Front, and about the conspiracy to overthrow Syria and Iran.
2. Progressive Americans love to believe that Buddhism is the "hip" religion -- the true religion of peace. Isn't Buddhism the religion of Lisa Simpson? Most American liberals would have a hard time believing that there can even be such a thing as a Buddhist Bin Laden. But there is. In fact, that's the title he has bestowed upon himself.
Videos of the persecutions in Burma establish that the "shock troops" committing the worst acts of violence are monks.
3. It is quite obvious that Gaza is being subjected to the "systematic weakening" stage that precedes annihilation. To his credit, Daniel Feierstein seems to understand this, although he does not speak as bluntly as he ought.
4. This is not the first time Muslims have been targeted. Israelis have often expressed fear of being "driven into the sea," even though everyone knows that this outcome will never happen. To the best of my knowledge, the only people who have literally suffered that fate have been Muslims, such as the Rohingya.
What we are seeing today is not the first anti-Muslim genocide within living memory. Gualtiero Jacopetti's controversial and horrifying 1966 documentary Africa Addio contains unforgettable helicopter footage of the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar, in which the new government systematically wiped out the Arab population.
As you can see in the video embedded below (which features uncredited excerpts from Jacopetti's film), thousands of Muslims were driven into the sea at gunpoint. This genocide has been forgotten by history; even Wikipedia barely makes note of it.
The world ignored what happened in 1964, just as the world is ignoring the suffering of the Rohingya today.
I assume you don't really mean "Shiite funders of ISIS". Sunni, surely.
There are no living saints. No-one is perfect. Gandhi didn't like dalits. The Dalai Lama happily presided over a slave state. The Pope helped cover up paedophilia.
The Zanzibar thing was not, I think you'll find, genocide "targeting Muslims". Zanzibar is almost entirely Muslim. The genocide of Arabs was not a genocide of Muslims, as Muslims were alike victims and perpetrators. The Arabs were just a minority with a stranglehold on power, and were stamped on as such, not a religious minority.
As Al Jazeera is Sunni backed and Iran and Syria have Shiite (or Alewite) governments, I doubt Al Jazeera is withholding information about Shiite backing for Sunni based ISIL. However, this is one of the less egregious errors of the post. For people for whom the world is black and white, explaining gray is a waste of time.
Myanmar has been the target of United States regime change for decades now. The CIA and CIA front organizations, including Christian missionaries, have supported ethnic armed rebellions in the hope of weakening the country. The US has been funding the NGO "opposition" in the country, giving them the same training as in Ukraine. The country has been subject to eceonmic sanctions to weaken it. Western media have sainted Aung San Suu Kyi and the militant nationalist Buddhists, ignoring their actual political beliefs as long as they could be controlled by the US. Aung San was identified by the Americans/Brits as the photogenic and eloquent front they could use. She was educated at Oxford and married to an Englishman, and her sympathies (and possibly allegiance) would lie with the West. All this to encircle China and to let western corporations gain control of the country's massive resources.