By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canadians and much of the world will stand in solidarity Saturday with “the world’s most persecuted minority” while marking the first global Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day.
It was Aug. 25, 2017 when the Myanmar military, aided and abetted by the majority Buddhist population, systematically began what the United Nations and others have termed “ethnic cleansing” of the minority Muslim Rohingya. The violence against the Rohingya has been going on for decades, but Aug. 25 marked a new and more bloody chapter in atrocities in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community.
Villages were burned and women and children killed and raped.
Today, there are an estimated one million living in squalid conditions in temporary camps in Bangladesh.
While many countries have expressed outrage, global pressure on Myanmar, formerly named Burma, has failed to stop the atrocities. Canada has pledged CAN$300 million in aid but it will take more than money to stop the slaughter.
“The Canadian government has taken extensive action in support of the Rohingya people and we are greatly appreciative of their efforts,” Ahmed Ramadan said Friday. He is acting director of the Burma Task Force (BFM), one of the prime organizations behind the observance of the remembrance day in Canada.
“However, the 40-year genocide and suffering in Burma continues to progress. Success will only truly be achieved when the Rohingya have their citizenship, peace and freedom restored and the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are held accountable.”
Hasan Siddiqui of the BFM told Anadolu Agency that through the events the organizers want to bring attention to the plight of the Rohingya.
“What we are hoping from this day is to remind everyone that Canadians have not forgotten about the Rohingya people who have been facing a genocide,” he said. “The world community should ensure that the Rohingya genocide is brought to a halt, that their rights are restored, their dignity returned to them and that they can safely live in their native land.”
In North America, it is hoped hundreds of thousands will attend events that are open to everyone in a bid to demonstrate solidarity with the Rohingya. The events will feature guest speakers, along with photo-exhibits, mock refugee tents and pretend checkpoints.
Along with the Burma Task Force, the Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative helped organize events in Canada.
Siddiqui said the UN needs to act immediately to end the Rohingya suffering.
“The UN should recognize what is happening in Myanmar as genocide and work towards establishing a UN-protected safe zone in their native land wherein Rohingya lives and rights will be safeguarded and their long-term security can be ensured.”
Events are planned across the country, including in Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
In the U.S. similar rallies are set for Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. and European cities are participating, too.
– Persecuted Rohingya
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
In its recent report, Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience, the OIDA increased the estimated number of murdered Rohingya to 23,962 (±881) from an earlier Doctors Without Borders figure of 9,400.
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, the OIDA report said, adding that 17,718 (±780) Rohingya women and girls were raped by the Myanmar army and police. More than 115,000 Rohingya houses were burned and 113,000 others were vandalized, it added.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In its report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.