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Untold stories of massacre in Myanmar against Rohinya Muslims

Hundreds of untold stories, thousands of innocent Muslims butchered.

This is Myanmar, where the world is totally blind towards brutality, crimes against humanity and human right abuses.

Life in Rakhine state has become one of the toughest for the rest of the world.

Thousands of migrants abandoned at sea in Southeast Asia this month are Rohingya Muslims who fled their home country of Myanmar in fear of brutalities by their own government.

Here are facts about the history and persecution of the ethnic and religious minority.

Who are the Rohingya?

The rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma, with a population of around 1.3 million, they are concentrated in western Rakhine State, which neighbors Bangladesh.

The Rohingya have been in Myanmar for centuries. some historians say they are indigenous to Rakhine State, while others say they originally migrated from the west.

In the early 19th century, when the country was under British India rule, Muslims from Bengal were encouraged to move to the then-depopulated state of Rakhine -or Arakan - fueling ethnic tensions with local Buddhists that continue to this day.

The numbers of Rohingya increased dramatically over the next few decades, further polarizing the two communities, that is the Buddhist and the muslim minorities.

The start of brutality began when the Buddhist state denied citizenship to the Rohingya and backed by national law. The effects of such denial caused the Rohingya to have limited access to education, adequate health care and the right to freely practice their religion.

Their movement is severely restricted. In some cases they cannot travel between villages without paying hefty bribes to police and other authorities. If they want to go to the main city of Yangon - even for emergencies - they can expect to pay up to $4,000.

After the country moved from dictatorship to democracy in 2011, newfound freedoms of expression gave voice to Buddhist extremists who spewed hatred against the Muslim minority and warned that Rohingya were taking over the country.

The Buddhists attacked and left up to 280 Muslims dead. Another 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes and are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded displacement camps.

All the Rohingya asked for was to have the same rights as others in Myanmar, starting with citizenship, good health care, education and freedom.

Soon after President Thein Sein came to power in 2011, he escalated hatred against rohingya as he said that they do not possess a state and advocated for their deportation.

Sein's government stated that they are "Bengali," a term that implies they are all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They are not eligible for citizenship under the country's old military-drafted 1982 law, because they are not on an "official" list of ethnic groups that had permanently settled in Myanmar since at least 1823.

The legislation does provide an alternative, "naturalized" citizenship for Rohingya, but only for those willing to identify themselves as "Bengali." They also have to be able to prove their families have been in the country for at least three generations. That's difficult for members of the religious minority, who have little in the form of documentation and are frequently uprooted.

Even those who gain alternative citizenship would continue to be discriminated against. The status falls short of full citizenship, and would continue to deny Rohingya the right to own land, to run for office, to form or lead political parties and to enter professional fields like law, medicine and engineering.

The Rohingya have little say in their future. they will not be allowed to vote in upcoming general elections and a controversial "action plan" warns they could face eventual deportation or indefinite internment.

With little left for them in Myanmar, the Rohingya have for decades set their sights abroad, most hoping to reach muslim-majority Malaysia where they can find under-the-table jobs and security.

The number of men, women and children who fled the country skyrocketed after the 2012 violence, with more than 120,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis boarding boats in the last three years. Many sold everything they had - land, cattle, and gold- to get to a third country.

They give human traffickers a little money upfront, the rest coming while they are in transit. Urgent calls are made to their families demanding $2,000 or more before they can continue on their way.

Until recently, the first stop along the route was neighboring Thailand, where they were held in secret jungle camps. Those unable to come up with ransoms risked being held for months, sometimes longer, enduring beatings and getting little food, water or medical attention. many died; in recent weeks authorities have discovered dozens of shallow graves in abandoned camps.

The Rohingya Muslim people have been targeted in a campaign that a human rights watch report has described as "ethnic cleansing".

Thousands of Muslims have been killed over the last decades in Myanmar's western Rakhine State, the European Rohingya Council announced that nearly 3,000 Muslims had died in Rakhine state, and thousands more had been injured in what was described as a "slow-burning genocide".

Since it was attacked, the Rohingya community has been totally cut off from markets and job opportunities; living in a segregated area, its people are barred by the authorities from travelling to the sites where they used to work and trade.

The government has delayed allocating the necessary land to accommodate Rohingya, perhaps in an attempt to assuage local Rakhine freedom fighters. All of this demonstrates the unwillingness of the government to prioritise the safety of the Rohingya community.

Part of the brutality by the government is to restrict aid agencies and increase difficulties in getting help to Rohingyas. Apart from the logistical problems created by the camps' isolation, the government has introduced bureaucratic obstacles, including serious delays in providing travel authorisations and visas for aid staff.

Most troubling, some Rakhine Buddhist political and religious leaders have made threats against aid agencies because they object to assistance being offered to the Rohingyas. Instead of taking action, the government refuses to let aid workers operate in areas where threats are made.

In addition, they were aware that rather than focusing on moving people to higher ground during april, the government was conducting a "verification exercise" in displacement camps, in which they tried to force Rohingyas to sign forms admitting that they were "Bengalis".

This only added to their distrust of the authorities, which was already high after many of the security services either committed or condoned attacks on their community last year. Rohingyas told reporters that they would never be allowed to return home because local authorities were trying to create Muslim-free zones.

Several stories of family members being killed; some had lost seven, eight, nine loved ones, rapes, torture and mass murder. These made the Rohingya so desperate that they do not know who to trust or where they may be sent next.

"if, after having lost everything - including my whole family - because we are rohingya muslims, [the government] still don't recognise me as rohingya in my own country, then i might as well be dead", A Rohingya people said.

About 18,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have crossed into Bangladesh in the last week, according to the international organization for migration, seeking to escape the worst violence in Myanmar's northwest.

Recently, a group of some desperate Rohingya's attacked a police post in the north of myanmar's rakhine state, and other attacks on authorities, with ensuing clashes triggered the exodus, while the government evacuated thousands of rakhine buddhists in what is considered to be a plan to commit further atrocities on Muslim minorities.

The Iom added that, it was difficult to estimate the number of people stranded in the no man's land at the border between the neighbours, but added there were "hundreds and hundreds" of people stuck there.

Mass gang-rape, killings -including babies and children- and disappearances have taken place in the region according to the United Nations.

The international community remained silent on these brutalities while some Muslims countries called on Myanmar to stop its campaign against the Rohingya.

Civil rights activists in Malaysia called for Myanmar to immediately stop its violent crackdown of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state after at least 109 people were killed in the attack.

Rohingya staying in Malayisa, Ziaur Rahman saying: "I hope he will intervene to the Myanmar government and also Myanmar embassy in Malaysia, that he must pressure to the Myanmar government to stop the genocide. Because every time, now still going on, burning houses, burning people, raiding houses are still going on."

In the past week around 3,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in the violence. Turkey has urged all countries to stand up for the Rohingya, who face persecution and displacement by Myanmar security forces.

The international community must keep the pressure on the Burmese government to facilitate full humanitarian access to the Rohingya, end segregation in Rakhine State, provide them with the protection they need to return home, and restore their Burmese citizenship.

09.03.2017
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