Who are the Rohingya Muslims? 7 things to know about the 'world’s most persecuted minority'

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 4:05 PM

Thousands of members of various Indonesian muslim groups demonstrate in support of Myanmar's Rohingya population in front of the Myanmar embassy on September 6, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Myanmar has reportedly laid landmines across a section of its border with Bangladesh for the past three days as nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since violence erupted on August 25. (Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)
Ed Wray/Getty Images
Thousands of members of various Indonesian muslim groups demonstrate in support of Myanmar's Rohingya population in front of the Myanmar embassy on September 6, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Myanmar has reportedly laid landmines across a section of its border with Bangladesh for the past three days as nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since violence erupted on August 25. (Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)(Ed Wray/Getty Images)

Since August, more than 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have escaped the Buddhist-majority country of Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and reportedly face an array of human rights abuses, to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh.

>> Read more trending news

Many Rohingya refugees have been turned away, leaving thousands stranded at sea.

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, has called what's happening to Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Who are the Rohingya and where do they live?

In this Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, photo, Rohingya refugee Muhammad Ayub shows off a picture of his grandfather allegedly killed during recent violence in Myanmar, in Klang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. There are some 56,000 Rohingya refugees registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Malaysia, with an estimated 40,000 more whose status has yet to be assessed. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)(Daniel Chan/AP)

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group living primarily in the Buddhist nation of Myanmar (or Burma). There are approximately 1.1 million Rohingya living in the country.

According to Al Jazeera, the Rohingya have been described as the “world’s most persecuted minority,” and have faced systematic persecution since Myanmar’s independence in the late 1940s.

Most Rohingya in Myanmar reside in the Rakhine State on the country’s western coast.

Rakhine State is regarded as one of the country’s poorest areas and lacks basic services in education and health care.

The Rohingya’s history in Myanmar

According to historians, the group has been residing in Arakan (now Rakhine State) since as early as the 12th century, Al Jazeera reported.

When the British ruled between 1824 and 1948, they administered Myanmar as a province of India and, thus, any migration of laborers between Myanmar and other South Asian countries (like Bangladesh) was considered internal. The majority of the native Myanmar population did not like that.

After gaining independence in 1948, the Burmese government still frowned upon any migration that occurred during the period of British rule, claiming it all to be illegal.

In fact, many Buddhists in Myanmar consider the Ronhingya to be Bengali, or people from Bangladesh.

The discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law officially prevented them from obtaining citizenship.

And according to a Human Rights Watch report from 2000, this is the basis the Myanmar government uses to deny Rohingya citizenship in the country.

Over the years, military crackdowns on the Rohingya have forced hundreds of thousands to escape.

According to the HRW report, Rohingya refugees reported that the Burmese army had forcibly evicted them. Many also alleged widespread army brutality, rape and murder.

Between 1991 and 1992, more than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled to southeastern Bangladesh. But with the influx of refugees, the Bangladeshi government insisted the refugees return to Arakan (Rakhine State).

By 1997, according to the HRW report, some 230,000 refugees returned.

That same year, the Burmese government said it would not accept any more returning refugees after Aug. 15, 1997, leading to a series of disturbances in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

The Human Rights Watch has called the crisis a deadly game of “human ping-pong.”

What’s happening to the Rohingya now?

Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, continues to deny the Rohingya citizenship, freedom to travel, access to education and the group still faces harsh systematic persecution.

In October 2016, the Burmese government blamed members of the Rohingya for the killings of nine border police, leading to a crackdown on Rakhine State villages in which troops were accused of rape, extrajudicial killing and other human rights abuses — all allegations they denied.

And most recently in August, violence erupted after Rohingya fighters were accused of attacking police posts and an army base in Rakhine, Al Jazeera reported.

Following the August event, at least 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape the aforementioned allegations of human rights abuses, according to the Associated Press.

Women, children and the elderly made up the bulk of the that group.

Over the past three years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have tried to escape by boat to neighboring countries that refuse to let them in.

Approximately 8,000 migrants have been stranded at sea.

Why won’t other countries take them in?

Many of Myanmar’s neighboring countries, including Bangladesh and Thailand, refuse to take them in.

The Thai navy has actually turned them away.

Lex Rieffel, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Brookings Institution, told NPR in 2015 that the Buddhist-majority nation of Thailand has been battling an Islamist insurgency for decades and has "no stomach" for bringing in more Muslims.

“Where will the budget come from? That money will need to come from Thai people's taxes, right?” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters in 2015.

Malaysia and Indonesia, despite being Muslim-majority nations, have also prevented Rohingya from entering their countries, citing “social unrest.” And Indonesia worries about “an uncontrolled influx.”

“What do you expect us to do?” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar told The Guardian in 2015. “We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely, but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

What is Aung San Suu Kyi saying?

In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, file photo, Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers an opening speech during the Forum on Myanmar Democratic Transition in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Suu Kyi has canceled plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly, with her country drawing international criticism for violence that has driven at least 370,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims from the country in less than three weeks. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo, File)(Aung Shine Oo/AP)

The crisis has drawn worldwide criticism of Myanmar's government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi

According to the BBC, Suu Kyi said “a huge iceberg of misinformation” was distorting the crisis.

“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection,” she is quoted as saying to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a recent statement. “So, we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as ... not just political but social and humanitarian defence.”

But stories of human rights abuse can't be investigated because of the Burmese government’s decision to deny media access to its troubled areas, BBC’s Tn Htar Swe said.

"If they allowed the UN or human rights bodies to go to the place to find out what is happening then ... misinformation is not going to take place.”

Condemnation of Suu Kyi’s inaction and response have led to calls for the rescindment of her Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 1991 as a result of her long fight for democracy in Burma. According to the Washington Post, the Nobel Committee said that will not happen.

How is the world reacting to the Rohingya crisis?

International aid to much of Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been suspended, leaving approximately 250,000 Rohingya Muslims without medical care, food and other vital humanitarian assistance, the Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday.

“The United Nations, ASEAN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation need to ramp up the pressure on Burma, and provide more assistance to Bangladesh, to promptly help Rohingya and other displaced people,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy diretor for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved an investigative mission, but was denied entry into Myanmar in June. And when an envoy entered in July, the visit was met with protests.

On Monday, the White House released this statement: “We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence and end the displacement of civilians from all communities.”

Bangladesh, which is facing the largest influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar, has called on the international community to intervene.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest Muslim body, issued a statement Tuesday urging Muslim countries to work together to help the Rohingya refugees.

Who is helping the Rohingya?

Aid groups continue efforts to reach Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and send aid to refugee camps.

According to the Indian Express, India announced it is sending an aircraft Thursday that will carry the first shipment of humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslim refugees.

“We want to go home and we want peace. But I believe the world is watching our crisis and that they are trying to help us,” Rahimol Mustafa, a 22-year-old Rohingya Muslim, told Al Jazeera in an interview Tuesday.

Mustafa fled Rakhine State a few weeks ago and is currently safe at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, but with “no shelter and no future.”

Prince William, Kate Middleton expect 3rd child in spring

Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 11:12 AM

Third Child Coming for Prince William, Kate Middleton

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Tuesday announced that the couple is expecting their third child in April.

>> Read more trending news

Kensington Palace officials shared the announcement in a post on Twitter.

The duke and duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, announced last month that they were expecting. The couple has two children, 4-year-old Prince George and 2-year-old Princess Charlotte.

Kensington Palace officials said in a statement that Queen Elizabeth and other family members were "delighted with the news."

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart from Hamburg airport on the last day of their official visit to Poland and Germany on July 21, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Julian Simmonds - Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

The duchess, 35, suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe morning sickness, during her first two pregnancies, and Kensington Palace officials said last month that she was again dealing with the illness through her third pregnancy.

Hyperemesis gravidarum affects about one in every 200 pregnancies, BBC News reported. Symptoms include severe and constant nausea, dehydration and reduced appetite, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

American hostage Caitlan Coleman, family rescued in Pakistan after years of captivity

Published: Thursday, October 12, 2017 @ 8:35 AM

Caitlan Coleman, Family Rescued After Being Held Prisoner by Terrorists in Afghanistan

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children were rescued in Pakistan on Wednesday, five years after the couple was captured by a terrorist group while hiking in Afghanistan.

>> Read more trending news

The rescue, prompted by a tip from U.S. intelligence officers tracking the family, was announced in a statement Thursday from Pakistan’s army.

President Donald Trump identified the rescued captives as 31-year-old American Caitlan Coleman, 34-year-old Canadian Joshua Boyle and their three children.

Coleman and Boyle were abducted in 2012 and held hostage by the Haqqani network, a terrorist organization with ties to the Taliban, the president said.

“Yesterday, the United States government, working in conjunction with the Government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan,” Trump said. “Today they are free.”

FILE - In this June 4, 2014, file photo, mother's Linda Boyle, left and Lyn Coleman hold photo of their married children, Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle and American citizen Caitlan Coleman, who were kidnapped by the Taliban in late 2012, in Stewartstown, Pa. Pakistan's military says soldiers have recovered five Western hostages held by the Taliban for years. Pakistan's army did not name those held, only saying it worked with U.S. intelligence officials to track down the hostages and free them after discovering they had been brought into Pakistan. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman, File)(Bill Gorman/AP)

Prince Harry, toddler steal show as she steals his popcorn

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 9:38 AM

Toddler ‘Steals’ Royal Popcorn

If there’s any wonder as to how good of an uncle Prince Harry could be to Prince George and Princess Charlotte, then this video is the proof you need.

>> Read more trending news 

During an event at the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, a toddler seized her chance as the adults talked, and helped herself to the royal popcorn, Mashable reported.

When he notices Emily Henson’s little hands going from popcorn box to mouth, Harry jokingly removes temptation and then picks out the prime popcorn to give to the 2-year-old, the Telegraph reported

He then chats with her and her mother and other neighboring spectators. He also made silly faces and stuck his tongue out at her as the cameras watched their every move.

At one point, Emily took such a shine to the prince that she leaned on his knee as the volleyball match continued. 

Emily’s father, David Henson, is a paralympian who had both of his legs amputated when an IED exploded in Afghanistan in 2011, The Telegraph reported.

Since first competing in the Invictus Games in 2014, Henson has become a friend to Prince Harry.

Harry is no stranger to children, as he is the godfather to six of his friends’ children and believes he does a good job with them.

“I think the key to that is to be able to grow up, but also be able to stay in touch with your childhood side,” Harry told The Telegraph.

The games run until Saturday. There are 550 competitors from 17 countries taking part in 12 sports during the week-long event.

Prince Harry Fast Facts

Father who hit teacher with car sentenced to jail

Published: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 @ 1:34 PM

WATCH: Angry Father In Jail After Hitting Teacher With Vehicle

Witnesses said he was told he couldn’t drive into the staff parking lot. Moments later, the father of a student at a school in England hit the same teacher who told him no with his car. 

Rainier Schoeman was sentenced to 10 months in jail after the courts said Schoeman intentionally rammed into Gareth McCarthy after McCarthy didn’t permit Schoeman into the restricted lot to pick up a child, The Daily Mail reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Schoeman pleaded guilty to causing bodily harm and dangerous driving among other charges, The Telegraph reported.

McCarthy was stationed at the entrance of the lot to stop parents from picking up children. School officials had informed parents that they were not permitted into the lot because of safety concerns as children left the building, The Daily Mail reported.

Prosecutors said that this case wasn't the first time Schoeman tried to get into the lot and was rebuffed my McCarthy.

Schoeman’s attorney admitted that his client was “immature” and had behaved “outrageously.”

McCarthy was injured in the crash and suffered cuts to his head.