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

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 10:48 AM

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)

Updated Oct. 23, 2017

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled a brutal military crackdown in the Buddhist majority country of Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and reportedly face an array of human rights abuses, to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

>> Read more trending news

But many other Rohingya refugees have been turned away, leaving thousands stranded at sea.

Almost 40 percent of all Rohingya villages were empty last month, a Myanmar government spokesperson confirmed.

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.”

A report published by global rights group Amnesty International detailed evidence of mass killings, torture, rape and forcible transfers of the Rohingya,  Al-Jazeera reported.

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.

Satellite images have also shown Rohingya villages burning — at least 288 villages so far.

And most recently in August, violence erupted after a Rohingya armed rebel group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvatian Army (ARSA) attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine, Al Jazeera reported.

ARSA has reportedly killed a dozen Burmese security personnel in the past. And according to the Washington Post, it’s unclear how much support the rebel group, which seeks an autonomous Muslim state for the Rohingya, actually has among the Rohingya.

Following the August event, civilians began paying the price for ARSA’s small insurgency as Burma’s military launched a “clearance operation,” which U.N. commisioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the Washington Post reported.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape the aforementioned allegations of human rights abuses such as rape, murder and arson, according to the United Nations.

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

Approximately 40,000 have also settled in India and 16,000 of which have obtained official refugee documentation.

But severe flooding in Bangladesh and India have made conditions in refugee camps even worse and according to National Geographic, there have been reports of cholera outbreaks, water shortages and malnutrition.

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

Most human rights activists have denounced Suu Kyi for not publicly condemning the Myanmar military’s treatment of the Rohingya.

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 the misinformation or “fake news” is possibly generated by 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?

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

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

“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.

The U.S. State Department also announced plans last month to dispense about $32 million in humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya ethnic minority facing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

“Through this support, the United States will help provide emergency shelter, food security, nutritional assistance, health assistance, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, social inclusion, non-food items, disaster and crisis risk reduction, restoring family links, and protection to over 400,000 displaced persons in Burma and in Bangladesh,” according to the press release.

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

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.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council condemned the violence, its first unified statement on Myanmar in nine years, the New York Times reported.

But, according to the New York Times, the U.N. is unlikely to act against Myanmar.

China also blocked Egypt’s efforts to add language for Rohingya refugees to be guaranteed the right to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

Both China and Russie hold veto power in the U.N. Security Council and can block efforts to sanction Myanmar.

More at NYTimes.com

Who is helping the Rohingya?

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

The United Nations has pledged roughly $340 million and according to Mark Lowcock of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the U.N. and its partners are seeking $434 million to help the Rohingya Muslims through February.

According to the Indian Express, India sent an aircraft with the first shipment of humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslim refugees last month.

Bangladeshi citizens themselves are also among those providing aid and shelter to the many starving Rohingya refugees in their country.

Jordan’s queen, Queen Rania, said last week after visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh that she was shocked by the refugees’ limited access to basic support and health care, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

“It is unforgivable that this crisis is unfolding, largely ignored by the international community," she said. "The world response has been muted. I urge the U.N. and the international community to do more to ensure we can bring peace to this conflict.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Tatmadaw True News Information Team announced a military-led investigation of security forces in the Rakhine State.

“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.

Read Mustafa’s story on AlJazeera.com   

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.”

Trending - Most Read Stories

Burger King sorry for Russian ad offering free Whoppers to women impregnated by World Cup players

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 2:41 PM

FILE- This Feb. 1, 2018, file photo shows a Burger King Whopper meal combo at a restaurant in the United States. Burger King says it's sorry for offering a lifetime supply of Whoppers to Russian women who get pregnant from World Cup players. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Gene J. Puskar/AP
FILE- This Feb. 1, 2018, file photo shows a Burger King Whopper meal combo at a restaurant in the United States. Burger King says it's sorry for offering a lifetime supply of Whoppers to Russian women who get pregnant from World Cup players. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Several corporations have launched campaigns for the World Cup, but Burger King is being criticized for one many have called offensive and sexist.

On Tuesday, the Russian division of the fast-food chain announced a new promotion online that offered women $47,000 and a lifetime supply of Whoppers if they got impregnated by athletes competing in the series. 

>> Read more trending news 

“It is a reward for the girls who would get pregnant from the international football superstars,” read the campaign, which was posted on the Russian social media platform Vkontakte

Soon after it was uploaded, the company received backlash on Twitter.

Burger King later removed the advertisement, but it was still being posted by Russian social network users.

“We are sorry about the clearly offensive promotion that the team in Russia launched online,” Burger King said in a statement to The Associated Press, adding that the offer “does not reflect our brand or our values and we are taking steps to ensure this type of activity does not happen again.”

This isn’t the first time the Russian division of the company has been condemned. Last year, it depicted a 17-year-old rape victim in a “buy one burger get one free” ad. It was also taken down. 

Trending - Most Read Stories

WATCH: Baby elephants get exercise by playing soccer

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 11:35 AM

Baby elephants play soccer

Two young elephants had fun with a soccer ball at an elephant rescue center in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as video obtained from Reuters shows.

RELATED:  Michael Jackson’s former elephant briefly escapes Florida zoo enclosure

The two elephants, a male named Dok Geaw, and a female named Thong Ae, are both two years old. They were orphaned when they were young, according to Saengduean Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation. 

Both elephants live in the sanctuary about 60 kilometers from Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, where it currently houses 35 elephants rescued from Thailand's tourism and logging industries since the 1990s, according to their website. 

TRENDING: America’s top 13 favorite grocery stores

There are about 3,700 wild elephants and up to 4,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand, according to British conservation organisation EleAid.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Birdie traffic selfie: Cockatoo inspects traffic camera, wins the web

Published: Friday, June 01, 2018 @ 8:46 AM

VIDEO: Bird Inspects Highway Cam, Goes Viral

A cockatoo is winning the animal internet contest Friday, if there really was such a thing.

Traffic on a road in Cairns, Australia was going smoothly so there was nothing to see, except for the curious cockatoo that was checking out a traffic camera, 9 News reported.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads posted the video to Facebook where it is closing in on a million views within nine hours of being uploaded. 

It may not have been the camera itself that piqued the interest of the cockatoo. 

A bird expert said that it could have actually been looking at itself.

>> Read more trending news  

“If it’s seeing its reflection it may be communicating in some way. They are very social creatures, and they recognize individuals. A lot of them have friendship groups like we do,” Dr. Adrian Gallagher told ABC.net.

And the bird knows where to look for his reflection. Officials told ABC that this specific bird has visited the camera before. 

“Our traffic management operators sometimes have to give the camera a jiggle to make him fly away when he chews on the camera and cables,” a spokesperson told ABC.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Parking fail: Valet drives Porsche under SUV

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 7:47 AM

Valet Crashes Porsche In Front of Hotel

No normal bad day of work will compare to a valet’s bad day in Sydney, Australia.

Imagine being in charge of parking a Porsche Carrera and ending up with this:

The Porsche is the crushed car, wedged under the orange SUV. 

>> Read more trending news 

An eyewitness described what happened, CNN reported

“I saw the valet hit the car in from of a parked position,” Jonathan Bouzaid said. “He must have panicked and hit the accelerator causing the Porsche to go further under the orange car and pushing the white car in to the bollards.”

Bouzaid surmised that the valet didn’t realize how powerful a Porsche can be.

CNN reported that the car can go from 0 to 62 in less than five seconds.

The valet had to be cut from the soft-top luxury sports car, Time reported.

He was physically OK, but the Hyatt hotel’s sales and marketing director said the driver was embarrassed and in shock.

The Porsche had damage to the hood and front bumper and was towed from the scene, Time reported.

Some witnesses said they thought the crash was part of a stunt, 9 News in Australia reported.

Trending - Most Read Stories