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Refugees give accounts of ‘genocide’ in Myanmar

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SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS From Teknaf

Publication Date: 11 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Media: The Independent
Original Link: Refugees give accounts of ‘genocide’ in Myanmar
E-paper Link: Refugees give accounts of ‘genocide’ in Myanmar

Descriptions of mass killings, tortures and arson are common to all the Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar in the wake of the recent spate of violence since August 24. This correspondent talked to many Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar in the wake of the recent military crackdown. They all gave accounts of mass killings, tortures and torching of homesteads and croplands. Rahim Ullah, 50, fled Merullah East para in Maungdaw and is now living in the Raikhong Rohingya makeshift camp in Teknaf. He told The Independent, “On the morning of August 25, security forces along with a mob of Buddhists entered our neighbourhood. They fired indiscriminately at some 50 villagers who had gathered to protest the unprovoked firing on innocent people. The military opened fire indiscriminately, without any pause, on unarmed civilians.”

“Six persons were killed on the spot, including four of Merullah para and two of East Merullahpara. Others sustained bullet injuries,” said Rahim Ullah. “We buried four bodies in a grave and two bodies in another grave on that day without any shroud or funeral bath.”

“Among those slain in our neighbourhood, one was Anis, and the other Jubayer. They were between 20 and 22 years old. The military conducted the operation in our locality until 2pm. As six were killed on the spot and many injured, many villagers fled the village. When the military left our village, we returned and recovered the bodies of Anis and Jubayer. The injured persons were sent across the border for treatment. The duo was buried in a grave beside the Nurul Haque Mosque. The imam of the mosque Moulana Nurul Haque performed their Namaj-e-Janaja,” said Rahim Ullah.

The local Alem (cleric) Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad gave this fatwa: “We can bury those who died after being shot by the military without shrouds and funeral bath as they were ‘shaheed’ or martyrs. So, we did not give them any funeral bath, as we also had to flee.”

Hasim Ullah of Merullah village told The Independent. “Among the four slain, Rafique and Jamal of Sikdarpara of Merullah were buried in the graveyard of Sikdarpara near its mosque. Their Namaj-e-Janaja was performed by Moulvi Enamul Haque, imam of the Sikdarpara Mosque.”

Mohammad Yousuf, the son of Hasim Ullah of East Merullah, a Grade IX student of a local school and an eyewitness, told The Independent, “Anis was my friend and classmate. When the military came on the morning of August 25, we gathered at the local bazaar. After getting down from the vehicles, around 150 military personnel started firing on civilians. I was standing behind Anis. Before I could understand anything, several bullets hit him on his head and chest. He collapsed on the spot. Jubayer, who was standing some 30 feet from me, also fell on the spot,” said Yousuf.

“On August 26, many fled the village. There were 15 or 20 injured people. The kith and kin of the injured were helpless and confused—they could not understand what they had to do at that time,” added Yousuf.

“The troops along with local Buddhist mobs torched many houses in my locality, blasting gas launchers. We went into hiding in another neighbourhood. After a couple of days, we returned to our locality. When we saw the military set a neighbouring village ablaze, we fled Myanmar,” he disclosed.

“The military set our house on fire and open fire on us. My son was injured by the bullets. I buried my son’s blood-stained body without any shroud,” said Zakaria, who fled Tangbazar of Maungdaw. Many Rohingyas have lost their near and dear ones while crossing the border, including sons, daughters and elderly relatives. They could be seen running hither and thither in search of their near and dear ones and lamenting at different places, their heartrending cries renting the air.

“According to Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: ‘Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’,” said Ashraful Azad, an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong, and a researcher on Rohingya Muslims.

“Proof of any of these elements can establish genocide. I observed that the first four elements at least are present in the case of violence against Rohingyas. Therefore, it is evident that genocide is occurring against them. The alleged perpetrators, such as the members of Myanmar armed forces and Rakhine militias, should be tried in an international tribunal as the State seems to clearly deny the crimes,” added Azad.

After a coordinated attack by Rohingya insurgents on two dozen Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) outposts and an army base on August 24, the Myanmarese government forces have been conducting a coordinated “clearance operation” against “extremists.” In the wake of the crackdown, over 350,000 civilians have fled to Bangladesh, over 1,000 have been killed, and 3,000 houses torched in the last 16 days.

At least 10 more have been shot dead in Myanmar and three injured in landmine blasts have died in Bangladesh. Over 72 have died in boats that capsized while they made their dangerous journey across the Naf. Many others are still missing.

The Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh claimed that the number of killings and destructive activities could be five times previous such atrocities in their scale. The recent cleansing operation has broken all previous records, they alleged.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2013 said they found strong evidence of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingyas committed by the Burmese authorities, local Arakanese people and Buddhist mobs.

According to the report, in the violence of October 2016, some 150 to 300 people were killed and 1,250 houses burned down. HRW, too, said Myanmar was committing crimes against humanity.

It is difficult to say how many civilians have been killed and how many houses burned down since August 25 as Myanmar has locked down the area and controlled access to reports. However, it is clear from the allegations levelled by Rohingya refugees that the recent spate of violence has smashed all previous records.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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