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The Plight of Rohingya Muslims

Under international law, the offenses committed against Rohingya Muslims by the state apparatus of Myanmar constitute crimes against humanity, and are tantamount to genocide. The Rohingya are a religious minority that have lived in Myanmar, previously Burma, for generations, primarily in the western state of Rakhine. However, some of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority has long viewed the Rohingya as having illegally entered Myanmar from Bangladesh, and have restricted their basic rights, including citizenship. Myanmar’s military embarked on a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017, in the aftermath of a small, rogue Rohingya plot to destroy a military outpost. At the beginning of the military’s operation, Myanmar was home to upward of a million Rohingya. Two years later, 730,000 Rohingya had fled across Rakhine’s border to Bangladesh to escape indiscriminate massacres, sexual violence, and the razing of entire towns. The United Nations has publicly called on Myanmar to punish the perpetrators – six military leaders have been directly implicated – and Gambia has brought a case alleging genocide against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice. Despite this, abuses against the Rohingya continue.

Since Myanmar’s military entered Rakhine state, Rohingyas have been subjected to mass killings, forced displacement, widespread sexual violence, and the destruction of entire villages. It is estimated that over 30,000 Rohingya have been killed by Myanmar’s security forces, dating from 2017 to the present. Additionally, there are approximately 125,000 Rohingya languishing in detention camps throughout Rakhine, where they have been arbitrarily detained since 2012. Unlike conflicts in other areas of the world, there is no ongoing war in Myanmar – the systematic destruction of the Rohingya is a targeted effort by the military against an entirely civilian population. Today, there are nearly a million displaced Rohingya as a result of the military’s ethnic cleansing. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, called the Rohingya the “most discriminated people in the world.”

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