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Rohingya Muslim survives after playing dead for days

24th Nov 2017
Rohingya Muslim survives after playing dead for days

Rohingya Musilm refugees fleeing Myanmar military attack in Rakhine state reach Bangladesh border of Palongkhali of Coxs Bazaar on October 17 (Photo: Stringer/AA)

Büşra Nur Özcan, Fatih Erel and Kubra Chuhan

The 25-year-old teacher hid among the bodies of his family members killed by Myanmar’s military and Buddhist mobs, last month.He is among the 617,500 Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations, who crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, as violence escalated in bordering Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The total Rohingya refugee population in the area is now over 830,000.The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, raped women, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.

Myanmar security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on November 16.

The 37-page report, “All of My Body Was Pain’: Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Women and Girls in Burma,” documents the Burmese [Myanmar] military’s gang rape of Rohingya women and girls and further acts of violence, cruelty, and humiliation. Many women described witnessing the murders of their young children, spouses, and parents. Rape survivors reported days of agony walking with swollen and torn genitals while fleeing to Bangladesh.

“Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The Burmese military’s barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatized.”

Fifteen-year-old Hala Sadak, from Hathi Para village in Maungdaw Township, said soldiers had stripped her naked and then dragged her from her home to a nearby tree where, she estimates, about 10 men raped her from behind. She said, “They left me where I was…when my brother and sister came to get me, I was lying there on the ground, they thought I was dead.”

All but one of the rapes reported to Human Rights Watch were gang rapes. In addition, according to United Nations’s migration agency warned on November 14 of the trafficking, exploitation and sexual abuse of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman, Joel Millman, told a news conference in Geneva: “Desperate men, women and children are being recruited with false offers of paid work in various industries including fishing, small commerce, begging and, in the case of girls, domestic work.”

Fayyaz, who worked as a translator for Turkey-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) in Bangladesh, said he waited for several days until the Myanmar military left his village and then walked through the forests for 13 days to reach Bangladesh.

“Our houses are set on fire while we are inside. The mosques are set on fire with the worshipers [praying] inside. Humans are getting hunted in the forests and lands. Soldiers [of Myanmar Army] and mobs are brutally murdering thousands of people,” he said.

The United Nations has accused Myanmar of allowing its security forces to engage in ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.
The Rohingya, described by the United Nations as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The United Nations has documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. According to satellite images, at least 288 Muslim villages have been partially or totally destroyed by fire in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, the Human Rights Watch said.

The rights group said they monitored and analyzed 866 villages in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine and found that the most damaged area was Maungdaw, adding the destruction encompassed tens of thousands of structures, primarily homes inhabited by ethnic Rohingya Muslims. “These latest satellite images show why over half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in just four weeks,” said Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Asia Director, Phil Robertson.

“The Burmese [Myanmar] military destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages while committing killings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity that forced Rohingya to flee for their lives.” The Human Rights Watch said that 62 percent of all villages in Maungdaw townships were either partially or completely destroyed, with about 90 percent of the destruction happening between August 25 and September 25.

The group noted that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, which was announced by Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the date on which the security force operations ended. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Addressing the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the City of London’s Guildhall, Prime Minister, Theresa May said the UK must “step up our efforts to respond to the desperate plight of Rohingyas – brought home to us again on our TV screens so graphically today, with heart-breaking images of young children emaciated and pleading for help”.  “This is a major humanitarian crisis which looks like ethnic cleansing. And it is something for which the Burmese authorities – and especially the military – must take full responsibility,” she added.

However, the West is reluctant to impose sanctions against Myanmar. Imposing sanctions against Myanmar over atrocities against Rohingya Muslims are “not advisable” United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on November 16 during his visit to Myanmar. “I think broad-based economic sanctions against the entire country is not something that I would think would be advisable at this time,” Tillerson told reporters during a joint press conference with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Additional reporting by
Ahmed J Versi

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