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How to Stop Human Rights Violations against Rohingyas
by Rohingya Human Rights
2008-03-02 08:46:22
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The Rohingya community of Arakan, Burma is one of the most down-trodden ethnic minorities of the world. They are victim of political oppression, economic exploitation, cultural slavery and communal violence in their ancestral land Arakan where they have been living centuries after centuries.

Arakan which is a land of one of the most fertile regions in Asia with great variety of unexplored resources, has turned into a land of bloods and tears since the beginning of the 20th century where the Rohingyas have been groaning under the crushing wheels of either state sponsored terrorists or the religious fanatics decades after decades.

Restoration of Democracy in Burma:

There is no denying the fact that it is the lack of democratic atmosphere which has closed all the doors for the restoration of human rights of Rohingyas. Despite the continuous outcries of the international peace loving community to restore peace and democracy in Burma, the military regime has been continuously playing game to defuse the international outrage and to trample the people of Burma under the military boots for an indefinite period. Refusing to hand over power to the overwhelmingly elected representatives of the people of Burma during the General Election of 1990, detaining the national icon of democracy, peace and liberty, Daw Aung San Suu Kyie and all other popular leaders of democratic movement and ethnic minorities years after years and brutally cracking down all anti military protests, the Generals have demonstrated the world that there is no words like "human rights" in their vocabulary and they have no interest to learn what democracy or civil liberty means. So, the restoration of democracy in Burma is a precondition to stop human rights violations against the Rohingyas.

Restoration of Citizenship of Rohingyas:

Nevertheless, as a part of groundwork for any sort of human rights violations against Rohingyas under the aegis of law, the most notorious action which the military rulers have done is the amendment to the country's Citizenship Law in 1982 which has reduced the Rohingyas to the status of a Stateless Gypsy Community of the world, depriving them of citizenship and making them illegal immigrants in their ancestral motherland where they have been living for centuries having a long history, a language, a heritage, a culture and a tradition of their own that they had built up in their motherland through the ages of existence which can be traced back to the 7th Century.

Under the aegis of this notorious law, the military rulers have adopted all sorts of mechanism to turn Arakan into a "Rohingya-less" land through the series of genocidal operations and all other sorts of human rights violations. Through this act, the military regime has incited racism, xenophobia, inequality, intolerance and discrimination against the Rohingya, depriving them of their fundamental rights to citizenship, movement, education, job, marriage, property, healthcare and other civic liberty. So, in order to restore human rights of Rohingyas, it is the foremost need for the government of Burma to annul the black amendment of citizenship law of 1982 and to sign and ratify the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and to remove all the obstacles in the way to let the Rohingyas enjoy the right to citizenship as well as for all their children who were born in exile as both documented or undocumented refugees.

Restoration of Communal Harmony in Arakan:

Another heinous tactics that the military rulers have been engaged in since the military take over of Gen. Ne Win in 1962 to exterminate Rohingyas from Arakan, is to fuel extreme communal frenzy among the Rakhines and Rohingyas in Arakan. The people of Arakan, who had been once living in peace and perfect amity, have to witness many often recurrent phenomena of communal violence, social anarchy and widespread unrest goaded by the despotic military rulers.

Today, Arakan is a land of communal enmity and hatred which has reached at such a scale that the Rohingyas can hardly pass through Rakhine localities. The movement of Rohingyas from one place to another by buses, launches or steamers is always full of risks and hazards. Thousands of highly Rohingya educated personalities have fallen victims of assassination at the hands of a section of the Rakhine communalists. In fact, it is the military regime which has turned the land into an earthly hell where tens of thousands of innocent human beings are being offered as the requiem of the communal conflagration with a notion "Kill a Rohingya first if a cobra and a Rohingya are found together". So, without restoration of communal harmony between the two sister communities of Arakan, the Rohingyas and Rakhines, any effort to stop human rights violations against the Rohingyas, is bound to end in debacle. Peace can prevail in Arakan only when these two communities will be able to create an atmosphere where they can live in peaceful coexistence like two petals of a flower.

Presence of International Agencies in Arakan:

However, in Arakan which has been tormented decades after decades by the military rulers during the long 46 years of Reign of Terror, the matter of restoration of human rights of Rohingyas can not be imagined without the presence of monitoring agencies of international bodies including the UNHCR and ILO who must have full access to each and every corner of Arakan to see for themselves what is going on the people of Arakan as well as the Rohingyas. They must have full freedom to carry out their international mandate and also to monitor all the situations which have been going on in reality.

Furthermore, the authorities must abrogate all black laws which serve as the tools for the violations of human rights against the civilians including the Rohingyas and they must fully comply with the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants like Health ICESCR (International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) where as per Article 12.1: everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Shelter ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) where as per Article 12.1: everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence and Livelihood ICESCR where as per Article 6.1: everyone has the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.

Most importantly, the authority must abolish the practice of forced labor in compliance with the 1930 International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Forced Labor and as per the recommendation of the ILO, the government must repeal the sections of the Village and Towns Acts that legally sanctions the conscription of labor. The government also must protect the Children's rights in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.Children must not be forced to work under any circumstances and they must abrogate all written or unwritten rules which stand as the stumbling block for Rohingya students to get education. They must give up all practices which compel Rohingyas to go gradually away from their ethnic culture, heritage as well as language. All Rohingya students must have their right to retain their own Rohingya name and no Rohingya student will be compelled to adopt a Burmese name which, in fact, has been serving as a tool for the military rulers in their way to Burmanization.

Presence of NGOs in Arakan:

Arakan which has turned out to be a land of restlessness, antagonism, discrimination, persecution, anarchy and disappointment during the long military rule and where the peace-loving people pass their life in utmost grief and distress, fear and frustration, the voice of restoration of human rights of Rohingyas can be a far cry there, if the NGOs are not allowed to work for alleviation of sufferings of all the hapless people including the Rohingyas.

It is the NGOs which can heal at least some level of scars caused by despotic rule over the decades pushing tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children towards disasters. Through their grassroots level activities, the NGOs can play a significant role in changing the life of the distressed human beings from the wounds caused by the systemic oppression, socio-economic and political exploitation and social anarchy as well as the havocs of the communal violence.

The NGOs can play a major role in restoration of human rights of Rohingyas if they are allowed to work in Arakan through multidimensional programmes like emergency relief, food security and agriculture, infrastructure and health and education. Under the emergency relief programme, the NGOs can concentrate to the internally displaced Rohingyas. They can pay special attention and concentration to reduce mortality and morbidity and help the distressed people to return to normalcy and let them understand the fact that human rights are not the mercy of a state and that as per Vienna Conference on Human Rights in 1993 which clearly states that “States declare that human rights are the legitimate concern of the international community”, human rights obligations are voluntarily confirmed obligations of states or nations towards populations within their jurisdiction, and this obligates States or nations to have consistent efforts and strive towards a complete spectrum of human rights - starting from an effective ‘right to health,’ within the availability of States resources to the absolute prohibition of torture.

Presence of human rights groups in Arakan:

Another important aspect for the restoration of human rights of Rohingyas is to allow different human rights organizations to be present in Arakan where human rights violations have turned out to be a common phenomenon during the decades-long military rule.

In fact, Human Rights and Human Survival are inalienably linked. In concrete terms, the endurance of the society is a human right. But this basic human right to live with peace and security, liberty and equality and prosperity cannot be rejuvenated by any government faced with all those factors which endanger the peaceful living of human society. Violence can be termed as one sort of violation of norms of human behaviour recognised by all civilised people of the world. By spreading violence and panic among people, it hits the very roots of democracy. So every society cherishing the democratic way of life is bound to fight any sort of violence and cause panic. Therefore, the implementation of human rights had come to be acknowledged internationally as a major concern and essential in the development of not only the individual but also the nation and, ultimately the world.

So, there can be no meaningful improvement in the restoration of human rights of Rohingyas without the presence of human rights organizations in Arakan who can serve as the watchdogs of all sorts of violations of human rights, whether that violation comes from government, from terrorists, from criminals, or from self-appointed messiahs operating under the cover of politics or religion.

Presence of News Media in Arakan:

Robert Heinlein said, secrecy is the beginning of tyranny. It is the news media which mainly bring most of the secrets to the surface. A journalist witnesses an incident, films it and releases it and thus opens the eye of people, organizations and governments as well as the international community through his report, his video and other online technologies about the human rights violations and thus, he brings a change in the society and in a nation.

The news media play an immense role in the restoration of human rights of a community or a nation. It has an unimaginable power to organize the "people power" against any injustice and tyranny and build a culture of freedom. Moreover, the role that the broadcast media plays in changing the face of a society is beyond description. Because of satellite links which now enable broadcast news organizations to originate live programming from any part of the globe, the entire world is becoming one "global village" as Marshall McLuhan said or as the famous line of Shakespeare "all the world's a stage".

Nevertheless, in a country which the military rulers have turned into a secret state of terror where human rights are constantly violated and where the guns of the army point out the way of life of the people, the voice for the presence of human rights groups or news media organizations in Arakan is a far cry. It is only a democratic atmosphere which can pave the way to stop human rights violations against Rohingyas and bring an end to the chapter of genocide and ethnic cleansing operations against them. #

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Ahmedur Rahman Farooq, Chairman, Rohingya Human Rights Council (RHRC). Address: 2975, Vang i Valdres, Norway . Media Contact:+4797413036 Email: rohingyas.rhrc@ yahoo.com, rohingyas.rhrc@ gmail.com

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