Burma Task Force: As Desperate Refugees Flee Destruction, Bangladesh Must Lift Boat Ban Preventing Rescue Of Stranded Rohingya

October 9, 2017 - Since October 1st, thousands of Rohingya have been stranded on Myanmar's beaches, waiting for rescue, but boats cannot arrive because Bangladesh’s government has banned fishing boats from operating in the bay. Bangladesh says this is for the protection of the spawning of rare fish, and additionally to clamp down on drug trafficking. As a result of the ban, fishing boats ferrying Rohingya over the past week have been destroyed by the government, and sailors arrested, a number of whom have now been sentenced to 6 months in prison.

 

Burma Task Force, understands and appreciates Bangladesh’s need to prevent drug trafficking, and also to replenish the population of fish in the bay. Burma Task Force believes these goals can be achieved without thousands of Rohingya being stranded on beaches for weeks. The thousands of Rohingya on these beaches are vulnerable to attacks, and have already been targeted, credible reports of large scale massacres have been reported to us by sources on the ground. The prospect of attack has propelled many of the stranded Rohingya to escape any way they can, and many are resorting to using rickety, makeshift rafts and boats, with hundreds of men, women and children already drowned.

 

Imam Malik Mujahid, the Chair of Burma Task Force, noted the urgent need for Bangladesh to lift the ban, “We praised Bangladesh’s handling of the refugee crisis, they went above and beyond their capacity-- but the blanket ban on fishing boats puts thousands of Rohingyas at risk of massacre and drowning. This is an unfolding catastrophe that is worsening and it is preventable. We urge Bangladesh to immediately lift the ban.”

 

Burma Task Force supports the efforts of local activists who are calling for a rescue service, whereby local Bangladeshi sailors would be paid to provide rescue boats as a free service to the Rohingya, fully equipped with life jackets and emergency relief supplies for the journey. The service would limit the number of people in a boat at any one time and only use experienced sailors in sea-worthy boats, avoiding the worst of weather, thus reducing the risk of accidents and drownings.

 

The service would help prevent Rohingya from being exploited by traffickers and allow those without funds to escape. Funds for an initial trial have been raised, life jackets bought and sailors identified, but due to the ban, sailors will not go out to make the rescues. Officials in meetings with local authorities, lifeguard and the army, whilst sympathetic in some instances, have all stated that they would need a policy change from above their rank to allow such a rescue service. Burma Task Force calls on the Bangladesh Government to make this change.

 

Burma Task Force is a coalition of 19 North American Muslim organizations.

 

Contact

Malik Mujahid

Phone: 312-750-1178

Email: malik@soundvision.com

 

Sobia Haleem

Phone: 312-725-9489

Email: sobia@justiceforall.org

 

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Racism and Organized Islamophobia: Tribunal Hears Testimony of Persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslim Groups

September 20 -

 

Press Release - September 20

 

Beginning on September 18, 2017 the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Burma has been meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to listen to testimonies regarding the Myanmar government’s responsibility for crimes against humanity against both Rohingya and Kachin minorities.

 

The third day of the People’s  Tribunal on Myanmar’s ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ featured the detailed presentation of evidence and documentation gathered by lawyers from the Centre For Human Rights and Advocacy (CENTHRA) in regards to the genocide against the Rohingya. This comes at a time when the international community has denounced the Burmese military’s campaign against Rohingya, with over 240 villages burned and half a million displaced. Myanmar State Counsellor Suu Kyi has denied charges of “ethnic cleansing” by pointing out that half of all Rohingya villages still remain, amid charges of mass atrocities.

 

Testimony was also delivered by non-Rohingya Burmese Muslims describing their persecution. One Burmese Muslim witness who had traveled extensively throughout Myanmar, and visited many Muslim communities testified to the destruction of mosques, “I learned of the hardships the Muslim communities faced, particularly religious discrimination and persecution. The most important thing I learned from this was the targeted destruction of religious places of worship” she said.

 

The government of Myanmar uses the pretext of “conflicts” to shutter mosques and confiscate land owned by Muslim religious organizations which they then sell for a profit.

 

A Muslim man from the Mandalay region testified to the destruction of the Muslim community that he witnessed in the city of Meiktila. He described how a mob of hundreds of armed Buddhists gathered, shouting “kill all the kalar” before they destroyed Muslim shops, homes and mosques. He was only able to escape the mob due to the fact that he looks similar to the dominant Burman ethnic group and was mistaken as Buddhist. “Kalar” is a derogatory terms for person with darker skin. Racism and Islamophobia are both increasing in today’s Myanmar.

 

After hearing the testimony of the witnesses the prosecution asked the judges of the Peoples’ Tribunal On Myanmar to rule that Myanmar is guilty of genocide, war crimes & crimes against humanity. For more information on previous testimonies, information about the Judges and the history of the Tribunal, please see:  https://tribunalonmyanmar.org/

 

The judges will deliberate on Thursday the 21st and deliver their verdict on Friday the 22nd.

 

Burma Task Force is a coalition of 19 American and Canadian Muslim organizations

 

Contact:

Tauseef Akbar

Email: tauseef@burmamuslims.org

Phone: +1 312 750 1178

 

Malik Mujahid

Email malik@soundvision.com

 

Phone: +1 312 804 1962

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European Rohingya Organizations Condemns Government Brutality

The European Rohingya Council has condemned the killings of two Rohingya fishermen by the Border Guard Police and the death, due to medical negligence in treating a Rohingya man beaten by Rakhine extremists in Sittwe. The violence perpetrated by both the Border Guard Police and extremists, as well as the neglect of medical authorities is not a new phenomenon but fits a pattern.

The European Rohingya Council (ERC) condemns, with strongest term possible, the recent escalations of brutalities and human rights abuses against Rohingya by Myanmar government and extremist Rakhines.

The ERC is astonished by silence of United Nations and international community on indiscriminate killings of Rohingya on daily basis either by Government institutions such as Myanmar arm forces or Rakhine extremist elements. Recently, two Rohingya fishermen identified as Rafique and Farid from Shwezar village, Maungdaw were shot to death by Border Guard Police. In addition, one Rohingya named as Abul Hosein from Sittwe was brutally attacked by Rakhine extremists. He died in Sittwe General Hospital due to medical negligence later on 20 January, 2016.

[...]

Almost all the Rohingya, who seek emergency medical care such as complicated labors, accident, etc. in Sittwe governmental hospital, rarely come back to their families alive. Sittwe hospital doctors and nurses are infamously hostile and negligent to the Rohingya patients. There is substantial number of Rohingya patients died from “medical negligence.” Rohingya witnesses revealed that Sittwe hospital care staffs including doctors routinely carry out “medical torture” and “medical negligence” on the Rohingya patients seeking treatment.

Therefore, ERC urges World Medical Association to investigate the crimes of “medical negligence” and “medical torture” against Rohingya by Sittwe hospital doctors, and ban Myanmar government from taking part in international medical conferences. ERC also urges international community including UN bodies to investigate daily indiscriminate killing of Rohingya by Myanmar arm forces. In addition, ERC strongly urges current government of Myanmar to take action against Rakhine extremist elements’ brutality towards Rohingya.

Finally ERC is demanding justice and rule of law from the coming new government under National League for Democracy led by Aung San Su Kyi.

 

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Burma Task Force Press Release: Burma Elections Are Not Democratic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 9, 2015

Chicago, Illinois. 

 

Yesterday Burma (Myanmar) finally held a national election. Even before the results are confirmed, news stories are already celebrating the movement towards democracy as a success.

 

However, with three quarters of a million human beings disenfranchised from the vote, is this really a free and fair election?” asked Malik Mujahid, Chairman of Burma Task Force USA, a nationwide program working to raise awareness of human rights concerns in Burma.

 

Despite being a people indigenous to the country, in 2014 the Rohingya Muslims were excluded from the National Census that was in fact funded and promoted by the international community. Moreover, following this unhelpful census, for the first time all the Rohingya were removed from the voter rolls this year. The Burmese military’s decision to scapegoat this long suffering minority group is part of an overall strategy to divide the people and maintain economic and political control behind the scenes.”

 

The Burmese people have shown admirable patience; not only for waiting in lines to vote this week but for their many sacrifices over many years that made it possible for many to vote in this election. But surely the Burmese people deserve a free and fair election that does not exclude on the basis of religion and ethnicity. And surely the Rohingya people deserve to vote and receive all the rights that others enjoy.

 

In recent years the members of this minority population have lost the right to travel freely, receive education, and marry as they choose. Military authorities work with religious nationalist movements that distort both Buddhism and national history to suggest that this helpless population presents a threat to the whole nation. The President of Burma has called for the entire Rohingya population to be relocated to a third country. Orchestrated mob attacks have chased over 140,000 into miserable internal displacement camps; and government collusion with traffickers has forced hundreds of thousands more to become refugees in neighboring nations.

 

This year seven Nobel Peace Laureates called this situation a “textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government.” This suffering is a slow burning genocide, one that we can still arrest in its deadly forward motion if we have the political will to do so. 

 

US President Obama stated last year, “The Rohingya ... hold within themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do. National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country's future, it's necessary to stop incitement and to stop violence.” Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement in which he said that the elections were “far from perfect” and in which he recognized the disenfranchisement of voting rights of the Rohingya and the “arbitrary application” of citizenship and residency requirements (which we note disproportionately affected Rohingya and Muslim candidates).

 

Burma Task Force asks the international media and policymakers to serve the people of Burma honestly and not minimize abuses such as disenfranchisement. The persecution and exclusion of the Rohingya does not deserve to be a footnote to a story of blind hope.

 

Last week US Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell rightly called for an end to trade preferences with Burma because of the defeat of constitutional reform, not to mention the ongoing harassment of local journalists as well as exploitation and confiscation of lands. However, Senator McConnell also send messages that the US would be “reasonable” in its expectations.  Given its history of intransigence, ending mixed messages to the Burmese government may only result in impunity for the persecutors.

 

Our message to the Burmese government must be clear: Burma will not be considered a free and fair democracy unless Rohingya and other ethnic minorities are allowed to participate as full citizens, and unless the Burmese military is not constitutionally entrenched in power.

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Press Release: Addressing Genocide, Summons Issued by US Court in Suit against Myanmar President

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 1, 2015

New York City:

      The US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York issued summonses against Burma/Myanmar President Thein Sein and government ministers in a lawsuit regarding their role in genocidal policies targeting the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Burma, to coincide with the government of Burma’s speaking at the United Nations.

      The lawsuit has been filed by survivors of the atrocities. Seeking compensatory and punitive damage, the complaint charges the defendants with crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture, mental and physical trauma. The lawsuit was filed by US resident refugees who have experienced torture, discrimination and displacement along with their families in Burma. One of the plaintiffs will speak at the press conference.

      Burma Task Force USA (BTF) is providing legal support and advice to the survivors in their effort to hold the leaders of Burma accountable for genocidal human rights restrictions and policies that have resulted in the loss of lives and trauma in the survivors' families, and caused them irreparable emotional and financial harm. BTF is a coalition of 19 Muslim American organizations that is managed by Justice for All (JFA), a non-profit human rights NGO. The law has been filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

The harms to the Rohingya have been well documented by human rights organizations as well as the UN Special Rapporteur to Burma. In recent years this minority population has also lost the right to travel freely, receive education, and marry as they choose. The situation is worsening. In 2015 over 1 million Rohingya lost their right to vote in the upcoming November 8 election, and recently xenophobic marriage laws were instituted by Parliament.

      The President of Burma has called for the entire Rohingya population to be relocated to a third country. And this past week in New York City, the Foreign Minister minimized the anti-Rohingya policies as being merely similar to United States immigration laws.

      “UN Development Goals cannot be achieved when a segment of the population of Burma is rendered stateless,” stated Adem Carroll, New York Director of Burma Task Force USA. “A peaceful future depends on an embrace of pluralism and a rejection of the politics of fear.” 

      Rallies are scheduled across from the United Nations, both Friday 2-4 pm and Saturday afternoon 11 to 2.

      Read the news coverage of the lawsuit on the New York Times website.

Image: RRI photos

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Press Release - 7 Nobel Peace Laureates Call Rohingya Persecution a Genocide

Oslo, Norway, May 28, 2015 - A two-day conference focusing on ending the persecution of Burma's Rohingyas concluded today, with a call from seven Nobel Peace Laureates to describe the Rohingya plight as nothing less than a genocide.

 

In his pre-recorded address to the conference, Desmond Tutu, leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, called for an end to the slow genocide of the Rohingya.

 

Tutu’s appeal was amplified by six other fellow Nobel Peace laureates: Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland, Jody Williams from the USA, Tawakkol Karman from Yeman, Shirin Ebadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina. They stated that, “what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government.”

 

Philanthropist George Soros drew a parallel between his childhood memories of life in a Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation in Hungary and the plight of the Rohingya after visiting a Rohingya area in Sittwe, Myanmar. “In 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I, too was a Rohingya…The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” he said, in a pre-recorded address to the Oslo conference.

 

The meeting was held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway. It was attended by Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar. Also present were genocide experts, international diplomats, interfaith and human rights leaders. Attendees explored ways to end Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya, and to foster communal harmony in Burma.

 

Addressing the conference, Morten Høglund, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced his government’s decision to give 10 million Norwegian Kroner ($1.2 million US) in humanitarian assistance to Burma. The participants were dismayed however, as the State Secretary choose not to even mention the word “Rohingya” in his entire speech in an apparent compliance to Myanmar’s government stand.

 

The conference communiqué urged the Norwegian government to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in Burma, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

 

During the conference, former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik conferred on three leading Myanmar monks, who have saved Muslim lives in Burma and opposed Islamophobia, the first-ever “World Harmony Awards” on behalf of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a 120-year-old interfaith organization. Rev. Seindita, Rev. Withudda, and Rev. Zawtikka, were the three awardees who also chanted Buddhist prayers at the inauguration.

 

Presenting the awards, the Parliament’s chair, Imam Malik Mujahid said, “These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas.”

 

The participants from 16 different countries, including leading Rohingya activists and leaders, as well as genocide scholars, adopted the following statement:

 

--------------Full text of the communiqué adopted by the Oslo Conference--------------

 

Today the Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Persecution of the Rohingya ended. The conference was held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway on May 26 & 27, 2015.

 

After two days of deliberations the conference issue the following urgent appeal to the international community, based on the following conclusions:

 

1. The pattern of systematic human rights abuses against the ethnic Rohingya people entails crimes against humanity including the crime of genocide;

2. The Myanmar government’s denial of the existence of the Rohingya as a people violates the right of the Rohingya to self-identify;

3. The international community is privileging economic interests in Myanmar and failing to prioritize the need to end its systematic persecution and destruction of the Rohingya as an ethnic group.

 

The call by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to end Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya made during the Oslo conference is supported by six additional Nobel Peace Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

 

The United Nations and the international community have an urgent responsibility to stop Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya.

 

As the home country of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the conference urges the Government of Norway to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in that country, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

 

The conference calls upon the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United Nations (UN) and other relevant international actors to take all possible measures to pressure the Government of Myanmar to do the following:

 

- to immediately end its policies and practices of genocide;

- to restore full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya;

- to institute the right of return for all displaced Rohingya;

- to effectively provide the Rohingya with all necessary protection; and

- to actively promote and support reconciliation between communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

 

----------------------------------------End Communique Text----------------------------------------

 

Contact Persons:

 

USA: Imam Malik Mujahid

Chair Burma Task Force USA

malik@SoundVision.com

1-312-804-1962

 

UK: Dr. Maung Zarni:

+44 77 1047 3322

fanon2005@gmail.com

Co-author (with Cowley) “The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya”

 

[Background information on the conference: The conference was co-organized and co-sponsored by the following organizations. However, the communiqué was adopted by the attendees of the conference without any approach to the respective organizations.

 

Justice for All, Burma Task Force USA; Parliament of the World’s Religions; Refugees International (USA); International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) Queen Mary University of London; Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI); Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

 

Dr. Maung Zarni and Imam Malik Mujahid serves as the co-chair of the conference]

 

Photos:

 

For conference photos contact ahmed@burmamuslims.org

 

Links to transcripts and videos:

 

Link to the official transcripts of the recorded messages including that of Archbishop Tutu and George Soros

 

Link to their video recordings

 

Links to some of the news coverage:

 

Suu Kyi not invited to meeting on persecuted Rohingya

Link Myanmar aid to Rohingya rights: Tutu

Aung San Suu Kyi must act on refugee crisis: Dalai Lama

As Nobel winners gather to speak out about Rohingya

 

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Press Release - The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar's Persecution of Rohingyas

Burma Task Force / Justice for All is co-organizing a conference in Oslo, Norway on May 26-28, 2015, to address the continuing persecution of Rohingyas by the Burma/Myanmar government.  Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and people of other faiths will come together to condemn this persecution and discuss actions the international community can take.  Multiple Nobel laureates will either be in attendance or be sending their messages of support. Please download and distribute our Press Release.

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