Don’t forget Rohingya

Confirmed reports tell us that the deplorable drama is becoming increasingly unbearable not only for Muslims but any human being who values human life. Annette Ekin, a journalist and producer at Al Jazeera English, revealed the fate of several women in the village of Tami in Myanmar’s Buthidaung Township, who after having been gang raped by the soldiers of the Myanmar army, were stabbed to death. One woman, 20-year old Rajuma Begum, survived the Aug. 30 massacre. Her story has been confirmed by Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who investigates war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bouckaert said in an interview with Al Jazeera, “What is happening across the border is an ethnic cleansing campaign which continues against the Rohingya people.”

Each and every one of us in the Netherlands, the U.S., Great Britain, wherever we are residing and watching TV news stories, should feel obliged to act as a civilized man or woman. We all rejoiced when the hero of the Burmese democratic movement was finally freed from house arrest and became de facto leader of her country. Hoping that, as a woman who suffered many abuses at the hands of the army of her own country, Aung San Suu Kyi could understand the drama of the Muslim people and do whatever she could to stop the army. After all, her father, Gen. Aung Sun, had been assassinated when she was only 2 years old, and she spent 15 years of her life under house arrest.

In 1988 she said, “I could not as my father’s daughter remain indifferent to all that was going on” when people revolted against the dictator Gen. Ne Win. She organized rallies calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections. But the army barbarically suppressed the demonstrations; Suu Kyi herself narrowly escaped death at the hands of the soldiers. She couldn’t leave her house for the next 15 years. Even today, she cannot be the president of her country because she married a British citizen and her children have foreign nationalities. If she does not empathize with Rajuma’s condition, nobody can. Seven of Rajuma’s family members were killed by the Myanmar army. Her 50-year-old mother Sufia Khatun, her sisters Rokeya and Rubina, 18 and 15 years old, were taken by the army and raped and killed. Her son Mohammed Saddique, who was one year and four months, Musa Ali, her 10 year-old brother, 25 year-old sister-in-law Khalida and her son Ali, who was two-a-half-years old, all are assumed to be dead.

“They took her along with another four women inside a house,” Rajuma said. “The soldiers ripped my son from my arms and threw him [on the ground] and cut his throat,” she told Al Jazeera. Rajuma was held in a room with three other mothers, one teenage girl and a 50-year-old woman. The soldiers raped them all. Rajuma was raped by two men for what she said felt like two or three hours. Later, they beat the women with wooden sticks, then flashed torches on them three times to make sure they were dead. The soldiers locked them inside the house and set it on fire. Rajuma regained consciousness and was able to escape. She hid on a hill for a day, and when she came out on the other side, she encountered three women from her village. She crossed the border; a Bangladeshi helped her get to a refugee camp where she was treated at a clinic.

Bouckaert is collecting data on the people who crossed the Naf River to Bangladesh. According to Bouckaert, what is happening in Myanmar is an ethnic cleansing campaign: “In my 20 years working at Human Rights Watch, these are some of the most shocking and horrific abuses that I have documented,” he said.

Rajuma said on Al Jazeera, “It’s important to know our story, what happened to us as the Rohingya.”

Now you know at least one woman’s story. The question is what are you going to do with it?

*This article was first published in Daily Sabah in 2 October 2017

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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