Approximately 800,000 Muslims live in Burma, forming 4% of the Burma’s total population. Apart from these official estimates, the Muslim population in Burma is double according to neutral sources. These Muslims are commonly known as “Rohingya Muslims” and have never been given the legitimate citizenship of Burma despite living there from the 8th century. They are subject to racial discrimination as “Bengalis”, and, under a 1982 law, are denied citizenship. For decades, they have been suppressed by restricting their freedom to travel, practise their religion, or work as teachers or doctors. They need special permission to marry and are the only minority in the country barred from having more than two children. The discriminatory prosecution against them accelerated since 9/11, but it has surpassed all the previous brutality since June 2012. They are being slaughtered mercilessly and images on social media shook the world when it viewed the plight of these innocent victims. Marginalized for the past 30 years, this minority is seeking refuge in countries like Bangladesh and Thailand (that have their own reasons for not granting shelter to the distraught Rohingyas).
In a recent spate of this unconstrained atrocity, at least 48 Muslims were killed. The incident took place in a small village that envelopes itself with an isolated corner of Burma. According to the United Nations (UN), Buddhist mobs attacked at the village named Du Chee Yar Tan, situated in a state called Rakhine. This state at the northern side of Burma is home to 80% of the country’s 1 million Muslim Rohingya population. It runs along the Bay of Bengal and is disconnected with the rest of the country due to a continuous mountain range (Arakan Yoma mountain range). Not only this but, foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers have limited access to this village, adding to the difficulties of confirming details about the violence. Above all, the United Nations has declared “Rohingya Muslims” as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
According to a UN report, shared by an Iranian journalist, Dr. Ismail Salami, there are eight phases for any genocide:
1) Classification, people are classified into “us” and “other”, the first stage towards isolation and colonization. In Burma, Muslims are seen as the ‘other’ and are considered inferior.
2) Symbolizations, people are given names or symbols in order that others may tell them apart. This stage is not, per se, dangerous unless it turns into dehumanization.
3) Dehumanization, in this stage, one group refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the other group. In other words, one group reduces another group to a subhuman. Rohingya Muslims are also being dehumanized according to this definition.
4) Organization: Genocide is backed up by the government or government-related bodies. A genocidal act is carried out through an intermediary such as terrorist groups or punks in order that the government can exonerate itself from any blame whatsoever. In Burma, the government has frequently repeated that the carnage is conducted by mobs. In the recent case of Du Chee Yar Tan village, the government has also denied the occurrence of any carnage or mass killing.
5) Polarization: Hate groups forbid some of the very fundamental rights of the browbeaten group. If Ronhingya Muslims marry unofficially, they may be arrested and burnt alive. Muslim men ought to shave their beard so that they may be given permission for marriage. They are not allowed to build new mosques or seminaries (places of worship) nor are they allowed to renovate the old mosques.
6) Preparation: In this stage, the victim groups are identified and made to wear badges which distinguish them from others. Further to that, they are selected for the death row or marked for death. The selection may be random or systematic.
7) Extermination, in this stage, the extermination of the downtrodden group starts at the hand of the hate group. The term signifies that the hate group who functions like a killing machine refuses to believe that the people they are killing are indeed human beings with human feelings and worthy of living in this world.
8) Denial, it is the last stage and a routine with any genocide. In the recent attack and mutilation of women and children, the government denied that a Buddhist mob rampaged through a town and mutilated Muslim women and children. However, human rights group and eye witnesses testify that the mob intentionally killed the Rohingyas.
Matthew Smith, executive director of the Thailand-based rights group “Fortify Rights”, called on the Burmese government to give humanitarian workers, independent observers and journalists unfettered access to the village. He said hundreds were still in hiding and may need help. The Burmese government should let the UN probe the issue, if it believes that the incident didn’t take place at all. On the other hand, the Muslims countries should take a collective decision to support the case of Rohingyas at every platform.