By Annisa Essack
Three years on, the Rohingya Muslim minority today commemorate the crackdown by Myanmar’s military forces which drove away hundreds of thousands from their lands.
The crackdown in Rakhine state, western Myanmar began on Aug. 25, 2017, and saw the displacement, killings and rape of the world’s most persecuted community triggering an international outcry.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has failed to ensure that the nearly one million Rohingya refugees can safely return home three years since fleeing the Myanmar military’s crimes against humanity and possible genocide.
In January 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) imposed provisional measures on Myanmar in January 2020 to prevent genocide while it adjudicated alleged violations of the Genocide Convention. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2019 began an investigation into Myanmar’s forced deportation of Rohingya and related crimes against humanity. Myanmar has not complied with these international justice measures, has not permitted the United Nations to investigate grave crimes inside the country, nor conducted credible criminal investigations of its own into military atrocities.
Refugees have overwhelmingly expressed a desire to return to their homes in Myanmar once it is safe; when they have citizenship and freedom of movement; and when there is genuine accountability for atrocities but in September 2019, the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, backed by the UN, found that the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar “may face a greater threat of genocide than ever.”
The International Court of Justice, in January, ruled that Myanmar is legally bound to protect the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State from genocide and to take steps to preserve evidence of crimes. But the Myanmar government failed to comply with the court order or take any concrete actions.
Bangladesh has been struggling with the strain the refugees have placed on the economy, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating the crisis.
The Bangladesh government has organized several official repatriation attempts but these have failed as refugees have been unwilling to return, fearing persecution and abuse in Myanmar.
Life for the Rohingya in Bangladesh has not been easy and in recent months the government’s policies over the past year have put refugees’ lives at serious risk and violated their basic rights.
As one reads about the many encounters by an aid worker and seasoned war correspondents and journalist who visit the camps in Bangladesh, it is the pictures that bring forth the pain, the desperation, the sheer helplessness of their situation. It makes one lose faith in humanity. Yet, in those same eyes, we see a glimmer of hope which makes you want to hang onto the rope that keeps us bound together as humans.