Countering Dehumanization and Hate

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 Rohingya families that have fled to Bangladesh.Credit: EU/ECHO/Pierre Prakash, Creative Commons
READ INTER PARES' STATEMENT ON THE LATEST VIOLENCE AGAINST THE ROHINGYA POPULATION IN BURMA

 

" I was with my 22-year-old sister-in-law in our house. We ran outside. People were running everywhere. My sister-in-law was shot in the stomach. There were many people killed – up to 100 killed, men and women. I saw small children being thrown into the burning houses. Our neighbour’s children, toddlers, were thrown into the fire. I was shot too at that time." 

17-year old Rohingya girl, interview #12 in Witness to Horror

Since October 2016, Burma’s military has unleashed a new wave of violence against Muslim Rohingya civilians in the northwest. Burning villages, massacres, rape, and looting have driven at least 70,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. Burma’s government, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, denies any military wrongdoing, and claims that Rohingyas are burning their own homes in the hope of getting new ones built by international relief agencies. This same government blocks access to Rohingyas by humanitarian agencies, journalists, and independent international investigators, and has refused to cooperate with a fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
 
For decades, Burma’s military has systematically stripped Rohingyas of their rights and stoked tensions between neighbouring Arakhanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. Since 2012, repeated waves of violence have driven a conservatively estimated 168,000 Rohingyas from Burma, and forced over 140,000 into squalid concentration camps within the country. This violence has been characterized as crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide.
 
The military and the state have gained popular support by characterizing Rohingyas as unwanted foreigners and a security threat. Powerful Buddhist monks have disseminated hate speech with very few impediments. The rhetoric of dehumanization on social media has been prolific.
 
The report Witness to Horror documents the voices of Rohingya women displaced by the latest violence. Published by Kaladan Press Network, an independent Rohingya news agency and long-time Inter Pares counterpart,
the women’s accounts are shattering.
 
Documenting lived experiences is a critical component to confronting this situation, as is building solidarity within Burma. In 2003, with support from Inter Pares, Kaladan and other ethnic news agencies formed Burma News International to encourage collaboration between journalists reporting on local news. Now including eleven media groups, it is Burma’s only coalition to include both Rohingya and Arakanese members.
 
Another Inter Pares counterpart, whose name is withheld for their security, works to bring Rohingya and Arakanese youth together for leadership courses that require collaboration. This builds understanding and empathy to counter dehumanization and hate. For the same reason, Inter Pares supported a trip by members of Burma’s civil society to meet with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
 
For Inter Pares, it is also important that we share what we hear in Burma with
Canadians to raise awareness and inform Canadian foreign policy. In 2016 we testified before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, who subsequently published a report with strong recommendations
for Canadian government action to promote Rohingya rights.
 
In mid-2017, we started supporting an initiative in Ontario. I Am Rohingya is
a play created by Rohingya youth whose families resettled to Canada. One of its producers, Innerspeak Media, is creating a documentary to share the message with a broader audience. Bringing together human rights, refugee experiences, and international action, this project exemplifies the interconnections between us all. Throughout our Burma programming, we are seeking opportunities to build connections like these and focus on our shared humanity.
 
Our Burma program is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

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  • Frances Arbour
    Thanks for the very informative update on the persecution of Rohingyas Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma). I believe that the Nobel Peace prize and the honorary Canadian citizenship should be removed from Aung San Suu Kyi because she hasn't condemned the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in her country and has resulted in their flight as refugees to Bangladesh. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to highlight insurgent attacks against Rohingya Muslims, he hasn't put pressure on Ms Suu Kyi and her government to cooperate with the UN Human Right's Council's fact-finding mission, whose members have been denied visas by Myanmar. Independent monitors are non-existent at this point and the Myanmar government hasn't been providing access. The Canadian government needs to be really persistent and insistent in terms of asking for independent access. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and honorary Canadian citizen Malala Yousafzai as well as former Liberal ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have called for Ms. Suu Kyi's Nobel Prize to be revoked. The Canadian government needs to be more forceful in condemning how the recent violence started. It focuses on one victim group without mentioning about the other victimized community members who were initially killed by Islamist extremist (groups) active in various areas. Perhaps the Canadian government, which pledged $30-million in Myranmar in June, might remind Ms. Suu Kyi of her 2012 Nobel acceptance speech: ''Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities, and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union." Myranmar needs Ms. Suu Kyi to rediscover her voice.
  • Frances Arbour
    Thanks for the very informative update on the persecution of Rohingyas Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma). I believe that the Nobel Peace prize and the honorary Canadian citizenship should be removed from Aung San Suu Kyi because she hasn't condemned the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in her country and has resulted in their flight as refugees to Bangladesh. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to highlight insurgent attacks against Rohingya Muslims, he hasn't put pressure on Ms Suu Kyi and her government to cooperate with the UN Human Right's Council's fact-finding mission, whose members have been denied visas by Myanmar. Independent monitors are non-existent at this point and the Myanmar government hasn't been providing access. The Canadian government needs to be really persistent and insistent in terms of asking for independent access. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and honorary Canadian citizen Malala Yousafzai as well as former Liberal ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have called for Ms. Suu Kyi's Nobel Prize to be revoked. The Canadian government needs to be more forceful in condemning how the recent violence started. It focuses on one victim group without mentioning about the other victimized community members who were initially killed by Islamist extremist (groups) active in various areas. Perhaps the Canadian government, which pledged $30-million in Myranmar in June, might remind Ms. Suu Kyi of her 2012 Nobel acceptance speech: ''Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities, and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union." Myranmar needs Ms. Suu Kyi to rediscover her voice.
  • Frances Arbour
    Thanks for the very informative update on the persecution of Rohingyas Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma). I believe that the Nobel Peace prize and the honorary Canadian citizenship should be removed from Aung San Suu Kyi because she hasn't condemned the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in her country and has resulted in their flight as refugees to Bangladesh. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to highlight insurgent attacks against Rohingya Muslims, he hasn't put pressure on Ms Suu Kyi and her government to cooperate with the UN Human Right's Council's fact-finding mission, whose members have been denied visas by Myanmar. Independent monitors are non-existent at this point and the Myanmar government hasn't been providing access. The Canadian government needs to be really persistent and insistent in terms of asking for independent access. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and honorary Canadian citizen Malala Yousafzai as well as former Liberal ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have called for Ms. Suu Kyi's Nobel Prize to be revoked. The Canadian government needs to be more forceful in condemning how the recent violence started. It focuses on one victim group without mentioning about the other victimized community members who were initially killed by Islamist extremist (groups) active in various areas. Perhaps the Canadian government, which pledged $30-million in Myranmar in June, might remind Ms. Suu Kyi of her 2012 Nobel acceptance speech: ''Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities, and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union." Myranmar needs Ms. Suu Kyi to rediscover her voice.
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