(UNB) – Migration experts and civil society members, both from home and abroad, at a conference here on Wednesday said the international community should play the key role in ensuring the safe return of Rohingyas to their homeland with dignity as equal citizens.
They also said those Rohingyas taken shelter in Bangladesh are not only refugees, but also the worst survivors of genocide, rape and brutal persecution.
The experts also accused Myanmar of committing horrible genocide against Rohingyas and demanded trial of the perpetrators at the International Court of Justice.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), a research organisation, arranged the two-day international conference titled ‘Ending the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas by Myanmar’ supported by Euro-Burma Office at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University.
Academicians, researchers and human right activists from different countries, including host Bangladesh, the USA, Australia, Germany Malaysia, India and Nepal are participating in the conference.
On the occasion, Cosmos Foundation organised a daylong photo exhibition styled ‘Art Against Genocide’ at the conference venue depicting the conditions of the Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar camps. Thirty photographs were displayed at the event, drawing the huge attention of the experts and audience.
UNB photojournalists took the photographs recently when Cox’s Bazar was witnessing a mass exodus of Rohingyas from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Over 622,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border and taken refuge in Cox’s Bazar district since 25 August to avoid persecution by Myanmar military in Rakhine.
Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman together with a number of noted personalities visited the exhibition.
Speaking at the programme, Dr Malik Mujahid, Chair Emeritus, Parliament of the World Religions and Co-Chair One America Coalition, said the Rohingya people deserve praise for remaining calm, collected and peaceful in the face of genocide.
“Rohingyas chose peace despite the fact that there’re at least five active armed Christians and Buddhist groups fighting with guns against the Myanmar government for their rights. I think that Rohingyas deserve a Nobel Peace price for their peaceful struggle for liberty and justice despite genocide,” he said.
Malik regretted that Pope Francis has disappointed those who respect him as he played by the rules of Myanmar by not naming Rohingyas during his visit to the country.
“We can’t play by the rules of the genociders. We must defy them. It’s a genocide period, and genocide is never a bilateral issue. It must be stopped and the Rohingyas must go back to their country as equal citizens, not slaves,” Malik added.
Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury stressed the rehabilitation process of the Rohingyas, ensuring their security and dignity through the effective initiative by the international community, including China, Russia and India putting aside their capitalist behaviour.
He questioned the need for systematically eliminating the Rohingyas from Myanmar, though they had not revolted against the Myanmar government. This is a pre-meditated persecution, he said.
Serajul Islam Choudhury also questioned why China, Russia and India are still supporting Myanmar.
“The capitalist agenda has forced many countries to remain silent on the matter. The Rohingya problem is not a local or bilateral problem. It’s surely an international one,” he added.
He also expressed his surprise at the silence of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once tormented by the same oppressors at one point.
The perpetrators of genocide against Rohingyas should be tried in the International Court of Justice, Choudhury demanded.
DU VC Prof Akhtaruzzaman called upon the global leaders to mount pressure on Myanmar government for the restoration of Rohingyas’ citizenship right.
RMMRU executive director Prof CR Abrar said Rohingya genocide has been massively documented and validated by numerous international organisations. “It’s perhaps the first case of genocide that has been most comprehensively documented by the fleeing survivors. Hitler had denied Jews of German their citizenship rights, but acknowledged them as Jews. But the Rohingyas have been deprived of even that dignity and denied of their self-dignity,” he said.
CR Abrar, a professor of International Relations department at Dhaka University, said international agencies can play a big role in resolving the Rohingya problem as it is an international issue.
The DU professor thanked Cosmos Foundation for arranging the photo exhibition for better understanding of the issue.
In a speech given over Skype from New York, eminent philosopher Gayatri Spivak recollected how her interactions with the Rohingya in Teknaf in 1983-84 gave her a deep understanding about their ordeals. “The Rohingyas are currently stateless but we must work to change it.”
Dr Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed, a Supreme Court Judge, said the international community has to take effective steps for resolving the Rohingya crisis and ensuring the rights of Rohingyas. “If the state is unwilling to protect its citizens, then the scenario will shift on the wider community of states,” he said.
Dr Maung Zarni, a Burmese human rights activist, said the ongoing crisis has resulted in the world witnessing the death of a country’s compassion and conscience.
During his presentation, he demonstrated evidence as to how the Rohingya were recognised as Myanmar citizens but in the course of time, how they are systematically being denied identity as Myanmar nationals.
He also shed light on how the state perceives them as a threat to national security, limiting their movement within Myanmar, including depriving them of basic amenities.
Prof Shapan Adnan deemed the current repatriation agreement to be Myanmar’s public relations stunt, as an appeasement method against mounting international pressure.
The clause of verifying the ‘displaced Myanmar nationals’, in the form of national registration ID cards is absurd, as most Rohingyas fled without their documents,” he observed.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury warned that the government’s plan to shift the Rohingyas to the Char areas in Noahkhali would send a wrong message to international community, misrepresenting that Bangladesh is unwilling to send them back to Myanmar.