How is it that the year is 2017, and people are still being murdered for their ethnicity and religion? When I was a child, in the 90s, I always tried to imagine what life after the year 2000 would be like. I imagined ordinary humans like myself freely travelling to space on a daily basis, the most wonderful and innovative technology and transport, and world peace. Of these three things, the one I was most sure of happening was world peace. Wars, genocides and whole groups of people being murdered based on things they can't change like their ethnicity, and other such horrors, were surely a thing of the past. But as I get older, I realise that of all the things I imagined for the twenty-first century, world peace is the least likely of the lot. And that makes me very sad, and ashamed of being human.
As I write, Burma/Myanmar is killing hundreds of thousands of its Muslim inhabitants, the Rohingya people. The latest estimates are that 421,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled, with similar numbers having been massacred, their villages burnt down, their women raped, their children beheaded. The reason I say "inhabitants" and not "citizens" is that the Rohingya people in Burma/Myanmar have, for decades, been denied citizenship and basic human rights such as education, medicine or freedom of movement.
This is not Isis we're talking about: this is the army that rules the country whose de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The same Aung San Suu Kyi who can currently be accused of, at best, ignoring the issue of the massacred and displaced Rohingya Muslims, or at worst, having these Rohinya Muslims' blood on her hands. In her denials of the genocide, her lies that "Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations" (a complete falsehood), that everyone in Burma/Myanmar has access to education and healthcare (again, not true) and other misrepresentations of the awful, shameful truth, Aung San Suu Kyi does indeed have the blood of every one of those Rohingya Muslims murdered, on her hands.
The rest of the world has reacted too late. As mentioned, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have already either been massacred or forced to flee their homes, with nowhere to go. This is not just a recent event: these stateless, impoverished people have been persecuted by Burma/Myanmar for decades. In 2013, the United Nations described the Rohingya people as being "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world", and more recently described the Burmese treatment of the Rohingya people as a "textbook" example of ethnic cleansing.
I cannot believe that this is the state of the world, where our Rohingya Muslim brothers and sisters, our fellow humans, are being robbed of their villages, their human rights, their lives. And the rest of the world looks on.
Next time you think of genocides being a thing of the past, next time you sit in a history lesson and think "But that would never happen in this day and age, surely", next time you think that Muslims are all evil, that Buddhists are all peaceful, have a look at the fate of the Rohingya Muslims and think again.Suggest a correction