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Bangladesh deserves international support for resolving Rohingya crisis

Bangladesh, Rohingya, Myanmar, Moscow, China, Russia, Dr AK Abdul Momen, Sheikh Hasina, Dhaka, Naypyidaw

Oped

Bangladesh deserves international support for resolving Rohingya crisis

In July this year, Bangladesh foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen requested Moscow to take a trilateral initiative among Bangladesh, Russian and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis as the tripartite consultation among Dhaka, Beijing and Naypyidaw has been halted following military took power in Myanmar.

However, according to Bangladesh foreign minister, his Russian counterpart did not accept Dhaka’s proposal right away but assured that he would talk with others regarding the initiative.

The Bangladesh foreign minister said Russia always suggests Dhaka to engage bilaterally with Myanmar to resolve the crisis but “I told him that we had tried a lot bilaterally and even trilaterally involving China .. but not a single Rohingya was so far repatriated in last four year.”

Dr Momen said he conveyed that Dhaka expects that Russia would mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis as like China as both Moscow and Beijing both have good relations with Naypyidaw.

He further said, for the first time, Russia and China gave their support while the resolution on “Human Rights Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar” was adopted in the UN recently.

“It’s an achievement … it’s a shift,” Dr Momen said adding that the adoption of the resolution by consensus is a big milestone towards negotiation of Rohingya repatriation.

The foreign minister said the Chinese side is yet to make contact with Myanmar for resuming the tripartite discussion as the new Myanmar military government is busy with its internal issues.

The tripartite discussion between Bangladesh and Myanmar mediated by China was started in 2019 and following series of meetings at ministerial, secretary and high official levels, Naypyidaw had hinted to start taking back Rohingyas from second quarter of this year.

But the tripartite discussion has been suspended since Myanmar military take the state power in a coup in February last.

Since 25 August 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them arrived there after a military crackdown by Myanmar, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and other rights groups dubbed as “genocide”.

In last nearly four years, not a single Rohingya went back home yet although Myanmar agreed to take them back.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated her call for the global assistance to ensure dignified and peaceful repatriation of over 1.1 million Rohingyas as she addressed the IX Moscow Conference on International Security.

“You are aware that Bangladesh has been hosting more than 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals-Rohingyas for about four years. They are posing huge security threat to Bangladesh as well as the region. We have sheltered them on humanitarian ground but such a huge population can’t be lodged for indefinite period”, she added.

Sheikh Hasina said that peace and security cannot be ensured unless “we take appropriate measures to end human deprivation and ensure an environment that provides education and opportunities for all”.

American media’s foul game centering Rohingya issue

Centering Rohingya issue, Bangladesh most certainly is going to face false propaganda in the international media. When Rohingya militancy group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is gradually increasing its number of fighters, both male and female, with the vicious agenda of proclaiming caliphate, American newspaper the Washington Post on July 7, 2021 has published a disturbing opinion editorial titled ‘Bangladesh is supposed to be a host to the Rohingya refugees, not their jailer’.

The writer of this article, an individual named Shafiur Rahman, claims to be a documentary film maker working on Rohingya issues. But he actually is a propagandist for Islamic State and Caliphate for whom the Washington Post has become a propaganda vessel. In the above-mentioned article, Shafiur Rahman and Washington Post have provided link to a website named Khilafahthat denounces democracy and promotes establishment of Caliphate. The article linked in the Washington Post is a propaganda material filled with vicious lies against the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh. The ulterior motive that Washington Post and Shafiur Rahman and more precisely the militancy groups that back him is to pressurize the Bangladeshi government and establish a Caliphate in Bangladesh, one of fastest growing economies in the world. The article in the Khilafah also says:

“Unfortunately, the subservient rulers of the Muslim world devotedly serve the imperial West as they should serve Allah. For this reason, they do not release their army in the time of the Ummah’s dire need, but send this very army to UN Peace Keeping Missions to protect strategic, political and economic interests of the West”.

This proves that Washington Post is now serving the Islamic State and pro-Caliphate powers instead of supporting the United States. This should come off as no surprise because this is the same news outlet which supported Jamal Khashoggi, a Muslim Brotherhood member and another member of the pro-Caliphate cohort.

It has also been known that this individual named Shafiur Rahman is connected with militancy group Hizbut Tahrir. Now by linking all the evidences together, it seems like that Washington Post has not only become a safe platform for spreading vile, sometimes implicit, pro-militancy content, but the news outlet is also patronizing militancy. That is why it has now turned its gaze towards the Rohingya refugee crisis where a potential for the rise of a major terrorist network looms.

It needs to be mentioned here that Bangladesh did not take in over one million Rohingyas from Myanmar willingly. Instead, as the Myanmar government forced the Rohingya population out of Arakan, Bangladesh had to open its borders solely on humanitarian grounds, but it should be no surprise to Washington Post nor to anybody else that for a developing nation like Bangladesh hosting more than million Rohingyas is not something the country can afford without hesitation. However, the Washington Post seems to ignore this and instead let pro-Caliphate writers post articles on their newspaper which clearly serve the motive of nobody but militancy groups.

However, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is using the Rohingyas to organize a terrorist platform in Bangladesh with the ulterior motive of establishing a caliphate in Bangladesh, the Washington Post remains conspicuously silent. But would Joe Biden let ISIS or Al Qaeda members enter in large groups into the United States?

It is easier to scapegoat a nation like Bangladesh, especially when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken an unprecedented stand against Islamic militancy. That is why, militancy groups are being frantic about spewing vile propaganda against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Washington Post, and in fact many other news outlets even in the West, are ironically patronizing these militancy outfits whose ultimate goal is the obliteration of the West.

This vicious propaganda against the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should be countered by the press section of the Bangladeshi government, because if a false propaganda is allowed to propagate without any hindrance for too long, eventually people start taking these lies for ‘gospel truth’. At the same time, Bangladeshi Intelligence Agencies should also start investigating this individual named Shafiur Rahman, more specifically the people behind this man whose writing pattern and agenda align very well with the notion of the pro-Caliphate Khilafah website.

Over one million Rohingyas in Bangladesh

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Rohingya Muslims have faced persecution in Myanmar for decades. And yet no violence in their recent history has compared to that which the Myanmar military inflicted in August 2017. After militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police and army posts in northwestern Rakhine State on August 25, the military responded by killing thousands of Rohingya civilians, raping hundreds of Rohingya women and girls, and burning entire villages to the ground. In the course of a little more than three months, more than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee for their lives to Bangladesh. Myanmar authorities claimed they had conducted a “clearance operation” to rid the country of militants. In reality, they were fulfilling a long-standing dream of Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalists: the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.

Persecuted Rohingyas joined hundreds of thousands of Myanmar Rohingya who were already in Bangladesh seeking refuge after previous attacks, bringing the total to 1.1 million. Today, more Rohingya live in Bangladesh than remain in Myanmar.

Bangladesh and humanitarian organizations are struggling to provide for the needs of Rohingyas, while Myanmar refuses to take the steps necessary to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya to their homes in Rakhine State. International attention to the plight of the Rohingya has waned, even as the Myanmar military continues to terrorize those who remain in Rakhine State. Many Rohingya in the camps in Bangladesh say that they fear they will soon be forgotten.

Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh for decades. Violence in the 1990s, 2012, and 2016 caused major refugee flows. Before 2017, the Bangladeshi government periodically pushed back refugees and sought to block international humanitarian groups from providing services to them. But this changed with the huge influx in August 2017. Public opinion in Bangladesh sympathized with the Rohingya, with many groups organizing volunteer efforts to assist them. The government responded to the public mood by adopting a more welcoming policy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to share food and other resources with the beleaguered community, leading the local authorities in Cox’s Bazar, the largest city near the camps, to erect posters and billboards proclaiming her the “Mother of Humanity”.

But in September 2018, one year into the crisis, Sheikh Hasina said that Bangladesh could not afford to permanently absorb the Rohingyas. In March 2019, Bangladesh’s the then foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, told the Security Council that the country “could no longer… accommodate more people from Myanmar”. The government’s initial response was predicated on the expectation that the Rohingya would be short-term guests. It hoped that the threat of sanctions and international justice would persuade the Myanmar authorities to create the conditions that would allow the Rohingya to be able to return to their homes.

A ridiculous proposal from the World Bank

World Bank’s recent bid centering Myanmar’s forcibly displaced Rohingya community is unacceptable and certainly ridiculous. According to media reports, World Bank has made seeking Bangladesh to engage in efforts to create provisions for the 1.1 million Rohingyas, now sheltered in Bangladesh, for their purchase, lease and use of housing, land and property the way it is there for Bangladeshis, without restrictions on location, type or duration or at least benefits from the most favorable treatment accorded to a foreign country in the same circumstances. This move clearly proves, World Bank has adopted a nefarious policy of appeasing the Myanmar regime and even it is an attempt of refusing the demand of Rohingyas of their return to their homeland.

Clarifying Dhaka’s position, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh sees Rohingyas as ‘displaced people’ not as ‘refugees’ while the World Bank (WB) announced a global program to integrate refuges in host countries.

“Rohingyas are not refugees here … they are persecuted and displaced people …they are taking shelter here on a temporary basis”.

The foreign minister said Dhaka sticks firm on its stand that the persecuted forcibly displaced Rohingyas must return to their land of origin in Myanmar’s Rakhine.

“Rohingya repatriation is our priority,” he said.

He said there is no chance of integration of Rohingyas into Bangladesh rather Dhaka believes their ‘better future’ would only be possible when they are repatriated to Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh foreign secretary said, Bangladesh may provide the Rohingyas with education and skills training, as is appropriate, commensurate with the need of Myanmar so that that could maintain their livelihood after their repatriation. Bangladesh, which has welcomed the persecuted Rohingyas out of generosity, must not forget that the repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar is the only solution to their plight.

Bangladesh authorities, without acting on the impractical move of the World Bank, must redefine its strategy in the light of what has so far happened centering on the issue, including the World Bank move at hand, put in more mettle and redouble efforts for the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

What Bangladesh needs to do forthwith?

In my opinion, while persuading the international community seeking their effective measures in resolving the Rohingya crisis through diplomatic channel, Bangladesh should also take immediate measures in taking help from the global media in continuing a massive campaign demanding respectable repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. In this case, policymakers in Bangladesh should note, the World Bank’s recent suggestions of integrating 1.1 million Rohingyas into Bangladesh society was a result of international media’s gradual silence on the Rohingya issue. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did open the border for Rohingyas in 2017 purely on humanitarian ground and it was firmly believed that these 1.1 million Rohingyas would return to Myanmar maximum within two years. But now, more than four years have already passed. There is no sign from the Myanmar side in taking back these Rohingyas from Bangladesh. Under such circumstance, unless Bangladesh intensifies its efforts both through diplomatic channels and through massive campaign in the international media, Myanmar and its allies will keep the issue hanging indefinitely.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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