Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
When the entire world, particularly the West is closing doors to refugees and migrants, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did exhibit a high degree of human quality by kind-heartedly accepting more than 700,000 refugees from Myanmar in 2017, despite the fact, such massive influx of refugees have been causing serious stain on country’s socio-economy.
As of December 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, to avoid ethnic and religious persecution by Myanmar’s security forces. There are more 300,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh who fled in earlier waves violence from the Burmese government over the last three decades. As of June 2018, World Bank announced nearly half a billion dollars in grant-based support to help Bangladesh address the needs of Rohingya refugees in areas including health, education, water and sanitation, disaster risk management, and social protection.
On 28 September 2018, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime minister of Bangladesh spoke at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. She said there are 1.1 million Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh.
Rohingyas are a Muslim minority in Myanmar regarded by many radical Buddhists in Myanmar as “illegal migrants from Bangladesh”. But in reality, Rohingyas are never “migrants from Bangladesh”. Instead, they are citizen of Myanmar. It should be mentioned here that, Bangladesh government has been repeatedly calling upon Myanmar to take back the refugees, but Myanmar has been visibly playing with this issue. Bangladesh’s top ally India and China unfortunately are not siding with Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue, while the Western and Arab nations too are surprisingly silent or inactive in putting pressure on Myanmar in immediately taking back their citizen from Bangladesh. Rohingyas are known as world’s most persecuted minority.
Amnesty International reports have stated that the Myanmar security forces are committing rape, extrajudicial killing, and burning homes belonging to the Rohingya in a December 2016 report. Refugees have been displacing the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They have also been blamed for dealing in a drug named YaBa.
As Myanmar intentionally continued extreme persecution on its Rohingya population, an armed struggle began years back under the leadership of Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, a Pakistan-born Myanmar national. Later Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) took the shape of a jihadist outfit and it has been gradually gaining strength – both militarily and financially.
During the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, Sheikh Hasina accused Myanmar of failing to honor a verbal commitment to take back Rohingya Muslims who have fled genocide.
“We are appalled by what we have seen in U.N. reports about atrocities against the Rohingya who have now taken shelter in Bangladesh, which are tantamount to genocide and crimes against humanity,” Hasina told the General Assembly.
“Despite their verbal commitment to take back the Rohingya, in reality the Myanmar authorities are yet to accept them back,” Hasina said.
She appealed for more international support for the 1.1 million Rohingya refugees now sheltering in Bangladesh, and urged an “early, peaceful solution” to the crisis. Most have arrived since August 2017 when Myanmar security forces with the help of radical Buddhists went into numerous forms of persecution including murder, rape, abduction etc.
United Nations-backed investigators have already said the reported atrocities could amount to genocide and other war crimes.
A U.S. government investigation concluded that the Myanmar military had targeted Rohingya civilians indiscriminately and often with extreme brutality in a coordinated campaign to drive the minority Muslims out of the country.
The report provided statistical analysis. It said most of those interviewed had witnessed a killing, and half had witnessed sexual violence, and the military was identified as the perpetrator in 84 percent of the killings or injuries they witnessed.
Human rights groups criticized the Trump administration for not describing the crackdown as “genocide.” The U.S. has characterized the gross abuses as “ethnic cleansing,” which is not a criminal definition.
It is well assumed that Myanmar’s dilly-dally with the issue of taking 1.1 million Rohingya refugees (the number might have now increased due to child birth) back from Bangladesh would only fuel a militancy group like ARSA is ultimately turning into another Al Qaeda, which will pose serious threat to the regional and global security. In order to avoid such situation, international community should put serious pressure on Myanmar thus compelling it in taking back Rohingyas from Bangladesh and also give assurances of not repeating any further persecution on this minority group.
Does Sheikh Hasina deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?
No one will argue about Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina well deserving the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact she should have received it in 2017 or 2018. But until now, there is no sign of this prestigious prize goes towards Sheikh Hasina. All of us know Nobel Peace Prize does not go in a natural process. Rather members of the Nobel Peace Committee greatly depend on media reports and campaigns while considering any name as the prospective recipient of the prize. In Sheikh Hasina’s case, despite the fact that her giving shelter to over 1.1 million Rohingyas though definitely should have placed her at the top of the list of the prospective recipients of the prize, she is not getting required media exposure. At the same time, there surely are some other practical initiatives, which would actually enable Sheikh Hasina in receiving the prize in 2019. But, nothing is at least there from Bangladesh side.
Sheikh Hasina may not much bother about getting this most prestigious prize as she certainly is not doing everything possible for the Rohingyas for the sake of becoming a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but considering her dedication and kindness towards the most vulnerable minorities in the world, Nobel Peace Committee should definitely consider her as the next recipient of the prize.
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa is the Editor-in-Chief of the Eastern Herald