Humanitarian crisis in Myanmar


Malika-Budur Kalila

Last month, a clash between government security forces and Rohingya mil- itants took place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. According to the Washington Post, this incident caused more than 420,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh because the state had started a military campaign against Rohingya.

The New York Times reported that last October, Rohingya militants killed nine police officers, which increased the level of violence in a long-running conflict. International human rights groups and Rohingya told the New York Times that the state military responded to the police attack by killing hundreds of people, locking down the area and forcing tens of thousands to ee.

“They are beating us, shooting at us and hacking our people to death,” Hamida Begum, a refugee who left everything and ed to Bangladesh alone, told CNN. “Many people were killed. Many women were raped and killed.”

The Rohingya is a Muslim minority group in a Buddhist majority country. They make one-third of the Rakhine state, however, they do not have full citizenship rights and mostly live in camps. Although Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, the Myanmar government claims that they belong to Bangladesh and deny giving citizenship to them.

This humanitarian crisis received worldwide attention as well as critique because Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is a Nobel Peace Prize winner for democracy and human rights. She was blamed for not taking actions to protect the democracy in her country. With the Rohingya crisis continued, terms like “persecution” and “genocide” were used to describe the tragedy. United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, Zeid Al Hussein described the crisis as an “ethnic cleansing.”


A Niagara University Muslim student from Myanmar, Khin Thin Thinn Myat said, “I feel very bad who is attacked and raped.” She added, “I do not want to see any human being bullied. If this was going on between Buddhists and Christians, and if Christians were attacked, I might feel the same way.”

Dr. Mustafa Gokcek, associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Niagara University, said that Muslims are associated with terrorism in the West, in Rohingya crisis case Buddhism, a religion which promotes peace, is associated with violence, killings, and ethnic cleansing.

“Shall we call them Buddhist militant terrorists? No, this has nothing to do with Buddhism … We have to be able to dis- connect and separate people’s religious identities and ethnic identities and races from their evil practices,” said Gokcek.

“We need to support the oppressed. In this case it is Muslims, and we feel sad for Muslims, but in other cases we need to feel sad and extend our helping hand to people who are oppressed anywhere around the world, no matter what their religion, race or ethnic identity is.”


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