• New coalition supports world’s most forgotten people in Burma
• Rohingya Muslims subject to massacres, disappearances, mass displacement
• Leading figures call for Aung San Suu Kyi to break silence on issue
• British and other governments + UN must step up diplomatic pressure
Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and international governments must act now to stop the mass killing and disappearances of thousands of Muslims in Burma.
So says a powerful coalition of human rights leaders, politicians, faith groups and leading lawyers, who are supporting the rights of the embattled Burmese Rohingya people.
The Rohingya Minority Crisis Group (RMCG) convened a conference (5 September) at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, London, calling for urgent action to protect the endangered Rohingya (Muslim ethnic minority) community in Burma (Myanmar).
Speakers called for British and other international governments to act now to prevent further killings, and for the United Nations to throw its weight behind diplomatic action.
“Remember Bosnia; remember Rwanda?” said Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, whose organization is a founding member of the RMCG. “We always become aware when it’s far too late.”
The message was loud and clear that most speakers expected Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to break her (unusual) silence on the issue.
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, said that more than 100,000 of his countrymen have been displaced since Rakine Buddhist Burmese and security forces launched attacks against Rohingya communities earlier this summer.
“Of our three million population, nearly 1.5 million have now left their ethnic homeland,” he said.
“State media fabricates news about the Rohingya, how we are not really Burmese – yet we have been here for generations.”
He said that mass arrests had left thousands in prison camps, where they languish or die due to starvation, thirst, or untreated injuries.
Many attacks by Rakine on Rohingya have been supported by Burmese troops and police, he claimed.
Labour peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, said that he was “appalled” by the lack of action or words from Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose silence on the issue was deafening.
Peter Carter QC, a leading human rights lawyer, said that the Rohingya were now facing “an uncertain future in a neighbouring state – Bangladesh – which is poor; we must help it.”
His words were echoed by Melanie Teff of Refugees International NGO, who said that she had visited unregistered camps in Bangladesh and “they are as bad as any I have seen in the Democratic of Congo or Sudan.”
Muslim Council of Britain’s Europe and International Affairs Committee chairman, Ufuk Secgin said: “Time and again we see the gap between promise and practice – the failures of ‘never again’. Will we learn the names of the towns of Burma and Arakhan as we learned the names of the towns of Bosnia?” Echoing the same, Muhammad Habibur-Rahman, former president of Islamic Forum of Europe called on the conference, politicians and community leaders to do more, “we must redouble our efforts and treat this as an emergency”.
Sadiq Khan MP for Tooting said “The Rohingya crisis is a source of concern for all of us... the persecution of the Rohingya minority by extremists must be stopped”. Whilst welcoming a recent investigation by the Burmese authorities to look into the crisis, “the investigation has to be independent, robust and those found guilty must be prosecuted”, he stressed.
Many speakers echoed the need for more detailed information and fact-finding missions to head to the affected areas in Burma.
Notes to editors:
1. The event was co-chaired by Amjad Mohamed-Saleem, Head of Communications, The Cordoba Foundation and Mohamed Sheikh Mahmud, a Kenyan-Somali Imam, who fled persecution in Kenya. Other speakers at the event included Robin Knowles QC, a deputy High Court Judge; Dilwar Hussain Khan, Executive Director of the London Muslim Centre; Baroness Pola Uddin; Chris Nineham, human rights and anti-war campaigner; and Mehmet Bilir (written message) from the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
2. Rohingya Minority Crisis Group (RMCG) is a broad coalition consisting of community groups, charities, mosques, human rights groups and campaigners, which was formed to campaign and raise awareness around the plight of the Rohingya. For further details or to discuss collaboration work with RMCG contact Abdullah Faliq, convenor of the group –
3. Media/general enquiries: 07947 787 222 (SMS only) | 07862 276 050 (Mahir Ansar)|
4. Pictures from the event are available on request.
5. Further actions:
- A high-level meeting will take place in Geneva next week, organised by The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) and Minority Rights Group, which will address UN officials. A statement will be made available shortly.
- Meetings are also taking place with various embassies in London.
- There will be a charity dinner in aid of the Rohingya, hosted by the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and Muslim Aid, on 21 September featuring Arsenal star, Abou Diaby. http://islamicforumeurope.com/images_uploaded/2012/09/img3463.jpg
- A public meeting about the plight of the Rohingya will take place in Oldham on 9th September, where Mahir Ansar from RMCG and Tun Khin from BROUK will be speaking.