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    Abul Kalam: A Rohingya Fighting for Truth in Sweden

    Download Abul Kalam is a refugee who has been living in Sweden for 10 years.

    He shares the same reason as thousands of other Rohingyas strewn around the world, far from their homeland of Burma.

    Burma’s government doesn’t recognise them as citizens and have been persecuted since 1962 when the army took control.

    The recent ethnic rapes, murders and burning down of Rhingya villages by their Burmese neighbours has brought the tragedy in a new focus.

    Abul’s only recourse is to spread information about the fate of the Rohingyas and appeal to the international community for support.

    Asia Calling’s Ric Wasserman has the story.

    They’re out on the streets in protests … in London, Berlin and Bangkok. 

    Victims of ethnic violence in Western Burma are the Rohingyas – a Muslim ethnic group who were accused of raping a young Burmese woman.

    Rohingyas villages were burnt down, hundreds of Rohingyas were killed, and thousands forced to flee.

    In a suburb of the Swedish capital called Fittja, Rohingya refugee Abul Kalam and his family try to make sense of it all. 

    He fled for his life from Burma 10 years ago.

    “We’re feeling really bad. Why? Because physically we’re living here but are hearts are there.”

    It’s Saturday afternoon. Sitting on the carpet, a traditional Rohingya meal of fish and mutton laid out before them. 

    Abul Kalam, his brother Salim and friend Ibrahim discuss what to do. 

    They’re working together with local journalists through the Swedish Rohingya Association. 

    They’re stepping up efforts to convince the international community and the UN about the tragedy.

    That Rohingya people are dying. 

    “Without a peacekeeping force by the UN, EU or NATO we cannot stay in our homeland. All politicians, organisations, and ethnic groups have turned against the Rohingya.”

    At an international symposium on human rights in Burma held in Stockholm, Abul Kalam and others spoke about the receent bloodshed in Arakan state. 

    Particularly worrying is the fact that there are increasing numbers of Burmese that are vehemently opposed to the Rohingya. President Thein Sein himself called for them to be resettled in another country.

    “There have been rallies in Mandalay, and Rangoon in favour of Thein Sein’s proposals against the Rohingya. If we try to understand why there have been so many strong reactions from Burmese all over the country?”

    Benedict Rogers from the organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide replies. 

    “It’s the most difficult human rights issue to deal with in Burma because you can see them largely as the regimes policies being bad.  And people being oppressed by the regime. This is much more complicated because as you say attitudes within Burmese society as a whole are profoundly disturbing and even people that I know, respect and like have very worrying views on this.”

    There are many unanswered questions as to the army’s complicity in the attacks on the Rohingyas. 

    But one fact is undisputable: the entire Rohingya area of the Burmese city of Sittwe was burned to the ground. 

    Mark Farmaner, head of the organisation Burma Campaign UK, explains the origins of Burmese antagonism against the Rohingyas. 

    “The Rohingya Muslims have lived in the area for many many generations. Many of the Muslims when they came to Burma, came during a time of colonialism. So they were associated in Burmese minds with colonialism. There is a very strong strand of Burmese – Buddhist nationalism that was very strong in  terms of the Burmese independence movement. So for example when you had the Burma independence army who entered Burma with Japanese forces during World War 2 they were forcing out Muslims wherever they found them.”

    For the Rohingyas, things have progressively gotten worse since the military took over in 1962. 

    There may be a civilian government now in Burma on paper, but for the Rohingya the reality is a violent continuation of persecution and broken promises, says Khin Omar, from the Burmese organization Burma Partnership. 

    “Before the election they told the Rohingya community that they’d be given a temporary card to vote, meaning that this would give them the opportunity to apply for legal status in the country. But of course that was never carried out.”

    Back in Fittja. 

    Abul Kalam’s wife Zubaida looks out the kitchen window. She’s deeply upset over the latest wave of bloodshed, but continues to hope for a future for her family…in peace…in Burma.

    “Since the rapes and killing in Arakan in June I can hardly sleep or eat. How can I when I know how much my brothers and sisters are suffering?”