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Presenters unravel Rohingya genocide

Dr. Tim Chambless, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, addresses attendees at the “Voices for Rohingya: Stop the Genocide!” lecture in the Union on Thursday night.

The Muslim Student Association and Miles for Water collaborated at a presentation in the Union on Thursday night to raise awareness about a genocide occurring in Burma.

“Not many people know the specifics of the genocide, much less that it’s happening or why it’s happening,” said Faeiza Javed, president of the Muslim Student Association and a student in social work.
The presentation began with a summary of the Rohingya, a group of Muslim people residing in the Arakan region of Burma, and a brief rundown of their history, including issues pertaining to their displacement.

“The Rohingya are in what is now Burma and they’ve been there all along. But when Burma became Burma, every leader since then has mistreated them,” said Gerald Brown, the director of Refugee Services in Utah. “I think it’s pretty clear that it’s because they look different than the people in Burma now and they’re of a different religion.”

Brown said that one of the main problems that Rohingya refugees are often confronted with is not being considered refugees by the country they flee to — countries that don’t want to follow the international law on how to treat refugees.

Tim Chambless, a professor of political science, summarized different acts of genocide in the last 200 years all over the world, including the extermination of the Jewish people and other groups during the Holocaust, tribal violence in Rwanda and the enslavement of black people in the United States.
“I’ll start with the definition of genocide. It’s a terrible word with terrible synonyms: murder, massacre … Slaughter, ethnic cleansing, the extermination of an ethnic group,” he said. “The tragic fact is that genocide has a long history.”
Chambless said that numbers on how many millions of people have been victims of genocide or ethnic cleansing are disputed.

“When we look at these numbers, they aren’t just numbers — they’re people. They’re mothers, fathers, children with goals and aspirations like most of us,” said Hussein Mohammed, the host of the evening.

Iqbal Hossain, president of the Islamic Society in Salt Lake, concluded the presentation, talking about Muslims today and how they are often perceived by the media.

“In my humble opinion, it is imprudent to color the genocide in Myanmar as a Muslim issue,” he said. “[This] is because it’s a crime against humanity.”

Hossain said that God created people into human beings first, then made us into different tribes, races, religions and colors.

“Myanmar authorities should cease human rights violations against the Rohingya and Bangladesh should stick to its duties under the U.N. Convention on the Protection of Refugees by accepting boats of Rohingya refugees and allowing them to settle in refugee camps until they are granted full citizenship rights in Myanmar,” Javed said.

The point of the presentation was to raise awareness for the issues and also encourage attendees to sign andsend an appeal letter to the local government officials, the U.N. Security Council and the parliaments of Myanmar Bangladesh.

The appeal urges the Myanmar Parliament to pass legislation that grants full citizenship to the Rohingya, which will include granting of all rights of citizens of Myanmar, including the right to hold land titles, travel and other rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Contact Ainsley Cook at a.cook@chronicle.utah.edu

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