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    Rohingya Muslims Tempt Fate on Sea

    A Muslim Rohingya woman
    feeding her child at their tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons
    (AFP)


    OnIslam &
    Newspapers
    February 12, 2013

    CAIRO – Surviving on
    handouts and unable to look for work outside refugee camps, Rohingya Muslims
    are forced by Burmese authorities to take hazardous journeys by sea to flee
    persecution in their country.

    “There are no
    opportunities here for us, no hope,” Abu Kassim, a Rohingya Muslim, told The
    Washington Post on Tuesday, February 12.

    “We are prisoners.”

    Like thousands of
    fellow Rohingya, Abu Kassim lives in a refugee camp in western Burma after
    fleeing his home in Rakhine after attacks by Buddhist mobs in June.

    The 26-year-old Muslim
    was neither able to return to his home, fearing attacks by Buddhists, nor work
    outside the camp.

    This has left him with
    no other option but to try to cross the Bay of Bengal by sea to look for a
    better life outside Burma.

    Estimates show that
    several thousands of Rohingya Muslims flee Burma on flimsy wooden boats every
    month.

    Travelers pay more than
    $100 for a space on rickety, 40-foot-long boats.

    The United Nations says
    of the 13,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled Burma and Bangladesh last year, at
    least 485 were known to have drowned.

    Worse still, Rohingyas
    who succeed in fleeing Burma fall prey to human traffickers.

    “Of course we are very
    concerned about the risks, but the people are insisting they want to go,” said
    Shamshir, 42, a boat builder.

    Described by the UN as
    one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims have been
    facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland Burma.

    They have been denied
    citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are
    treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.

    The Burmese government
    as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term
    “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.

    Miserable Life

    Despite the risks, many
    Rohingya Muslims are adamant to flee Burma for a better life.
    “Of course we are
    afraid of the traffickers,” Abu Kassim said.

    “But the suffering may
    still be less than this life, so we must try,” he said.
    “God willing, we will
    reach Malaysia.”

    San Shwe Maung blames
    the Burmese government for pushing the Rohingyas to flee the country.

    “The government wants
    to make us miserable, to push us out,” the 30-year-old unemployed teacher said.
    He complained that many
    Rohingya-owned businesses have been appropriated by the state.

    “We are like the second
    Jews.”

    Rights activists also
    blame the systematic state persecution for the growing numbers of Rohingya
    Muslims fleeing the country despite the risks.

    “This appears to be the
    intended outcome of a dire situation in which Rohingyas have been consolidated,
    denied free movement and a means of earning a living,” Phil Robertson, deputy irector
    of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told The Washington Post.

    Rights groups have
    accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas
    following the sectarian violence last year.