We the representatives of Civil Society of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan who are meeting for a South Asian Consultation for “Building Bridges: Civil Society in OIC Countries Engaging with the Multilateral Sphere” in Lahore, Pakistan, and are committed to universal human rights, democratic values and justice are deeply alarmed and distressed by the continued violence against the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar that is leading to deaths of hundreds, countless injuries and destruction of property of innocent members of the Rohingya Community of Myanmar.
Over 150,000 Rohingyas are reported to have fled to neighbouring countries following the violence in June 2012 in Rakhine State in western Myanmar. The present outbreak in March 2013 in Meikhatila in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims has lead to fresh killings, destruction of property and businesses and declaration of state of emergency in the region. It is reported that a new wave of exodus of Muslims to the neighbouring countries has started from this area also. There have been similar situations of orchestrated violence against Rohingyas of Myanmar and their mass exodus to neighbouring countries in 1978 and again in 1991-92.
Rohingiya Muslims of Myanmar, who are of Indo-Aryan descent and have been residing in the Myanmar region since 15th Century, are probably the most persecuted minority in the world due to the development of increasing antipathy by the majority Buddhist community of East Asian stock after independence of Myanmar in 1948 and the extremely discriminatory policies being pursued by the Government of Myanmar ever since.
A common factor in whole of South Asia is the migration of people for economic reasons, and with independence coming many of the dominating communities are associating citizenship rights with religion or ethnicity and not the presence of a community in the area even for centuries. Due to this some communities are getting deprived of citizenship formally or informally and are being relegated to second class citizenship or condition of Statelesness.
The situation is particularly bad for the Rohingya Muslims who have been adversely affected by the 1982 citizenship law, which has deprived them of citizenship and made them into “Stateless” people.. It is reported that they are also subjected to forced labour, arbitrary taxation and confiscation of land by the Myanmar Government without any pay.
The UNHCR has noted that since 1991 their freedom of movement within the country is restricted. All these are leading to blatant violation of their human rights. Facing this adverse situation of gross violation of their rights resulting in impossible conditions for day to day survival and constant threat of physical violence by the majority community and the state, many of them are trying to flee to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, India and other countries.
Though Muslims constitute 5% of the population of Myanmar and many of them had been the residents of this region from centuries, so denying them full citizenship defies all logic of a modern democratic state. Further, the persistent violence against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and its increasing scale and intensity is totally unacceptable, against principles of humanity and justice and calls for immediate action by the international community collectively and severally.
Despite the gross violations of the basic human and democratic rights of Rohingyas for decades that has reduced them to the status of stateless persons in Myanmar and forces thousands to migrate to other countries during the last 50 years, neither the Un nor OIC has done anything substantive to check this persecution or facilitate their rehabilitation.
Hence we demand that the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation that has been founded with the object of being “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and to work to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”) and the United nations should condemn this violence and violation of basic human and democratic rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar and initiate processes for:
– Immediate cessation of all forms of violence and discrimination against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
– Institution of an International Committee to investigate all cases of violence in the past one year, fix responsibility and recommend punitive action.
– Ensure security and safety of all Rohingyas who have fled to other countries and make adequate provisions for their survival and well being till such time as they are rehabilitated back to their areas of origin in Myanmar.
– Negotiate with all the host countries for complete legal sanctity and protection of all human rights of the Rohingyas till such time as they are resident in these countries and cannot be repatriated back to Myanmar.
The OIC and the United Nations should also immediately undertake all possible steps to compel the Government of Myanmar to:
– Repeal the obnoxious Citizenship Act of 1982 and grant full citizenship to the Rohingyas.
– Restore freedom of religion, establish equality of religious communities and ensure dignity, honour and equal citizenship for people of all faiths.
– Restore full democratic and human rights to the Rohingyas
– Create appropriate and favourable conditions for repatriation of all Rohigyas to Myanmar who have been forced to flee in large numbers to other countries due to reasons of systemic discrimination and extreme insecurity.
Copies of this statement are being submitted to the Secretary General, United Nations; Secretary General, OIC; President and Prime Minister of Myanmar and Ms. Aang Sung Su Kyi, Leader of the opposition, Myanmar for necessary and immediate action.
Dated: 5th April 2013
Dr. Massouda Jalal Afghanistan
Mr. Nejeeb-ur-Rehman Naderi Afghanistan
Ms. Mahfuza Folad Afghanistan
Mr. Mazher Hussain India
Mr. Mohammad Tahseen Pakistan
Ms. Farzana Mumtaz Pakistan
Mr. Peter Jacob Pakistan
Mr. Salman Javed Pakistan
Mr. Abbas Ali Siddiqui Pakistan
Ms. Sobia Iram Pakistan
Ms. Kishwar Sultana Pakistan
Mr. Tilawat Hussain Pakistan
Mr. Umar Zada Pakistan
Mr. Javed Pasha Pakistan
Mr. Mohammad Zahid Islam Pakistan
Mr. Kamran Ahmad Pakistan
Mr. Tanveer Akbar Pakistan
Mr. Tariq Awan Pakistan
Ms. Bushra Khaliq Pakistan
Ms. Naghma Imdad Pakistan
Ms. Zaman Khan Pakistan
Mr. Asad Jamal Pakistan
COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations) is a national network of voluntary organizations dedicated to the issues of social harmony, peace and justice. The prime focus of COVA is on citizenship rights and on perspective building for harmony and peace in South Asia. Through direct programmes and by networking with other CSOs, COVA organises perspective building activities and programs, carries out campaigns, and conducts research for influencing diverse sections of civil society and the state apparatus to adopt inclusive, secular and egalitarian outlook and policies that would foster rights and secure justice and peace for all.