By Dr. Khurshid Ibn Faiz
Every human being is born free and equal in dignity and right. The right of human being to life, liberty and security are the inborn fundamental sovereignty of every individual.. The adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) more than half a century ago directs what is necessary for a life of dignity for every human being. The nations of the world like every year celebrates World Human Rights Day with a view to strengthening their commitment to the concepts of human rights ratified in the preamble charter of United Nations(UN).At the assembly held in Paris on 10th December 1948, the member states through the General Assembly resolution 217(III) A vowed to ensure a voice and vote in shaping the policies of fundamental Human Rights of every community irrespective of large and small, rich and poor with varying religious categories, political views and social systems. The unanimous proclamation of historic UDHR consisting of 30 articles reserved the right of mankind to be free from all forms of troubles and ignominies. Since the day, the signatories have determined to strive jointly and separately “to secure recognition and ensure the rights and freedom of people in every nook and corner of the world”.
But to state regretfully, the incidence of Human Rights violation is taking place regularly. International information & news media, philanthropic organs and various regional and international fora use to play their active role to focus the violations of Human rights world wide time to time. Nevertheless, there exists no worthwhile ascension regarding the right of freedom, and security of. Not only the self-centered clique and mighty circle but also the personnels at the govt. level are engaged in such inhuman man-made designs. The world has been witnessing flagrant violations of Human Rights in Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and violation of Human Rights in Myanmar occupied Arakan and the like.
Whimsical killings, inhuman torture, forced labor, racial discrimination, religious persecution, dishonor of women folk, seizure of land properties, restriction of freedom of movements by the previous all the undemocratic military Junta & by the present state-patronized Bhuddhist radicals are the daily phenomenon in Arakan. A gross and consistent pattern of human rights violations had continuously been committed by the Burmese Authority against the Rohingyas. But the world is more or less in dark as the authority is doing these offences in the four walls of iron-curtain. Human lives here have been left on uncertainty and imagination since 1784-the year of fall of independent Arakanese dynasty. The severity and magnitude of these abuses seem to have been predicated and motivated, at least in part on religious grounds. The Muslims are forced to leave their homes and hearths into different countries across the world. The United Nations has described them as “ the world’s most persecuted minority” and other observers have warned of an impending genocide.The UDHR as the Magna Charta for all humanity has still been a far cry from implementation for Rohingya Muslims in occupied Arakan.
The Muslim inhabitants of Arakan known as Rohingya constitute near about half of Muslims of whole Burma and the major community in Arakan. The Arabs as missionaries, traders and soldiers were first to carry the message of Islam and its essence in Arakan at later part of 7th century. The Muslim dynasty was established by Sulaiman Shah (Narameikhla) with the help of neighboring Bengal Sultans in 1430 AD. Later the Arakanese dynasty got declined at the hand of alien Burman King Bodawphaya in 1784. After a short period, the British occupied Arakan and other parts of Burma (now Myanmar). In the year 1948, Arakan was ultimately annexed to Burma at the time of her independence from British colony. The annexation of Arakan made ironical fate for Rohingyas which led them target to genocide and extermination at the hands of apartheid forces. Before and after the independence, the innocent Muslims of Arakan have been decimated under a well calculated long term strategy of racial segregation.
The persecution had increased in manifold after the military junta headed by Gen. Ne Win captured power in 1962 and soon chalked out a 20 year plan to erase the very name of Rohingya Muslims from the history of Arakan. Since the military take over, the whole community has been subjected to worst kind of Human Rights violation. Fourteen successive major military operations were launched upon them with a view to uprooting them to the last life. The outflow of Refugees remained continuous with occasional episodes that can be witnessed in 1942, 1958, 1975 & 1978. At the end of 20 year plan in 1982 the authority enacted a most controversial and prejudicial citizenship law aimed at the remaining Rohingyas who could not be forced to leave their fore-fathers’ land by inhuman persecution to term them alien in their ancestral homeland.
The alarming operation of 1991-192 ever shines the harrowing tales of persecution in the memory of Muslims which compelled around 300,000 refugees to flee from their homes and hearths. By allowing anti-Muslim sentiment to be stirred up, the Rakhine Bhuddhist always remain distracted with the issue of the Rohingya. In 2012, a year following radical reform program when Burma was seemed to finally moving towards a democratic future, state-patronized violence erupted in Rakhine state between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingyas. Almost 140,000 people were displaced and hundreds other killed. Since then, the situation has stagnated and these people remain stuck in internal camps and squatting on the outskirts of villages at the mercy of their-persecutors while others fled to save their lives to neighboring Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, India and many Middle East countries. As a result of growing sense of desperation, there has been report of a huge surge, with an average of 900 people per day piling into cargo ships parked off Rakhine state for an unacquainted destination in recent years .
The signatory states on United Nations including Burma have in the Human Charter reaffirmed their faith in the dignity and worth of human person and pledged for the full realization of fundamental human rights in practice where everyone is to be entitled to all rights and freedom irrespective of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or birth status. As a member state, Burma also renews their promise every year through observance of Human Rights Day to the universality of Human Rights to achieve in co-operation with the United Nations. But the reverse side of the coin reflects the different image of this height aspiration in Burma particularly incase of Rohingyas who belongs to Burma ruled Arakan. No article pertaining in the concept of the UDHR has been realized by the tyranny Burmese govt. to promote ‘social progress and better standard of life for ethnic Rohingyas in larger freedom’. If one scrutinizes the current happenings in Arakan s/he could easily scratch out the worst deplorable un-reported situation existing among Rohingyas as the abuse of Human Rights revealed in the Universal Declaration and Geneva Convention.
The depressing scenario of Human Rights violation in Arakan in the light of the UDHR may be mentioned in short here under:
- ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. Rohingyas are entitled to enjoy fundamental rights by virtue of human being. But unfortunately Burmese Junta clearly denies the existence of basic Human Rights for Rohingyas which is reserved from birth by the Article I of the UDHR. The Rohingyas are subjected to degrading treatment and extortion only for their belief in Islam while this kind of racial discrimination is strictly prohibited in Article 2 of the UDHR that entitled everyone to all rights stated in the UDHR without any distinction of ‘race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, nation or social origin, property, birth or other status’. They have no right to lead their life with liberty and security of their own–the privileged right ensured by the Article 3 of the UDHR .
- Heavy torture, arbitrary arrest, detention and dishonor of women folk of Rohingyas have been carried out without any legal ground which violates the Articles 5 & Article 9 of the UDHR. Their every breath is now dependant at the mercy of rulers.
- The Article 13 of the UDHR reserves ‘the right of every person to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and the rights to leave from and return to his own country’. But the Rohingyas have to pass their life as if in a big jail under four walls of iron-curtain because their movement from one village to another is completely restricted. They are permitted to leave the country forever and never allowed to re-entry or in some cases allowed in exchange of high taxes and tolls.
- ‘Everyone has the right to a nationality’(Article 15a of the UDHR) but the Burmese authority brands ethnic Rohingyas ‘illegal immigrants’ by the enactment of New Citizenship law 1982 though the history defines them as the son of soil. The Section 8(b) of the law permits the state to arbitrarily revoke the citizenship of anyone. As a member state, the Burmese authority violates the Article 15b of the UDHR by depriving off of the nationality of Rohingyas arbitrarily. Surprisingly the govt. deliberately denied citizenship to Rohingyas who had been previously recognized as citizen by the then prime minister of Burma, U Nu in his Radio speech on 25th Sep 1954 at 8.00 pm.
- According to the UDHR Article 16, ‘Men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family’. Compulsory permission for getting married and the excessive and arbitrary fees and taxes imposed on Rohingya couples wishing to marry apparently inhibits their ability to exercise this right.
- The military Junta in contravention of Articles 17 of the UDHR confiscates land properties, houses and business enterprises of Rohingyas without any legal ground. They are not permitted ‘land use rights’ or permitted by pay taxation to the govt. The land of Rohingya people are often confiscated with no etiology to establish ‘model villages’ for Rakhine Buddhist, construction of military and police camps, shrimp farms and rice fields for the military forces. Rohingyas are also subjected to extortion and illegal taxation at the hands of authorities varying from tax on collecting fire woods and bamboo to fees for death and birth registration, on livestock and cultivation. These matters increase the sufferings of innocent Rohingyas by starvation. They have access to only the poorest quality land where yields are much less than for good land.
- Striking to the freedom of people’s belief particularly that of the Muslims are the daily phenomenon in Burma while it is worst in Arakan. Religious places like mosques, religious institutions and grave yards have been desecrated where security personnel often enter into these places with shoes on and indulge in drinking wine. The anti-Muslim riot that broke out in Arakan in 1942 and in the central Burmese town of Mandalay in March 1997 , and state-patronized violence in 2012 (perpetrated by the Buddhist Monks-the plenipotentiary of junta) had let loosed a reign of terrorism in the region. Imposition of restriction on practicing own belief occurs every now and then. By making showdown with the belief of Muslims, the Burmese tyranny has indeed been abusing continuously the Article 18 of the UDHR that secures the religious freedom of every individual.
- ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ but the Rohingyas were exempted from this right of freedom to hold opinions without interference which had been preserved by the Article 19 of the UDHR . The Article 20 of the UDHR reserves the right of every individual to freedom of peaceful assembly and association what ever he belongs to. The Rohingyas were never allowed to assemble any association with their own community names. They are compelled to belong to associations defined with the name other than ‘Rohingya’ which contravenes the section 2 of article 20 of the UDHR.
- The Rohingyas have no right to access equally to public services in their own country. It became worst after the military take over. The discrimination categorically violates the Article 21, b of the UDHR.
- Muslim men, women and children are engaged to force slave labor in Arakan without food and money for weeks or months. To this economically disadvantaged group, where most people are day laborers, one work without pay can mean one day with out food for the whole family. The use of unpaid civilian laborers violates the right, enshrined in the UDHR, Article 23, to ‘just and favorable remuneration’.
- The Article 25 of the UDHR ensures the right of every individual to ‘a standard of living adequately for health and well-being of himself and of his family’. The ruling regime in violation of this article discriminates the Rohingyas from equitable distribution of health services as fundamental Human Rights. The deprivation of healthcare for the Rohingyas in Arakan is a common happenings . No proper healthcare facilities persists in the Muslim concentrated areas, let alone the specialized health services, while the little facilities that exists are also hard to obtain due to obstacles of movements & transportations imposed upon them and highly paid services, misbehaves and negligence by the healthcare providers.
- The Burmese govt. intentionally encroaches the educational right of Rohingyas to make them unable to erect vertically. Various sorts of sanctions and conditions are imposed upon Rohingyas regarding education. They are not allowed to seek education in their mother language. No higher education is allowed for them to seek as they are declared non-nationals. Every Muslim has to own a non-Muslim Burman name instead of Muslim one to get admission into institutions for primary education (the only level allowed for them) and has to bow their heads before the national flags which is not permitted by their faith or to face expulsion. They are not permitted for higher education, technical or professional education now a days to make them undeveloped and unaware of fundamental rights and freedom which contravenes the Article 26 of the UDHR.
- The UDHR Article 27 entitled Rohingyas to practice their cultural right freely which is denied by the regime. As a result, their culture as distinct community has gradually been losing.
The persecution meted out upon the Rohingyas and the violation of Human Rights has got no parallel illustration in the contemporary world which has still been worst unreported human tragedy. Their fundamental rights as human being have been jack-booted by the wellingtons of military junta as mentioned earlier. These people are ‘crippled economically and deprived-off of all political rights .They are not only persecuted religiously but also degraded socially. The distinct cultural heritage and civilization of this community are to loss from the history. They are turned now into a frail and weak nation dependent upon the dictates of time. The anti Muslim forces made the life of Muslims so miserable and unbearable that they found no way out but to leave the land of fore-fathers. As a result of regular abuse of rights more than 1.5 millions Rohingyas are compelled to seek asylum in different countries of the world.
- The United Nations (UN) should pressurize the Burmese govt. to restore ‘true democracy’ in Burma where Human Rights will be a legitimate claim and a solemn responsibility.
- The UN should also pressurize the govt. to implement the Human Rights components of 1995 UN General Assembly resolution and the 1996 Commission on Human Rights resolution on Burma.
- The UN should immediately pressurize the govt. to urgently repeal the new citizenship law 1982 and amend the discriminatory views that effects on racial or ethnic minorities by over-burden of some requirements.
- The recent Kofi Anan Commission should have given guaranteed permission to free and confidential access to the residents on random basis and chalk out the actual situation fairly and freely and thereby recommends the amicable settlement of the dispute.
- The United States should keep imposed all sorts of sanctions on Burma and should not lift the bans till the rights of all ethnic minorities have met.
- The govt. of Burma should be compelled to consider becoming a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
The military junta of Myanmar has much crossed the extremity of its misdeed and evil design of ethnic cleansing. The Rohingyas in Arakan are now like the birds to be targeted by arms of hunters and preys where as the world today is leading towards the realization of freedom of mankind from unjust and unequal treatment irrespective of affiliation of cast, religion and wealth. The anachronistic racist junta has been violating in cold mind the UDHR of 1948 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 . In order for the Human Rights to the basic empowerment of all people not only a privileged few, the UN and other international philanthropic bodies should pay greater tribute to those who framed the Charter of emancipation of humanity by giving practical meaning to the ideas and vision of these challenges and impose economic sanctions on Burma as well as untie diplomatic relations with the Burmese authority till the absolute realization of the Charter of Human Rights when no mass is tortured, no woman is abused and no child is denied his dignity and all human beings enjoy their Human Rights fairly and freely.
Dr. Khurshid Ibn Faiz is the Chief Editor of THE VOICE and also Human Rights activist who can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.