Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

The threat of war against Syria and Iran has been grabbing headlines for weeks, accompanied by ever more sensationalist claims by the mainstream media. The tensions are naturally high and the scenario could be grim.

Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian professor of economics and author of several books charges that “a sophisticated and all encompassing propaganda programme supports war in the name of world peace and global security. The underlying scenario of worldwide conflict goes far beyond the diabolical design of [George] Orwell’s 1984. The Ministry of Truth upholds war as a peacemaking undertaking by twisting realities upside down. In turn, the lies and fabrications of the mainstream media are presented with various innuendos in a complex web of deceit”.

All in the quest of calculated gains!

Lost in such Machiavellian war-mongering scenarios is a little-known crime being perpetrated against a minority, the Rohingya, in Myanmar. It is state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, whose victims happen to be the Rohingya, a majority of whom are Muslims. Unlike Syria or Iran where world leaders have been taking a defined stand on the pedestal of human rights, in the case of the Myanmarese Muslims there has been very little international condemnation.

In the current crisis in the province of northern Arakan in Myanmar, brutal murders of Rohingya men, women and children by Buddhist Rakhine vigilantes are in full swing. This is also accompanied by mass arrests, torture and cold blooded murder of innocent Rohingya men by Myanmarese police in jails.

The state of emergency imposed by the Myanmar government in Arakan is punishing the Rohingya people as they cannot venture out of their homes in search of food and medicine even during the day. Rakhine mobs roam about attacking and looting Rohingya while Myanmarese police forces provide cover to these crimes.

Prof Wakar Uddin, Director-General of the Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU) charged that “the Rakhine mobs are not obeying the state of emergency law, and are roaming the streets and looting Rohingya houses. The imposition of a state of emergency is providing leverage to the Rakhine and crippling the Rohingya. This is compelling evidence of how the Myanmarese government has manipulated the situation in favour of the Rakhine through this state of emergency law to further marginalise the Rohingya”.

Tales of terror

He goes on to detail the terror.

“The [Myanmar] forces are raiding Rohingya houses and taking male adults away to unknown destinations. There are numerous cases of assault on Rohingya women and rapes by [Myanmarese] forces, particularly in households where the men have been taken away. Numerous mosques have been gutted and others shut down in Arakan by the government. The Rohingya are not allowed to pray and imams have been arrested.”

Recently, the situation flared to dangerous levels when Muslim pilgrims on their way to a spiritual place of worship last month were attacked by a large number of Rakhine Buddhists, who butchered and hacked them down with knives. Few escaped.

An eyewitness described the horror when the mob of Rakhines set upon the bus carrying the pilgrims and created carnage. “More than a hundred people beat and killed those people. The residents even torched the bus,” he said, adding that the police arrived but were unable to control the baying crowd.

“There are not many people at the scene now, only dead bodies on the road. The senior residents of the town are trying to comfort the people. The Rakhine Buddhists are also threatening Muslims from other towns of the Rakhine state with the same fate.”

A lukewarm government statement following the incident and published in the New Light of Myanmar added more fuel to the burning embers when it cautioned against “anarchic and lawless” acts, but referred to the victims using a racial slur for people of subcontinent appearance.

The Nobel Prize winner and democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, who came into the limelight as a result of fighting against the repressive regime had for the most part politically manoeuvred themselves out of discussing Myanmar’s Muslim minority, especially the Rohingya, for fears of alienating many of their supporters.

But following the brutal slayings, which was one more chapter of targeted violence against the Muslim minority, Suu Kyi was compelled to speak out. “I would like to see all people in Myanmar get along with each other regardless of their religion and ethnicity,” she said.

The Rohingya need much more than words of sympathy and they need it quickly. They need international support against their extermination, along with much needed aid in the form of medicines and food. As Dr Wakar stresses, “we are running out of time, people are dying in the open and in jails of horror — please initiate the deployment of UN personnel in affected areas urgently.”

How long can this be allowed to go on? Is it because there is very little in the way of calculated gains to be garnered by allying with their cause? Has the lack of oil fields or key waterways made their defence one of no strategic value?

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah.