Göttingen, 13. August 2012
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should advocate for the 800,000 Muslim Rohingya to be granted equal rights in Burma. This urgent appeal was addressed to the OIC by the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) on Monday. "A joint initiative of all Muslim states would be a clear signal to Burma's government to stop discriminating the Muslim minority and to stop expelling them from the country," says the letter by the human rights organization. During the two-day summit in Mecca – which starts on Tuesday – the OIC will discuss possible initiatives for the Rohingya in Burma.
The situation for Muslims in Burma is dramatic. During the last few weeks, many people were forced to flee from their villages and towns in the state of Arakan (officially Rakhine) after being attacked by their Buddhist neighbors and the security forces. Currently, there are only around 6000 Rohingya staying in the city of Sittwe, while there would normally be about 70,000 members of the minority group. Tens of thousands are living in makeshift refugee camps. There is a lack of food and medical care.
"Of course it will help the Rohingya if Saudi Arabia provides 50 million US dollars in emergency aids," said the STP's Asia-consultant, Ulrich Delius, "but humanitarian aid is no solution for the fundamental problems of the discriminated and persecuted minority. First of all, they are in need of rights – not charity." The Society for Threatened Peoples calls for the abolition of Burma's controversial Citizenship Act of 1982, because it also serves as a legal basis for the deprivation of citizenship for the Rohingya, who have been living in Burma for centuries.
"Now the Muslim states have the opportunity to take a stand against a whole population group being discriminated arbitrarily – just because of their religious belief," said Delius. The European Union's credibility regarding human rights issues could increase if an initiative by the OIC was supported.
The Muslim world is moved by the dramatic situation of the Rohingya. Recently, Muslims in Germany and Great Britain, in Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and also in Iran protested against the persecution of the Muslim minority. The governments of Indonesia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Iran demanded an end to the human rights violations. Austria and France also expressed concerns about the situation of the Rohingya. Burma is now willing to allow humanitarian aid for the Rohingya people by the OIC – and has invited the organization to check on the situation in Arakan state. But the Burmese government still refuses to grant the Rohingya people full citizenship.
Ulrich Delius can be reached under: +49 (0)551 - 499 06 27.
Translated by Robert Kurth