One year back, around 9,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed by Myanmar’s security forces in a bloody crackdown in the western Rakhine state.
The violence led hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee the Buddhist-majority country to neighboring Bangladesh to save their lives.
“The world thinks that it’s not as big as it is, but what’s happening is a genocide,” Maysa Hammoud, an organizer of a rally marking the first anniversary of the Rakhine violence in Chicago told the Chicago Suntimes daily.
“We have experts that have clearly labeled it as a genocide and we want the world to know this,” Hammoud added.
“Now it’s turning into something more serious, more violent. Now there’s burning of homes, raping of the women, killing of the men and slowly these people, to escape this, have left their homeland — their ancestral homeland — and have escaped to … neighboring countries. We want to have the public hear the voices of the Rohingya.”
Hundreds of people took part in the Chicago rally amid calls for halting the ongoing violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.
“Stop killing and raping Rohingya women” and “Send humanitarian assistance to Arakan State,” the former name of Rakhine, were among the banners waved by the protesters.
“This cannot be overlooked. This is not just something that’s happening in a corner of the world we need to stand up and say, ‘People are being killed,’ ” U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky said.
Schakowsky, who visited refugee camps in Bangladesh last year, said she had heard the story of a Rohingya woman who witnessed the gruesome murder of her husband, brother-in-law and son.
“The soul is just shaken by hearing these stories . . . As much as Bangladesh can do, we need to do more to help them,” she said.
The UN classified the Rohingya as the world’s most persecuted minority.
The word “Rohingya” means “from Arakan” and refers to the historical origins of ethnic Rohingya who fled Arakan for Burma, modern-day Myanmar, when the British began to colonize Southeast Asia.
Following the collapse of the Arakan Kingdom, this ethnic group fled enslavement in their homeland for other countries in the region and has faced persecution for centuries.
Despite international pressures, Myanmar’s government refused to grant Rohingya Muslims the citizenship , issuing temporary identity cards known as “white cards” to these internally displaced persons (IDPs).