RAKHINE – Dozens of Rohingya Muslim women have been aggressively raped at the hands of Burmese security officials, as the religious minority faces “textbook ethnic cleansing” in the Buddhist-majority country, UN medics reported.
Niranta Kumar, the health coordinator for a clinic run by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), said there appeared to have been fewer rapes in August but the injuries showed the attacks were “more aggressive” against women, including evidence of beatings, forced penetration and lacerations to the vagina, The Independent reported on Monday, September 25.
The cases were reported by eight medical professionals working in Bangladesh who reported treating 25 women, who had physical injuries that were consistent with violent attacks, since late August
IOM medical officer Tasnuba Nourin said about one 20-year-old woman who was raped: “We found skin marks, it showed a very forceful attack, an inhuman attack.”
It is rare for UN doctors and aid agencies to accuse a state’s armed forces of alleged rape, given the sensitivity of the matter.
Around 429,000 Rohingya have fled Burma, where many of their families lived for generations. Most refugees are living in overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, living off small aid packages from sympathetic locals and aid agencies.
Since the most recent escalation, more than 1,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
The Burmese government has denied any claims of aggression, saying they will investigate the reported cases.
“Those rape victim women should come to us,” Zaw Htay, spokesman for Burma’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said.
“We will give full security to them. We will investigate and we will take action.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not commented on the violence against women, spoke of rape being used as a weapon amid ethnic conflicts before she came to power last year.
In 2011, she told a conference on sexual violence in conflict: “It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country, this is how I see it.”
However, the reports were confirmed by Kate White, an emergency medical coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
White said the reported rapes from the refugee camps are only likely to be “a fraction of the cases” south of the border.
A situation report from aid agencies found that more than 350 people had been referred for “life-saving care” relating to gender-based violence, which includes rape, attempted rape, and molestation, as well as emotional abuse and denial of resources based on gender, since 25 August.