It was August 2017 when Myanmar army started a deadly crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee and head to the borders of Bangladesh.
They risked everything to escape the persecution which the United Nations later described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Three years on, about 900,000 Rohingya Muslims are still in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, with thousands of others who had fled earlier episodes of violence and abuse.
📚 Read Also: Eye on Rohingya Muslims’ Plight
Recalling decades of horror and atrocities, we shed light below on the history and phases of the painful struggle Rohingya Muslims have gone through:
Refugee Crisis of 1978
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, launches Operation Dragon King (Naga Min) in Rakhine state. The Rohingya ethnic minority are considered “illegal” after being stripped of their citizenship, thus beginning a cycle of forced displacement.
1982 Citizenship Law
In 1982, the citizenship law enacted by the Burmese military junta did not list the Rohingya as one of the 135 “national races” of Burma. This made much of the Rohingya population in Burma stateless in their historical homeland of Arakan.
Name Change from Arakan to Rakhine State
In 1989, the junta officially changed the name of Burma to Myanmar. In the 1990s, the name of the province of Arakan was changed to Rakhine State, showing a bias towards the Rakhine community, even though the Rohingya formed a substantial part of the population. The name of the region was historically known as Arakan for centuries.
1989: Rohingyas Flee to Bangladesh
Myanmar’s ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council increases its military presence in northern Rakhine state. The Rohingya are reportedly subject to compulsory labor, forced relocation, rape, summary executions, and torture. Some 250,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh.
1992: Exodus of Refugees
Rohingya refugees arrive in Bangladesh, bringing only what they can carry. The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar sign an agreement to repatriate refugees, and the camps are closed to new arrivals in the spring.
Burmese Juntas (1990–2011)
The military junta that ruled Myanmar for half a century relied heavily on mixing Burmese nationalism and Theravada Buddhism to bolster its rule, discriminating against minorities like the Rohingyas.
2012 Rakhine State Riots
The 2012 Rakhine State riots were a series of conflicts between Rohingya Muslims who form the majority in the northern Rakhine and ethnic Rakhines who form the majority in the south. There is evidence that the pogroms in 2012 were incited by the government
2015 Refugee Crisis
In 2015, the Simon-Skjodt Centre of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stated in a press statement that the Rohingyas are “at grave risk of additional mass atrocities and even genocide.” To escape this, thousands of Rohingyas migrated from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and they were collectively dubbed as ‘boat people’ by international media.
Autumn 2017 Crisis
In early August 2017, the Myanmar security forces began “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state. The operations escalated radically—killing thousands of Rohingya, brutalizing thousands more, and driving hundreds of thousands out of the country into neighboring Bangladesh while their villages burned.
2019: Demolishing Rohingya Villages
Entire Muslim Rohingya villages in Myanmar have been demolished and replaced by police barracks, government buildings and refugee relocation camps.
2020: Million Rohingya Stuck in Bangladesh
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January 2020 imposed provisional measures on Myanmar to prevent genocide while it adjudicates alleged violations of the Genocide Convention. According to Human Rights Watch, Myanmar has failed to address the root causes of widespread abuses against the Rohingya and has refused to create the necessary conditions for their safe, dignified, and voluntary return.
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