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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsIn Other News

Heightened tensions lead to mass exodus

For the last 40 years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled their homes in Myanmar due to continuous persecution and discrimination from the government, and in the past year, violence against the Muslim minority  has been increasing.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority  in the Buddhist country, and an estimated one million Rohingya live in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where they make up a third of the population.

The everyday life of the Rohingya community includes having to ask permission to marry and restricted access to education and employment. Villages are consistently burned down, and any outburst against the government is met with a disproportionately aggressive response. The Rakhine State is the country’s poorest state with a poverty rate of 78 percent and little help from the government to develop.

Myanmar’s government has set restrictions on humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations that make it nearly impossible to help the Rohingya. The government was even considering requiring those who have been displaced to cross international borders to receive aid, and the little support that is in the country has been run dry.

In 2016 and 2017, a new wave of violence has displaced an alarming number of Rohingya communities and has brewed the beginnings of a civil war between Myanmar’s government and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Both ARSA and the government are guilty of violent attacks on each other — from planting landmines in popular migration routes to attacking police posts and army bases — furthering racist narratives and aggressive tensions between the Rohingya and the rest of the country.

Violence won’t solve any issues, but the Rohingya have been left widely alone, not ignored by the international community, but imprisoned by their government and desperate for a way out. Trying to set the blame on one particular party only perpetuates the conflict, and leaves those who have been forever marginalized alone, not only in resources, but moral support, as well.

Blind hatred towards Muslim minorities all over the world is not new, but more and more, tensions are being exploited by racist pasts and tendencies resulting in violent outbursts and heightened discrimination. Myanmar’s treatment towards the Rohingya community has been a constant beating with little ability from the Rohingya to punch back — every effort is thwarted by more restrictive policies and more violent outbursts.

Punching a marginalized community when they’re down to keep them down is simply cowardly and a manifestation of fear, fear of difference.

Isabella Grullón Paz can be reached at igrullon@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @isagp23