An Appeal to United States to take “Responsibility to Protect”(R2P) Rohingya for a Permanent Solution 

Posted on: December 31, 2022 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Introductory context
I have been receiving multiple emails per day for the last several months from Mohammed Husson Ali, a 71 year old Rohingya man now living in the United States. Daily, Mohammad scours Internet for any news relevant to his people and, in a soulful act of witnessing, he forwards these news items to those who he knows will be interested.

He added me to his mailing list -now 170 people long- after reading an article I had written about the plight of the Rohingya.

Born in Myo Thu Gyi village, Maungdaw Town, Arakan, Burma, he earned several degrees and worked in various capacities including with the UNHCR and the World Food Programme. Fleeing violence in Burma, his family is part of the Rohingya diaspora. He has 3 sons, 2 daughters, 3 grandsons and 2 granddaughters now living in Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. His single son who fled to Malaysia to escape persecution from the Myanmar Junta recently arrived in the United State under the refugee resettlement programme. Mohammad’s story is a living example of ‘three generations stateless.’

Mohammad contacted me a couple weeks ago requesting that I help him publish an ‘open letter to the US government.’ Below are his words with liberal edits and additions from me (all approved by Mohammad).

We are both aware that publishing his words on my small platform will not produce any immediate change. But we are both determined not be silent. If you do read this post please pass it on to others so that more people can learn about the Rohingya and their struggle for freedom and dignity. Finally, I suggest clicking on the many hyperlinks I have added to learn more detailed information.

An Appeal to United States to take “Responsibility to Protect”(R2P) Rohingya for a Permanent Solution 

Mohammed Husson Ali, Rohingya
Edits and additions made by Tom Arcaro

31 December, 2022

Rohingya refugees walk through rice fields after crossing the border from Myanmar into Palang Khali, Bangladesh, October 19, 2017. © 2017 Jorge Silva/Reuters

I am a Rohingya grandfather, now living in the United States since 2012. I have children and grandchildren who are part of the Rohingya diaspora, some living in the Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh I keep a very close watch of all news related to the Rohingya and my frustrations concerning our continued persecution are growing. Recent stories of dangerous and fatal sea crossings by Rohingya seeking a better life tear at my heart. I, like the vast majority of Rohingya, seek to be repatriated to our homes in Burma but only after proof that full rights and citizenship will be granted. Distressingly, this dream of safe return grows more dim each passing year. 

Here are just a few headlines from the last few weeks:

The Rohingyas are indigenous people of Northern Arakan (Rakhine) State, Burma, an ethnic minority group. According to the United Nations and most humanitarian rights advocacy organizations, the Rohingya are the most persecuted people in the world. Rohingyas have been facing extreme discrimination and genocide since the 1962 military coup. In 1982 the Burma Citizenship Act erased the Rohingya as citizens of Burma (Myanmar). Those in power use the derogatory words “Kalla” or Bangali, referring to the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite the fact Rohingya have been in Burma for many hundreds of years, far pre-dating British colonization.

Then, in 2017 the Myanmar military and the NLD (National League for Democracy) government accelerated the persecution and initiated a genocidal clearance operation against the Muslim majority Rohingya. This included arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, orders to “shoot on sight,” burning villages, the rape and execution of women, and other horrific abuses. The fact of this genocide has been officially recognized by the US Department of State, the UN, and the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Burmese military attack on the Rohingya had explicit and violent religious overtones and included the widespread attack on mosques and madrasa, and purposeful desecration of the Holy Book Koran. The Buddhist majority Tatmadaw stated  “If they’re Bengali, they’ll be killed”.

In August of 2017 more than 750,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh and for the last five years have lived as  refugees in the Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar. As of 2022, there are now a total of 1.5 million Rohingya residing in Bangladesh, most arriving in 2017 but many who fled Burma in the last 30 years. There are also more than 800,000  Rohingya languishing in open air prisons as internally displaced (IDPs) within the borders of Myanmar. Additionally, the Rohingya diaspora include many tens of thousands of Rohingya scattered across the south Asia nations with no rights, even for employment, making them vulnerable to exploitation, arrest, and human trafficking. 

Here are some additional facts.

  • The United States  has provided critical humanitarian emergency funding for the Rohingya refugees including $1.9 billion since it began in August 2017. The United States is the biggest international doner among others 
  • On 21 March 2022 on behalf of United States US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken declared that the Burmese military had committed and continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya. 
  • In late December, 2022  President Joe Biden signed the The Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2022 – or BURMA Act – which was passed by the Senate as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

As a Rohingya man I believe I speak for the vast majority of all Rohingya in offering very many thanks to the United States for its continued generosity and ongoing policy decisions supporting humanity and dignity for the Rohingya people.

For the above reasons, I respectfully appeal to the Biden administration to move forward with urgency on the following:

  • To involve even more aggressive use all diplomatic and economic tools to once and for all end the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
  • To work for the rights, liberty and justice of Rohingyas including an internationally monitored repatriation to Myanmar with full citizenship and an assurance of absolute safety. We seek the creation of a ‘Safe Zone’ for the Rohingyas within Arakan State in the Rohingyas ancestral homeland under supervision of  United States.
    Using the UN language, to take “Responsibility to Protect” Rohingyas, safe lives and liberty.
  • To provide technical support and training to Rohingya and facilities for basic human rights including access to education, health care, food security and other livelihoods both now in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and after repatriation in Myanmar.

More than five years have passed since the 2017 genocide and justice has yet to be done by the international community. Though the United States has frequently led the fight for justice, more needs to be done before more desperate acts are committed by Rohingya seeking to be free from living in an open air prison that is the world’s largest refugee camp. 

How the world responds to the most egregious crime of all -genocide- is a measure of our collective humanity. I cannot rest until I have done everything possible to seek justice for my fellow Rohingya, and I humbly request that the US government travel this same path toward a more just world for all humans.

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022. A revised second edition of 'Confronting Toxic Othering' is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishers

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