Mr. Nurul Islam is the president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO). He achieved B.A (Law) and LL.B from Rangoon University respectively in 1972 and 1973. He completed Diplomacy Training Program Course from University of New South Wales, Australia. He achieved LL.M in Human Rights from the University of East London in 2007.
Mr. Nurul Islam explains the evolution of animosity against Rohingyas in Arakan in three perspectives.
1) Historical Perspectives
2) Geo-Political Perspectives
3) Religious Perspectives
MD Noor: Knowingly or unknowingly, Rakhines are being Burmanized. Arakan is being turned into Burmanized Buddhist region. Meanwhile, they enjoy committing ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas. What do you think?
Mr. Nurul Islam: Rakhines externally tend to oppose Burmans and behave as if they are different from Burmans. But the most similar people to Rakhines in Burma are Burmans because Rakhines are heavily mixed with Burmese. Some evidences are the language that Rakhines speak, which is an archaic Burman language and their ways of living and life-styles etc.
Rakhines are slowly being Burmanized. Once upon a time, in Rakhine society, a Rakhine woman’s marriage to a Burman was considered socially wrong. Now, it is a norm. Besides, Rakhines didn’t allow even others to speak Burmese in Arakan. Now, they themselves are speaking it. The ethnic identity that Rakhines claim is being demolished by Burmans, whereas Rakhines are demolishing Rohingyas’ ethnic identity.
MD Noor: Despite all the crimes against humanity and genocide of Rohingyas, why have those criminals who have been committing not been put on trial in the international court of justice yet?
Mr. Nurul Islam: According International Criminal Laws, Crimes against Humanity are:
1) Rapes against Women
3) Destruction and all other inhumane acts.
Crimes against Humanity are international crimes, not domestic ones. Thus, a country can’t say it is my internal affairs and don’t interfere in it. They are international crimes and so, international jurisdiction must be carried out.
The 1942 Massacre of Rohingyas was Genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity. Crime against Humanity is an International Crime.
Genocide, actually, is a crime against humanity carried out either by a government or by those people in power, directly or indirectly, secretly or openly, with an INTENTION to destroy a community or a people. During a period of 70 years from 1942 to 2012, they carried out countless operations against us, drove us out to other countries or to the sea, made massive Rohingya exodus two times and subsequently made them refugees.
Rohingyas are not allowed to stay at their homes, can’t hide in the forests and when they want to escape, they are not allowed to do so either. Therefore, it is not difficult for one to see their intention to destroy Rohingyas. Rohingyas are physically being destroyed. Moreover, there are some black laws, which is against international laws, established to oppress Rohingyas. In any constitution in any country in the world, there is a chapter called Fundamental Human Rights. Such Fundamental Human Rights are
1) Rights to live as a human being
2) Rights to travel
3) Rights to protect one’s religion, culture and traditions etc
4) Rights to give the children due and appropriate education
5) Rights to freedom of expression
6) Rights to punishments (in case of crimes) only according to the law etc.
MD Noor: If an International Community come and ask you what you need to solve Rohingyas’ crises. What do you think you will say?
Mr. Nurul Islam: See, we are a historical people of Arakan. We have ruled Arakan together with Rakhines. We developed Arakan and protected it from foreign invasions. Therefore, we are those people who have civilized Arakan. Besides, we seeded administrative system in Arakan and we served as its military. We gave it a literature and so on. We are such a historical people from whom Arakan has benefited enormously.
– You are persecuting us.
– You hate us.
– You want to have Arakan exclusively for your own.
– You are not for Unity in Diversity.
Coming to the point, to exist as a people, we need all the rights you and other human beings have. We need indiscriminately all the rights right from political to economic to social. The most important point here is we are a community or people who have
1) A Long History
2) Culture and Traditions
3) A Distinct Language
4) A Land and Territory
Therefore, as an ethnic people, we need our collective rights and identity, not inferiority rights like citizenship rights which can be revoked later. Besides, Law says mere Citizenship Rights are shapeless, while collective rights are concrete for a community. International Laws give the ethnic people the rights to SELF-DETERMINATION.
We need self-determination. It is all about internal self-determination, not external one. We just need to have rights that other people have in Burma and to live the way they live. We want to have a “Unity in Diversity.”
MD Noor: Does International Laws give Rohingyas Rights to Self-Defense especially at this time when they are persecuted to the most extreme level and subjected to Genocide?
Mr. Nurul Islam: A straight answer for a straight question “Rohingyas do have the rights to Self-Defense according International Laws. According to United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in the preamble), when there is no recourse left, even the armed-struggle would be justified. The purpose of establishing United Nations is to maintain International Peace and Security.
Laws keep changing according to time and circumstances. And Laws have come into the compiled forms through incidents in history, traditions and norms etc. For example, when someone’s house is burning, he or she doesn’t need to take your permission to take refuge in your house in order to survive. There were no traditions in history that Human rejected their obligations to rescue others. That’s how Laws came into existence.
Coming back to the point, we have no security to our lives, properties and honour in Burma. Why so? Because the government of the country itself becomes the tyrants. In such a situation, International Laws say “These people should be protected.” When there is no domestic protection for a people, it is the responsibility of the international community to protect the people.
However, we regret seeing that those powerful nations that should protect us and to whom we are crying much help for have not given any response to our outcries. Hereby, I would like to appeal to the international community especially US and EU to protect us from being extinguished. Being parts of UN, they should fulfill their responsibilities to protect us.
You ask me “Are not you strong enough?” What will you do with your strength if you are not helped or your some of problems are not solved by others? Who is that friend we have is helping us? In fact, we are friendless in Burma and we, people in exile, can’t speak up as much as we should.
The government says “you are Kulars. You are not mine.” There is the shadow government, the opposition. Aung San Suu Kyi, who claims to be a champion of human rights and is collecting awards for Peace going all over the world, says “I don’t know you.” Shockingly, the monks, who are to spread loving-kindness and compassion according to Buddhism, come out to street to boycott and kill us.
Furthermore, the so-called student leaders and all other politicians are collectively rejecting Rohingyas outright. Burmese President, himself, is asking to resettle the whole Rohingya community to third countries. Now answer me “do we have any friends?”
Therefore, we see their collective INTENTIONS in their movements of driving us out. We see intention in their APARTHEID policy. And apartheid is an international crime.
They forced us to evacuate our homes to the places nearby the sea, where there are no foods, no shelter, no medicine, no education for children and hardly anything. In the violence, more than 140,000 people were displaced. Of them, only 2-3 percents were Rakhines. They are staying in well-made shelters and houses for them are also being built.
What is this if not apartheid? And international community should prevent this apartheid.
MD Noor: Well. I understand that as the situation stands today, both International Laws and Islamic Laws unanimously give permission to Rohingyas for self-defense. In that case, why are Rohingyas still jumping into the sea and fleeing to other countries? Are Rohingyas being massacred because they don’t have a defense mechanism?
Mr. Nurul Islam: Yes. Perhaps so!
We are a peace-loving people. We are on the verge of extinction. Therefore, I would like to ask International Community including Super Powers and UN not to stay quiet and to make timely intervention to prevent the humanitarian disasters in Arakan. There is still time.
The latest development in the international laws is a chapter called “Humanitarian Intervention.” In the cases of Kuwait, Kosovo etc, they were all Humanitarian Interventions. The disasters in Arakan are escalating day by day and why are you still quiet?
We ask for Inquiry Commission from UN, not that from Thein Sein. He formed a commission team and sacked the two Muslim members at first. He appointed the people who had conspired to commit genocide against Rohingyas in the commission.
One of the most credible organizations like HRW said that they had found mass graves of Rohingyas in Arakan. Why are you still quiet? We, again, appeal to the international community to set up UN inquiry commission and make Humanitarian Intervention.
MD Noor: OK. We know that International Community is keeping quiet and doing not enough to prevent the apartheid. It is high time for UN to make Intervention. And they are not doing it. The displaced people are facing all sorts of humanitarian crises and not being returned to their homes. They are not protected by the government. In my point of view, there were/are many regions in the world such as Yugoslavia, South Sudan, Palestine and East Timor etc that faced/face similar crises. However, when they were/are up for self-defense and their struggle for survival, International community took/ take steps to help them. What do you think? What is the solution?
Mr. Nurul Islam: Your opinion is something. Solution is something else. To find the solutions, one needs to go through laws and regulations. The violence in Arakan is not an ethnic clash or sectarian violence even though the government tries to portray so. It is one-sided ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas sponsored by Burmese armed forces. Besides, we see clear intention of Genocide in their killings.
Dr. Aye Maung, the chairman of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, held a meeting in Rathedaung and planned to expel all Rohingyas from Arakan. The first step of his plan is to put all Rohingyas in the concentration camps somewhere in Maung Daw and to send them slowly to those countries that are willing to take in. We, again, see here the intention of ethnic cleansing.
Their second step of Genocide against Rohingyas is by depopulating Rohingyas though birth-control. Depopulation of a people via birth control as well as limiting their growth is also called Genocide. They have created a situation for Rohingyas where they (Rohingyas) are unable to live in.
You asked “why are people fleeing?” What will they do unless they flee? The situation is too hostile for him to live in. No food to eat and no place to take shelter. Even animals will leave a place where they can’t find tranquility and their food. Therefore, this is 100% Genocide. International Community must help.
In this situation, if we seek for help from them even for our self-defense, they should help us also in that. It is legal as well. And our sole intention is to maintain peace and security. Self-defense is allowed in the international laws.
Besides, in one point, you asked me about going through diplomacy. I don’t accept it. What does the diplomacy mean nowadays? Diplomacy is sometimes right and sometimes not. Diplomacy is not the proper way.
Diplomacy is “what you say is not what you mean and what I say is not what I mean. What I mean is not what I say. It is arbitrary. It is about lying. What we all are concerned is about a “Real Movement.” We must work on what can really improve Rohingyas’ welfare and betterment of their generations.