Denied citizenship at home, Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority is trying to tell the world that they are Burmese. Fleeing state-sponsored violence, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have taken refuge in Bangladesh, but the Burmese authorities have so far refused to take them back.
The Rohingya refugees have also been denied their citizenship and left out of the population count that just concluded. This denial is also a stumbling block in the relations between neighbours Bangladesh and Myanmar.
As Rohingya people cannot raise their demands at home, their compatriots living in the countries of Europe are doing that for them. Registered in the Netherlands, the European Rohingya Council has its members in at least 12 EU nations.
Mohamed Ibrahim is the general secretary of this Council that works as a “lobby and advocacy” group. “I am Rohingya. I am a Burmese,” he introduced himself to bdnews24.com on the sidelines of the just-concluded DW Global Media Forum in Bonn. He said they were raising their voice in Europe, as “we can’t speak in our own country”.
He said they had volunteers in both Bangladesh and Myanmar, who fed them with information. They also run a news portal. “We lobby here,” he said. They go to the EU headquarters in Brussels and the UN office in Geneva to make themselves heard. “Why is Bangladesh silent? You should also raise your voice,” he said. “We want our citizenship back in Myanmar. We want our basic human rights.”
“If someone wants to go to Bangladesh, they can easily go. Even they are pushed by the Burmese authorities, but they’ll not take (Rohingyas) back once they are out. They always try to push Rohingyas to Bangladesh or to other countries,” he said.
He pointed to Myanmar authorities initially tagging a condition to the release of abducted Bangladeshi border guard Abdur Razzak – that Bangladesh must also take in the 555 ‘human trafficking victims’ found on boat without checking their nationality.
Ibrahim was joined at the global forum by one of his volunteers in the UK, Shajida Begum, who was born in a Teknaf camp and left Bangladesh at the age of 13. She said she could leave Bangladesh along with her parents as they used to work for the UN projects in the camp. A training director of Myanmar’s Journalism Institute, Sein Win, who also participated at the global forum, strongly supported the cause of the Rohingya people. “They are our citizens,” he told bdnews24.com.
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