Rohingyas Refugees Speak at Women in the World India Summit 2015

By November 23, 2015 00:49

Rohingyas Refugees Speak at Women in the World India Summit 2015

By Ali Johar

New Dehli, India (Rohingya Vision) – A Rohingya Refugee Representative spoke about Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and their Hope in Suu Kyi’ at the Women in the World Summit held in New Dehli, the capital city of India, on November 20, 2015.

The event was organized and attended by world-class human rights activists, representatives of the authorities from many countries, UN Officials, corporate-business people, media personnel and celebrities etc. Tina Brown, Founder of CEO, Tina Brown Live Media/ Women in the World; Nita M. Ambani, Founder and Chairperson, Reliane Foundation;  Barkha Dutt, Director of Barkha Dutt Live Media and Consulting Editor of NDTV;  Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group; Prabha Narasimhan, Personal Care VP for South Asia, Unilever; and many VVIPs and VIPs were among the attendees and participants.

The event was commenced at ‘Taj Mahal Hotel’ at 10:00AM with an introductory speech by Anand Mahindra on Tina Brown and Women in the World Summit. It was followed by the well-versed and insightful speeches by many distinguished guests and attendees.

During the afternoon session, after the speech delivered by Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit, a panel was formed to discuss on the current issues of Burma. The discussion panel was titled ‘Burma’s Shame’ and composed of ‘Ms. Lilianne Fan,’ International Director and Co-Founder, Geutanyoe Foundation; ‘Mr. Nezammudin and Ms. Ohnmar’ as Rohingya Refugee Representatives in India; and ‘ Mr. Saiful Huq Omi,’ a Founder  and Managing Director, Counter Foto: A Center for Communication. It was moderated by Suhasini Haider, Deputy Resident Editor and Diplomatic Editor of The Hindu.

During the discussion, Nizamuddin said his only hope is the newly­-elected leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, that she would offer support and advocate for them in return for their trusts and supports.

“Since 2012, there has been no word from her. She should say something about the (Rohingya) crisis. At that time, she said she had no power. Now she does,” said Nizamuddin.

“It is critical to realize that they (Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar) are deprived of citizenship,” said Ms. Lillian Fan of the Overseas Development Institute. That means they have no rights and to live precariously on the edge of violence and even when they escape persecution. Their lives continue to be perilous,” added Fan.

woman in the world india summit

Panel on Burma’s Shame, from Left to Right: Lilianne Fan, Suhasini Haider, Nizamuddin and Saiful Hoque Omi (Photo: Ali Johar)

The Rohingyas often risk their lives through dangerous passages operated by human traffickers, a condition Fan described as ‘floating concentration camps.’ “Access to food and water is limited and many die. If no country is willing to give them asylum, they cannot disembark,” Ms. Fan continued.

The Bangladeshi Photographer Saiful Huq Omi tells poignant stories of Rohingya refugees. In Kuala Lumpur, he has come across a young Rohingya couple who had escaped Rakhine. They presented a picture of domestic joy, lending themselves to a series of delightful portraits until he heard their story, which was as cruel and ugly as the portraits were beautiful.

The man had made it out of Myanmar to Malaysia after the violence began, but managed to stay in touch with the woman he loved. An escape attempt, they both knew, would expose her to the likelihood of brutal rape by human traffickers. They decided despite it all that seeking refuge was worth the risk, so desperately did they want to be together. She was indeed raped by the traffickers, both Thai and Bangladeshi.

“They put the girls in cages and raped them for weeks,” says Saiful.

Even more heart­-wrenching was the story of 139 Rohingya men and boys who tried to reach Bangladesh in broken boats. Saiful was at Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh when the order came to push them back, knowing they would either drown or die at the hands of their persecutors. “We pushed them back into the sea…of the 139, 132 died,” recalls Saiful.

Fan isn’t overly optimistic about Aung San Suu Kyi, who has yet to make a clear statement on the Rohingya crisis. The mentality that the Rohingyas are battling was underscored by a video clip of an interview with a Buddhist monk, played after Saiful had told his story.

The monk declares (heard in a voiceover) that the Muslims are” defecating” over Burma: they want to take over the country and will not be satisfied until “they have converted the entire world to Islam”, he said.

Fan recalls simple fishermen from Indonesia going out to sea to help the Rohingyas stranded in boats earlier this year. No one asked them to; they just did. That basic humanity, as journalist Suhasini Haider pointed out, offers the Rohingyas a tiny sliver of hope.

In addition: It was a great platform to share on Rohingya crisis where activists like Arthaur O. Sulzberger, JR., Chairman of The New York Times Company and Publisher of The New York Times; ‘Dr. Menaka Guruswamy,’ Advocate, Supreme Court of India; and ‘Cate Blanchett,’ an Actress also seen on the panel with different topics.

Also participated in the event was Ali Johar, writer of this report and Rohingya Refugee Youth in India.

The “Women in the World Summit” is a global summit that addresses structures and realities that affect women’s lives.

Read more about the Summit: WOMEN IN THE WORLD SUMMIT

[Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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By November 23, 2015 00:49

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