About two years ago images of gruesome killings were circulated on the internet. They were happening to Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist monks. The images were so horrifying that many spread the rumor that they were “photo-shopped” and not real, a rumor which I desperately wanted to believe.
I remember that the world media was silent, so silent that these images of babies being burned and human bodies piled up seemed surreal and something our hearts begged to be untrue.
But then slowly and surely the news that no one was giving us started becoming a reality and what we all thought was a faraway nightmare emerged to be a shocking truth.
The Buddhists were massacring the Muslims of Myanmar and the whole world was silent. Their villages were burned down turning all they ever owned into ashes. That massacre lead to an exodus, one that reminds me of the Palestinian one in 1948.
The Rohingya story is one so pitiful in its nature that it forces us to wonder what has happened to human compassion. The Muslims of Myanmar have been trapped in camps that could be called death sentences – living conditions so pitiful promising the slow but sure death of a persecuted and discriminated people.
No food, water, medicines or basic human necessities. Camps are sealed off by brutal Myanmar soldiers and by the endless sea on the other side trapping the Rohingya in a deplorable prison. Many have now chosen to escape Myanmar paying boats large sums of money to take them across the waters to Thailand and then make their way through to Malaysia.
But what has happened is that most of these people putting their life on the line to escape the horror of life in Myanmar have ended up in a situation as horrific as that they faced before, if not worse.
Many boat owners or smugglers have deserted the boats and left hundreds of people afloat in the middle of the sea, and some boats have reached the shores of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and been told to go back to where they came from.
People have been starving on board these boats and facing very dire conditions. The appalling accounts coming from there have spoken of fights between hungry people leading to deaths on board over scarcity of food and clean water, women forced to sell their bodies for food, people drinking their urine to survive and many going mad and throwing themselves into the sea.
The human traffickers like vultures are preying on the vulnerability of these people. They have turned their desperation into a business with promising profits. Many have made empty promises to the desperate Rohingya to take them safely to Malaysia, but along the way have abandoned them or sold them off to other human traffickers in Thailand who have been part of persecution and murder of these people all for the sake of large sums of ransom money demanded from friends or family of these people in Malaysia. The government of Myanmar have strategically created this human trafficking business to assist in the exodus of the Rohingya. There has been no criticism of the brutality of this regime and so it continues its apartheid and ethnic cleansing without fear and eerily with much confidence.
This human crisis has been ignored for far too long. The UN and international community especially the Muslim world are to be held accountable for being silent spectators to such a tragedy.
How could we ever live with our consciences if history is to record boats of hungry starving people left to die?
How could we ever have hope in humanity again if the helpless cries of the Rohingya fall on deaf ears?
The Myanmar government was boycotted in the past during the military rule. That boycott had a great effect and pressurized the military to step down and make way for a democratic government.
If the world boycotts Myanmar again, the pressure could force them to end the apartheid. The BDS campaign against Israel is affecting the government there as we can see recently the call for “criminalizing the boycott against Israel” has come from the government there.
History’s strongest tool against apartheid has been boycott and sanctions. We should all call for boycotting Myanmar or Burma. This would also pressurize those quiet governments who have secretly been on Myanmar’s side for the sake of their economic interests there.
Boycotting the apartheid regime in South Africa was a success for those against racism. It is a promising tactic we should be using against Myanmar’s brutal regime.