Rohingya campaign condemns violence

Press Release. 2nd April 2017

What the Rohingya have suffered, and continue to suffer on a daily basis, is reprehensible and criminal. Both the United Nations and independent human rights investigators have documented severe and systematic atrocities that amount to an organized campaign of genocide by the government. The oppression and abuses the Rohingya face have made them the most persecuted minority in the world. Their daily life is a miasma of horror, humiliation, and brutality.

While there is no question that international law, and indeed, common sense, uphold the right of self-defense, and the unspeakable crimes suffered by the Rohingya may drive some segments of the community to seek to protect themselves through armed resistance; nevertheless we firmly believe that this path can never lead to a solution in Myanmar. On the contrary, taking up weapons will only exacerbate the crisis and provide the military with a pretext to intensify the repression and escalate ethnic cleansing operations.

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow campaign condemns the recent statements by the self-appointed leader of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army as reckless and self-destructive, and call upon that group to renounce violence and to instead work in coordination with the peaceful strategies being undertaken by international activist organistations to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya and to restore their citizenship rights. We ask the Rohingya community both inside Myanmar and in the diaspora, to similarly reject the call to arms, and to persevere on the path of nonviolent struggle.

International sympathy and support for the Rohingya has been steadily increasing in recent years, and strategies are currently being activated, as well as humanitarian efforts, to address the short, medium, and long term needs of the community. Any shift towards violent insurgency will irreparably sabotage these initiatives and plunge Arakan into conditions far worse than what has proceeded. The capability of outside organizations to intervene will be severely hindered, and international sympathy will evaporate.

We respect the right of the oppressed to determine for themselves how best to confront their oppressors, but we cannot sanction strategies and tactics that can only have the predictable result of facilitating the genocide and immeasurably worsening the conditions on the ground. We call upon all representatives of the Rohingya community to agree to unequivocally reject the destructive path of violence and to commit with us to the effort for a peaceful resolution.

Video response by Shahid Bolsen, Chief Strategist for the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow campaign.

Update, 4th April – Rohingya campaign commitment to peaceful action

On 2nd April 2017, the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow campaign put out a statement condemning violence, in response to Ata Ullah allegedly stating that if 1.5 million Rohingya needed to die, if they didn’t get their rights, then all would die.

Since then, it has come to light that this he may not have said that at all but this may have been a false translation. If this is the case, I hope that the Ata Ullah will contact Reuters to insist they issue a statement to correct any misunderstanding.

As a result of our own statement, our Rohingya co-ordinator Nay San Lwin has left the campaign, his reasons explained here: I apologise for putting him in a difficult situation regarding our press release, which I should have consulted with him beforehand. Nay San works tirelessly for the Rohingya cause and is also a good friend, I hope perhaps he may reconsider, but I do understand and respect his reasoning.

Our campaign remains committed to peaceful activism and condemns violence. I am not Rohingya, I am living comfortably abroad, and have no right to tell the Rohingya people how they should take their struggle forward as they fight the constant threat of genocide. However, I feel I owe it to my Rohingya friends to be clear of my serious concerns regarding what would likely happen next, should an approach of supporting such an insurgency become the consensus.

I fully support the right to self-defence, but believe an insurgency approach in the case of the Rohingya is not self-defence but putting the lives of many in extreme danger. Already we have seen perhaps 1,000 people killed, hundreds raped, hundreds arbitrarily arrested, many tortured, thousands of homes burnt, and tens of thousands of people displaced, as a result of an attack on a border guard post. The military have an 11 point plan to get rid of the Rohingya, written in 1988, but as far as we are aware still in existence today, where point 1 is to label the Rohingya as insurgents in order to justify their elimination. It therefore seems like mass suicide to go down that path.

Of course it is the Rohingya people themselves who will decide what route they take, but I must at least offer my concerns for consideration. To say nothing, knowing well how the military are looking for the slightest excuse to further clear the Rohingya from their land, would be irresponsible on my part.

If the Rohingya did decide to embrace an insurgency, this campaign would be wasting its time. Whilst multinational corporations will, with some encouragement, support the rights of the Rohingya who have embraced peaceful means to resolve their situation, they will not support any groups linked to any insurgency, and we would be faced with no option but to close this campaign.

In addition, my own type of activism, would do absolutely nothing to change the outcome, and I would therefore be better devoting my time to where I can make a difference. This does not mean to say I would not, of course, be supportive of the Rohingya’s plight, but it would mean I would not be actively campaigning with the same devotion as there are other pressing causes that I would be more effective working on. I have also heard from others who support the Rohingya campaign who have said the same. I am explaining this just so that my Rohingya friends might consider this fact as they move forward.

However, I am encouraged by several messages that I have received from Rohingya people living in Arakan, in the affected area, in addition to some Rohingya from outside Myanmar, who have expressed support for our statement urging people to condemn violence and commit to peace, and on this basis feel we can push ahead with our campaign.

We are busy now working on our next actions, drawing up a shortlist of multinational companies that we will be approaching next, and also meeting with potential partners to work with us on this cause, and we very much hope you will join us in our actions.

Jamila Hanan – Campaign Director


For more information, please contact:

Shahid Bolsen: @shahidkbolsen or Jamila Hanan: @jamilahanan

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