Myanmar's Rohingya population has been suffering greatly since sectarian violence broke out in the state of Rakhine, also known as Arakan, in June. The riots began with the alleged rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine girl by men who were reportedly Muslim, triggering a backlash by Rakhine's Buddhist majority on the Rohingya, in the form of massacres and arson attacks on homes, mosques, and businesses.
Official reports from Myanmar's government have kept the death toll at about 80 since June, but estimates from rights groups say that hundreds, if not tens of thousands, have been killed, and the UNHCR estimates that 80,000 have been displaced, either internally or as refugees to Bangladesh and other countries.
Link TV's LinkAsia has covered the developments concerning the Rohingya since the unrest in June, but the plight of the Rohingyas has also garnered much attention in the Middle East, namely because the group suffering from persecution is historically Muslim. And although the violence in Rakhine State was targeted at Rohingyas, it was also directed towards Muslims in general.
Mosaic has focused on the Middle Eastern and Muslim angles of the conflict, such as Bangladesh's rejection of Rohingya refugees, protests by Iranian students in front of the UN office in Tehran, and the many demonstrations in Indonesia, where Muslim activists in Jakarta have called for Myanmar's suspension from ASEAN, the expulsion of the Myanmar ambassador from Jakarta, and more international action on the issue.
The Rohingyas have been considered foreigners in Myanmar for decades. In 1982, the government passed a law that effectively rendered them stateless. Myanmar considers the ethnic group of 800,000 to be British colonial-era illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, calling them "Bengali Muslims" in official releases. However, Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country itself, considers the Rohingyas to be Burmese, and has sent boatloads of refugees back to Myanmar, citing a dearth of resources. Bangladesh has also prevented humanitarian aid groups from continuing to work with the Rohingyas, fearing that the provisions would draw more refugees to the already-impoverished country.
Two of ASEAN's largest Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, have offered to directly assist the Rohingyas. Indonesia, which boasts the largest Muslim population in the world, has also vowed to raise the topic of the Rohingya at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's next summit in Mecca next week. Saudi Arabia, which hosts the OIC and reportedly has a Rohingya population of hundreds of thousands, recently condemned Myanmar for what it called the Rohingyas' "ethnic cleansing," and the OIC's Turkish chief, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, has followed suit.
Unfortunately, countries and organizations willing to help are finding the refugees difficult to reach. Myanmar and Bangladesh have both restricted aid to their Rohingya populations, leaving the displaced people to fend for themselves. Some Burmese groups have skirted the issue by collecting money for the Rakhine "fire victims," without mentioning the sectarian violence that led to the fires. However, with a severe dearth of food and medical services, Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons are currently struggling to survive. This scene is sadly all too similar to the persecution they have suffered for years, with a similar lack of international empathy.
Image: Amena Akter, a Rohingya from Myanmar cries as she holds her six-day old son, Sangram in the office of the Bangladesh Coast Guard in Teknaf June 19, 2012: REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Egyptian President-Elect takes oath in Tahrir Square
New TV - Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi took an oath before the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square, and vowed to respect the constitution and the law. In the evening, he took an oath to begin his term under the eyes of the Military Council; and away from formalities and the usual protocol, the Egyptian president-elect chose to address his opponents before his supporters. He went to Tahrir Square, which is packed with Egyptians denouncing military rule. Morsi began his presidential term from al-Azhar al-Sharif Mosque, where he performed Friday prayers amongst thousands of Egyptians. The holy mosque was packed with Egyptians who welcomed him in their own way. Al-Azhar’s courtyard held a demonstration giving their allegiance to the president-elect, on a Friday that Egyptians named "The Friday of Handing over Power."
Saudi women launch campaign to defy driving ban
BBC Arabic - The "My Right to Dignity" campaign, in which many Saudi women are active, continues to promote "The Friday of Women Driving". It is an attempt to urge the women in the kingdom, and those in solidarity with them, to drive in the streets of the kingdom today, in order to push for a lift of the driving ban imposed on them. It is a ban among many others, social and political, that are imposed on Saudi women. Advocates for women's driving rights insist that the key to the car may be the key to change in the kingdom.
Sudanese opposition fails to sign post-Bashir political charter
Dubai TV - International condemnation did not prevent Khartoum's government from waging a new arrest campaign targeting Sudanese opposition parties, especially since they started a new movement under the banner of "toppling the regime." But the meeting that was held to sign two proposed charters to manage the country during the transitional period following the regime's collapse, was postponed until next week after they failed to reach an agreement.
UN warns of rising sectarian killings in Syria as gunmen attack pro-Assad TV channel
BBC Arabic - Emad Sara, Director of the news channel Al-Ekhbariya, denounced the attack on the channel. He said the opposition has no desire to convey the opinions of others. He said "Three of our journalists were martyred, and of course, their only crime was conveying words; words that you all know well, words of truth, words that express the other point of view. They conveyed the message of their freedoms in their own way. As such, they were targeted". Human rights investigators in the United Nations released a report today that says the violence in Syria is spiraling out of control. According to the report, the Syrian government is using combat helicopters and artillery to shell residential neighborhoods. It points to the increasing number of sectarian attacks. The report adds that a number of Syrian regions have descended into civil war since the UN-backed ceasefire this past April.
Yemenis take to streets of Sanaa in a massive car rally
Al-Alam - The streets of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, witnessed demonstrations that were the first of their kind, in the form of a procession of cars. Protestors chanted slogans demanding the ouster and trial of those loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, stressing the importance of continuing to mobilize the revolutionaries. Revolutionary youths say that it symbolizes the beginning of a new revolutionary mobilization with the aim of protecting the revolution through various methods.
Image: Egypt's Islamist President-elect Mohamed Mursi (R) delivers a speech while surrounded by his body guards in Cairo's Tahrir Square, June 29, 2012. Mursi took an informal oath of office on Friday before tens of thousands of supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in a slap at the generals trying to limit his power. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
In a report entitled "Saudi Arabia's Political Prisoners: Towards a Third Decade of Silence," the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) describes political imprisonment in Saudi Arabia as "an epidemic [which] has not spared any sector of Saudi society." According to the IHRC, there are an estimated 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia out of approximately 18 million Saudi nationals. The report calls attention to the plight of these political prisoners over the last three decades with hopes that the Saudi government and international community will finally take notice.
Protests in Saudi Arabia have been ongoing for several months calling for political reform and the release of political prisoners. On Monday, these protests turned violent for the first time when Saudi security forces opened fired at demonstrators. Al-Alam reported that 24 people were injured in the clashes in Saudi's oil-rich Eastern Province. The clashes took place in Qatif and al-Awamiyah, home to a largely Shia population. In an official statement, the Interior Ministry blamed a "foreign country" for the unrest, undoubtedly a veiled reference to Iran, adding that "those involved in sabotage will be dealt with an iron hand."
In an al-Jazeera opinion piece entitled "Saudi political prisoners long for justice," Hala al-Dosari detailed the case of one mother who appealed to the head of the Interior Ministry for the release of her son, Fahad al-Saeed, arrested nine years ago without trial or charges. The "articulate language and heart-breaking details " of the plea garnered a shocking, first-time response from the government, but one that denied the arrest and detainment of al-Saeed.
The Independent newspaper reported that protests in the oil-rich kingdom are gaining momentum and are expected spread to more cities. A Facebook page entitled "Revolution of the Eastern Region" is among several opposition websites gaining popularity. What will the spread of protests mean for a country that has long punished political dissidents?
Each year, Oxfam estimates that more than 500,000 people are killed due to armed violence with countless more left devastated, displaced, traumatized, and angry. Armed violence destroys lives, drains government resources, undermines development efforts, and fosters a culture of violence, fear, and corruption. It is big business with huge ramifications.
At the moment, there is no global arms trade treaty regulating the transfer of arms. Too often, cheap yet highly destructive weapons land in the hands of those who use them to assert power insidiously and further continue a vicious cycle of violence. For developing countries, particularly those in conflict or post-conflict situations, the low-cost accessibility of weapons wreaks havoc on efforts to achieve reconciliation and development. While decades of tensions slowly settle, an arsenal of cheap, available weapons remains—stunting efforts to move forward peacefully. Families are left displaced and devastated by the loss or injury of a family member; their home may be destroyed or no longer safe to live in, and they may be left virtually income-less with no able-bodied workers or farmland. Already struggling health care systems are overburdened; schools are forced to closed or get by with meager support; access to food becomes limited. Anger, hopelessness, and fear grow. Any tensions that may arise or continue in communities—ethnic or religious conflicts, neighbor or land disputes—are resolved through violence. And when you are angry and disempowered with no job or education opportunities—no potentials to grow or support your family, when an AK-47 or grenade is as cheap and accessible as a pint of beer, as is the case in Burundi, it is easy to see how violence remains the preferred medium for conflict resolution. Violence infiltrates every aspect of the culture; it becomes a daily part of life.
“Weapons call out to other weapons,” says Teddy Mazina, a journalist in the documentary film Bang for your Buck. The huge supply of cheap weapons leftover from Burundi’s civil war has contaminated his country, he says, causing an intractable cycle of violence and corrupt power that undermines all development efforts. Underlying issues such as why violence is so easily resorted to are obscured by the sheer supply and availability of cheap grenades and Ak-47s. There needs to be regulation: a path towards disarmament.
Bang for Your Buck beautifully illustrates this need. As winner of Oxfam’s "Shooting Poverty” contest, the film was made to galvanize the Control Arms Campaign, a global civil society alliance, of which Oxfam is a part of, calling for a universal Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would outline universal standards for arms exporters and importers, eradicating any loopholes or variance in regulation that could be used to evade responsibility and further fuel armed conflict, poverty, and human rights violations. The Campaign calls on members of the United Nations to secure this urgent treaty—one round of negotiation is underway this week in New York with the final conference scheduled for July 2010. You can join the campaign and help ensure the government takes this opportunity to comprehensively regulate the deadly weapons trade.
A universal Arms Trade Treaty is an important step towards ending irresponsible arms transfers that promote corrupt agendas and violate human rights, drain resources, and hinder development efforts in countries striving to rebuild, particularly in the aftermath of civil war. Much more needs to be done, however, in order to start over. To learn more about the struggle for new beginnings check out ViewChange.org’s new episode, Starting Over, where Bang for Your Buck is featured along with two other powerful films. In the episode you will meet Teddy Mazina as he walks you through the realities of daily grenade attacks in Burundi, learn about Rwanda’s Gacaca justice tribunals, and witness one ex-patriot’s dream to promote economic development through tourism in Sierra Leone.
Starting Over airs on Direct TV Channel 375 and DISH Network Channel 9410 on:
Friday, July 15th 4 pm PST
Sunday, July 17th 12am PST
Tuesday, July 19th 8pm PST
Wednesday, July 20th 3am and 10am PST
Friday, July 22nd 5am PST
Saturday, July 23rd 11:30pm PST.
And can also be viewed online at LinkTV.org.
(Al Jazeera English: 0405 PT, May 13, 2011) This exclusive report reveals the Bahraini government destroyed Shia mosques and religious institutions as part of its crackdown on dissent.
(Al Jazeera English: 0609 PT, May 13, 2011) Adel Al-Moawda, deputy Chairman of the Bahraini Parliament, reponds to allegations of attacks on mosques and medical staff by Bahraini authorities.
(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) Al Jazeera's exclusive report on Bahrain looks at the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.
(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) AJE interviews Christopher Stokes of Doctors Without Borders on the subject of the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.
(Euronews: 0549 PT, May 9, 2011) The Egyptian Army is demonstrating its promised "iron fist" in Cairo, after two days of deadly clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims. At least 12 people were killed and more than 200 injured.
Clashes flared between Christians and Muslims in the capital on Saturday and Sunday. Stones were thrown and there were reports of gunfire and bullet wounds; 190 people were arrested. The army's aim now is to reassure the people.
(Al Jazeera English: 1610 PT, May 8, 2011) Christians marching against the military in the Egyptian capital and calling for more rights have come under attack. While some blamed hardline Muslims, others said the attack is symptomatic of rampant lawlessness in the country following the revolution that overthrew long-time leader, Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Cairo.
(Democracy Now! 0752 PT, May 9, 2011) Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Cairo, where 12 people died and more than 180 were wounded during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo over the weekend.
"This was a major attack," says Kouddous. "What many people, many Coptic people in particular, do not understand is why the military, who was present at the scene while the violence was happening stood by while the worst of it took place and did not intervene."
(Al Jazeera English: 1248 PT, May 6, 2011) The once massive pro-democracy protests in Bahrain has been reduced to small clashes between youth and police in predominantly Shia areas. Security forces have allegedly launched a brutal crackdown on protesters with beatings and sweeping arrests. Nearly 1,000 demonstrators have been imprisoned, among them doctors, artists and lawyers.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says severe torture is being used against prisoners, and he is calling on the Bahraini government to stop intimidating and harassing human rights defenders and political activists. May Welsh reports.