Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 3, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Things are deteriorating by the day in Myanmar, following the situation in Rakhine State being declared a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” UN medics operating in Bangladesh have documented evidence of Myanmar soldiers raping hundreds of Rohingya women. Doctors operating in Bangladesh reported that the evidence includes bite marks, beatings, signs that weapons were used to penetrate the women, and even cut genitals. In one horrific case, a Rohingya woman was gang raped by at least seven soldiers and arrived in Bangladesh “extremely weak and traumatized. She said she struggled to make it to the clinic. She had a laceration on the vagina.”
However, while the international community is greatly disturbed by the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority, they are devoting very little attention to that of the Rohingya Hindus in Myanmar, which is just as atrocious.
But despite the neglect, the plight of the Rohingya Hindus is only getting worse. Armed militants are infiltrating Hindu areas, where they are stabbing, shooting and raping the residents. As one Hindu refugee woman reported, “They dug three holes. One to dump the bodies of women, one to dump the bodies of children and a third one for the men they kill. All of the holes are overflowing. That is where I last saw my husband’s body.”
This particular Hindu refugee’s life was spared but she was forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh on foot despite being seven months pregnant.
“They came in black and covered their faces,” another Hindu refugee stated. “In my village, there were 70 Hindu families. They surrounded us for three days and we could not leave the house even to get food.” Many of the Rohingya refugees reported that their homes were looted, attacked and set on fire. While the Rohingya Muslims mainly blame the Myanmar army for the present crisis, the Hindus usually point the accusatory finger at Rohingya militants, some of which are tied to Islamic State, al-Qaida, Lashkar e-Toiba and other Islamist groups. These militant groups have links with the Pakistani ISI and an offshoot of the ruling Awami League Party in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is increasingly playing a major role in the Rohingya crisis. Over 500 Hindus have already fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent weeks. But contrary to the perception in the international community, the plight of the Rohingya refugees is not good there. Over half of the 400,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh lack proper shelter, clean drinking water and sanitation. In addition, Bangladesh has imposed a mobile phone ban on Rohingya refugees, thus making it hard for the refugees to communicate with loved ones. However, reports coming out of Bangladesh highlight that the Hindu refugees have it worse than the Muslim ones.
Given this situation, many Rohingya Hindu refugees view Bangladesh merely as a temporary transit point on the way to India rather than as a place that they can call home. As one Hindu refugee proclaimed: “We just want a peaceful life in India, not much. We may not get that in Myanmar or here.” Under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many Hindus view India as a country for all Hindus, just as Israel is a state for all Jews.
Regardless who is to blame for the present refugee crisis, the time has come for the international community to treat all refugees the same. The international community should stop employing double standards, where one group of refugees gets priority while another one is neglected. There should be no difference in the manner Hindu and Muslim refugees are treated. Both have suffered horrendous crimes against humanity and both deserve our deepest sympathy. And both groups deserve to get an equal amount of aid from the Bangladeshi government. So long as Sheikh Hasina’s government is not treating Hindu and Muslim refugees with equal human dignity and the Rohingya refugees endure mistreatment in her country, her getting any sort of Nobel Peace Prize should be off the table.
The writer is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent at the Israel Resource News Agency. She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian female suicide bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.