FM Laments Int’l Silence on Rohingya Plight

Muslim countries have expressed outrage at the Myanmar government’s indifference toward the persecution of Rohingya Muslims and call on it to respect the basic rights of the minority people
Dignitaries from OIC member states pose for a family photo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan. 19.
Dignitaries from OIC member states pose for a family photo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan. 19.

Iran's top diplomat rapped the international community and media for not being mindful of the sufferings of Rohingya Muslims, calling on the United Nations to focus on restoring the basic rights of the minority in Myanmar.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the statement on Thursday, in a speech at the extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, IRNA reported. 

The meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur on the situation of Rohingya Muslims, at the request of Malaysia.

The Rohingya community in Myanmar, which accounts for about 5% of the country's population of 60 million, is one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, which has suffered years of repression since Myanmar's independence in 1948.

Myanmar's government denies citizenship to the community, branding them illegal immigrants, even as many trace their lineage in Myanmar back generations.

After the outbreak of communal violence against them fueled by Buddhist extremists in 2012, thousands of Rohingya were forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, as the Myanmar government is reportedly turning a blind eye to the violence.

Since last October, the Muslims have faced increased violence, as Myanmar's Army has carried out operations in the country's western Rakhine State, home to about 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims, following an attack by unidentified gunmen allegedly left nine police officers dead.

The Myanmar government has blocked humanitarian and media access to Rakhine. Zarif urged the Muslim world to unite behind the Muslim community, pressuring Myanmar's government to respect the rights of Rohingya, including their right to nationality, and remove systematic discrimination and widespread violence against them.

  Call for Immediate Humanitarian Access 

The Iranian minister also asked for the immediate humanitarian access to the Rohingya, both those who are still in Myanmar and those who have been forced to flee to neighboring countries. 

On Jan. 6, Zarif wrote to the new UN chief, Antonio Guterres, to urge international action to stop rights violations against the Rohingya.

Zarif said treating Rohingya unfairly would have adverse consequences on peace and stability in Myanmar and Southeast Asia, adding that Myanmar's government is expected to take effective action to protect the minority people and not to allow extremist groups to tarnish the peaceful image of Buddhism.

Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister, said on the sidelines of the OIC meeting that attacks by Buddhist extremists on Muslims have no sectarian motives and Rohingya suffer extreme hardship only because Myanmar does not recognize them as citizens, calling on the government to settle the conflict by restoring citizenship to the Muslim minority.

Malaysia said on Thursday that OIC plans to send a high-level delegation to Rakhine State to assess the plight of the Rohingya minority.

There have been calls to Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar government, to intervene. Eager to balance the demands of the security-obsessed Myanmar Army generals and a Buddhist-majority electorate, many with a deep distrust of the Muslim Rohingya, Suu Kyi has not shown the will needed to adhere to the basic tenets of international humanitarian law. She has not lifted a finger to help restore the rights of Rohingya Muslims 

A final communique issued after the OIC meeting urged Myanmar to accept the OIC's visit. 

It also asked Myanmar to implement the rule of law, work toward a sustainable solution, allow the safe return of refugees and "unimpeded and unconditional access" for humanitarian aid to the affected areas, and give back citizenship to Rohingya that was revoked in 1982.

The Myanmar Army denies the allegations of mistreatment against the Rohingya. A committee set up by the government recently concluded that law was not being violated in Rakhine, an assertion widely derided by international rights organizations.

UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee wrapped up a 12-day visit to Myanmar on Friday and is expected to release her report on the possible abuses against the ethnic Muslims in the country soon. 

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