(Washington DC August 27, 2018) Hundreds of supporters of Rohingya, Rohingya former refugees, elected officials, interfaith partners gathered on the grounds of the Congress, near the aptly named Peace Circle for the Save Rohingya Day Rally, on August 25, 2018.
This rally was a call by the Rohingya in the diaspora and the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar Bangladesh to mark a year since 12,000 Burmese soldiers descended on Rohingya neighborhoods- burning and pillaging homes, killing men and children and gang raping women in a systematic manner.
Burma’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law, U.N. investigators said on Monday.
“Rohingya genocide is the most documented genocide of our time with during, before and after satellite images,” stated Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Burma Task Force. “So we cannot say we did not know. The US must determine it to be a genocide and take action to prevent and punish those responsible for it.”
The Kachin National Organization, the largest international organization of the Kachin Christians, in a historic statement, called upon the international community to ensure the safety of Rohingya returnees and swift process of Rohingyas status within the country compatible with international laws and norms. “Pursue justice for perpetrators by all necessary means including ICC referral to comprehensive sanctions (that worked before). As Burma is trying to build a nation to safeguard the betterment of the people, it must not build on prejudice or injustice on any particular race or ethnicity,” read the statement.
The rally in Washington DC was heavy on interfaith prayers for the Rohingya and other Burmese minorities, especially the Kachin Christians. Pastor Shannon Wright, Vice Chairman for the Maryland Republican Party and former Vice President of the Yonkers NAACP.
Maryland Delegate Pastor Rick Metzgar also spoke at the rally and prayed for those suffering
Karim Yaqub, a Rohingya resettled in Washington DC spoke about his journey on a rickety boat out of Rakhine State. “It’s been a one year. But there is no change in the situation. My people are still rotting in refugee camps in Bangladesh, in concentration camps in Burma and in no mans land on the border. There is no justice for the Rohingya people. We, Rohingya people are the indigenous people of Burma, are known as the most persecuted minority in the world,” he said.
“When I was in Burma, my birthplace, my family has been faced discrimination and segregation. The military government denied my citizenship,. I could not visit from one village to another village. I [could not] travel freely in my own country. They burnt down our houses, butchered the men, raped the women and force us to leave the country.” He demanded justice for his people and urged the United States to act before more lives are lost. “
Anika Rahman, a translator for the Burma Task Force and an human rights activist, stated: “After translating documentaries of young children being thrown into the water and fire, others slaughtered and listening to several stories, you learn the obvious patterns of how the Burmese government accomplished this genocide. The Rohingyas has been facing injustice and persecution in Burma by the Burmese military for decades. The system of ethnic cleansing gradually grew worse and showed signs of discrimination, segregation and violations against human rights from decades ago, yet the international community failed to intervene and even now fails to intervene.”
Nicole Ambrose, the official spokesperson of the Faith Coalition to End Genocide in Burma spoke of her visit to the largeste refugee camps in the world and the utter misery she witnesses. “Of all these atrocities, my mind is least able to process the slaughter of the Rohingya babies and toddlers. It is clear the Burmese military had a systematic plan for surrounding villages, killing the men, and raping the women. However, their actions varied from village to village in how they enacted psychotic rage against Rohingya babies,” she stated.
Drs Henna Qureshi and Javed Akhtar (a father and daughter team of medical professionals who visited several Rohingya camps) shared their experiences. The immense amount of physical and psychological trauma they witnessed places acute urgency for international intervention. “We saw diseases that we have only seen in textbooks; diseases that have been wiped away are back in the camps,” said Dr Akhtar.
Imam Talib Abdul Samad of the Islamic Research and Humanitarian Service Association gave a passionate sermon on justice and the need to stand up for the oppressed.
Hena Zuberi, the Director of Outreach for Burma Task Force, reiterated the call for full sanctions against Burma except from humanitarian aid, full citizenship and safe return for Rohingya back to their ancestral lands. She urged the attendees to call the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and ask Burma to be referred to the International Security Council and to the international Criminal Court (ICC).
Sharon Stout from Beloved Community Interfaith Network asked for free press in Burma and freedom for the Reuters journalists. as part of the Faith Coalition to end Genocide in Burma, BCIN urges congregations to build awareness and solidarity among ethnic groups, including delegations to visit both Rohingya and Kachin populations.
Andra Baylous , interfaith leaders and organizer Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington Annual MLK Service Day read a statement of support by the Buddhist Humanitarian Project. More than a thousand Buddhist leaders, teachers and practitioners from 45 countries have signed an international appeal to the governing body of all Buddhist monastics in Burma.
The appeal calls on the monastic leadership to take a strong stand against hate speech and the extreme violence that has been unleashed against the Rohingya.
The Burma Task Force has filed a lawsuit against the Burmese military in the ICC. More information on the lawsuit may be found here.
The rally was organized by the Burma Task Force, a coalition of 19 Muslim organizations and the Faith Coalition to End Genocide in Burma, an interfaith alliance of faith leaders and grassroots activists working to end the genocide.