Osman invited us into his home. We took off our shoes and crowded into the small wooden room raised on stilts to protect from flooding during the rainy season. The home was neat and thoughtfully organized. The few belongings they had were hung on walls or from the rafter beams. A bed sheet was hung on a line to separate the kitchen from the sleeping area. It was dark and stuffy, but Osman’s sons continued to fan us regardless of how many times we told them it wasn’t necessary. I guess they believed the beads of sweat dripping down my face more than my voice. I asked him about his family which warmed him to speak about. When I asked him about the situation of the Rohingya he got emotional. He teared and mourned as he expressed his anguish. “This is genocide” he said to me through tears. And he is right.
The Rohingya live in an internment camp. There is really no way around it. They cannot leave the area they are restricted to. They cannot leave to work, they cannot leave to get medical care, they cannot leave to go to school, and they are being systematically starved. “My husband was killed”, “3 of my children died – one died of Pneumonia, one of TB, and one was shot”, “I used to have a successful import/export business, now I have nothing because they won’t let me leave” – these are the stories I repeatedly heard from Rohingya in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar when I visited them in early October. Frustration, anxiety, confusion, anger, sadness filled their faces as they shared their lives. As the nation celebrated the most free election in over three decades on Sunday, the Rohingya are not partaking in the transition to democracy. They were barred from voting in the election and none of their candidates were allowed to run.
The Burmese Buddhists that are promoting this hatred toward the minority 4% Muslim population say that “if we don’t suppress them, they will take over our country.” That is a lofty accusation for a group of people who can barely keep themselves alive. The promotion of irrational fear is a manifestation of genocide. It is how you psychologically convince people that the group is a threat. And if they are seen as a threat then you can rally people to your cause to eliminate them. The eight stages of genocide have been and are continuing to be met daily toward the Rohingya in Myanmar. Although the voice of the public outcry against this genocide is small, make no mistake, the Rohingya are being systematically eliminated.