We have the responsibility to adress a dramatic reality in Burma today: Ethnic Cleansing and a state of apartheid against Burma's Rohingya ethnic minority that have been largely neglected by world leaders for the past year. This silence can no longer can be tolerated.
In the spring of 2011, the military junta withdrew from Burma. The former generals swapped their military uniforms for civilian clothes. They have promised reforms, releasing Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and icon of democracy and human rights, now an elected member of parliament. Since then, the country gives signs of genuinely embracing the process of democracy. Much as Burma’s top-down political liberalisation needs to be welcome and supported, we must not gloss over the grave on-going injustices, crimes against humanity, segregation and ethnic cleansing.
Burma is home to over one hundred ethnic groups. Each one has its own unique ancestral territory, leading to a complex tapestry of complimentary cultures that are fundamental to the country's past, present and future. They contribute to Burma's diversity in culture, language and religion.
A viable democracy in multiethnic Burma can only be built on ethnic equality, on respect and on an appreciation for cultural diversity, ethnic and national reconciliation. But fifty years of isolation, fear, propaganda and ethnic divisions in military-ruled Burma have had a profound and devastating effect on Burma’s people, resulting in a segregationist, illiberal and racist society.
Minorities have been excluded from the democratic transition. For many of the minorities of Burma, their plight worsened with military offensives in Northern and Eastern Burma while ethnic communities in the West are sequestered in an apartheid-like regime. Among these communities are an estimated 800,000 Rohingya.
The Rohingya Muslims, a culturally and ethnically recognizable community, have been subject to a regime of systematic discrimination including population control, severe restrictions on their physical movements, forced labour, denial of access to basic health and education, and outright expulsion at various times since 1978. The military junta has erased them from the country’s officially recognized ethnic map and has stripped them of their citizenship with the enactment of the Citizenship Act of 1982. They soon became one of the most persecuted people in the world, according to the United Nations.
An ethnic cleansing campaign, launched in June 2012, today targets at least a million Muslim Burmese living in Arakan, among them are the Rohingyas. A report by Human Rights Watch in April 2013 condemned the complicity of the Burmese government in crimes committed by extremist gangs massacring Muslims with impunity. Today the initially anti-Rohingya campaign has widened its scope, targeting all Burmese Muslims across the country.
The international community, however, is turning a blind eye to the large scale atrocities, galvanized by the fantasy of a democratic Burma.
In the past year, tens of thousands of Muslim homes have been burned, demolished or otherwise destroyed while immolations, gang rapes and mass killings are still being committed.
Today, as the direct result of last year’s bouts of mass violence against them, over 120,000 Rohingyas have been herded into refugee camps on their own birth soil of Western Burma while 700,000 more Rohingyas live in terror in Northern Arakan. A national census is underway. Early attempts at re-registration of the Rohingyas in these inhumane camps indicate that the Rohingyas will be registered only if they renounce their ethnic identity as Rohingya and register themselves ‘Bengali’, a label implying that the Rohingyas are not indigenous to their own ancestral lands.
Meanwhile, throughout the rest of Burma, Buddhist extremists, fanatics and ultranationalists are pushing for a campaign to wipe out the all Burmese Muslims, an estimated five percent of the population of Burma (50 million people).
We, the undersigned, unequivocally denounce:
1) The mass pogroms against the Muslims of Burma, including the Rohingyas
2) The total impunity of extreme nationalists, soldiers, and monks who commit mass crimes and, in the case of the Na-sa-kaspecial forces, gang rapes
3) Systematic segregation, severe forms of discrimination, anti-Muslim racism and organized terror suffered by the Burmese Muslim communities and the total lack of protection by the state
4) A campaign of anti-Islamic propaganda and the incitement of hate crimes led by extremists including monks, such as Ashin Wirathu, the self-proclaimed Burmese "bin Laden" calling for a boycott of all relationships with the Burmese Muslims
5) The total absence of justice and state protection for Burmese Muslims, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, and summary executions
6) The obstruction of international humanitarian assistance through organized threats and the denial of access to areas where Muslims receive neither care nor basic supplies of food for survival
7) The discriminatory Citizenship Act of 1982 which stripped the Rohingyas of both their previously official ethnic identity and citizenship.
While the European Union has lifted economic sanctions, while business contacts with Burma intensify, while President Thein Sein has been given a red-carpeted welcome at the White House and while Aung San Suu Kyi fails to manifest concern for the tragic plight of the Rohingyas and the Burmese Muslims, over a million people have become terrorized and terrified hostages in an increasingly anti-Muslim society.
Every day, the guilty silence of the international community further condemns the lives of the Rohingyas and all other Muslims for whom Burma is their sole home and birthplace.
No healthy democracy can be built on the sacrifice of a minority, to comply with the intolerance of a majority.
We call on the president of France and America, European and World leaders, and United Nations representatives to:
- Pressure the Burmese government, demanding that it immediately halt the human rights violations and ethnic cleansing.of the Rohingyas and pogroms of the Muslims
- Set up an independent, UN-mandated international commission of inquiry, with free access to all relevant parties including security troops to investigate thoroughly the crimes committed against the Muslim minorities of Burma, particularly the Rohingyas, whom the UN calls ‘the most vulnerable’ in the world
- Provide adequate and unobstructed humanitarian assistance
- Offer protection to these voiceless people who are on the verge of extermination.
Martin Luther King said "To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it".
We will not be silent.
- Sophie Ansel writer and film maker (France)
- Rokhaya Diallo columnist (France)
- Mahor Chiche lawyer (France)
- Noam Chomsky institute professor & professor of linguistics philosopher (USA)
- Maung Zarni scholar-dissident (Burma)
- James C. Scott Author of “The Art of not being governed: an Anarchis History of Upland Southeast Asia” and Professor, Yale University (USA)
- Benedict Anderson author of "Imagined Communities" and Professor Emeritus,Cornell University (USA)
- William Schabas former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, Professor of International Law, Middlesex University (England)
- Geoffrey Nice, barrister and activist (UK)
- Tom Andrews former US congressman, executive director of United to End Genocide.
- Lilian Thuram footballer & president of the Foundation Education Against Racism (France)
- Matthew Smith Executive Director of Fortify Rights International
- Benjamin Zawacki researcher and lawyer
- Joe Sacco journalist and cartoonist (Malta – USA)
- Duleep de Chickera anglican Bishop (Sri Lanka)
- Omar Sy actor (France)
- Sai Latt Simon Fraser University PhD candidate and Burmese activist (Canada)
- Bo Bo Lansin, cultural writer, PhD student, SOAS (UK)
- John Pilger journalist and film maker (Australia)
- Veronica Pedrosa TV journalist and news presenter (Philippines)
- Jamila Hanan Human rights Activist, Save the Rohingya (England)
- Dr Nada Dhaif Chairman of Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence org (Bahrain)
- Jeff Mc Mullen writer and film maker (Australia)
- Greg Constantine photographer & author of "Exiled to Nowhere: Burma's Rohingya" (US)
- Sam Garcia author cartoonist « Lunes Birmanes » (Spain)
- François Durpaire historian (France)
- Albert Lecoanet independent journalist and film maker (Australia)
- Maung Hla Aung President NDPHR en exil
- Maung Kyaw Nu President Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) former policital prisoner of conscience.
- Habiburahaman Rohingya asylum seeker, author of the book "first, they erased our name" (Burma - Australia)
- Juan José Tamayo Theologian (Spain)
- Leila Nachawati Rego activist and professor of Communication ( Syria - Spain)
- Abdennur Prado writer and director of the International Congress on Islamic Feminism (Spain)
- Pavin Chachavalpongpun scholar (Thailand)
- Lynn Lee filmmaker & codirector “ Nowhere to go” (Singapour)
- Saiful Huq Omi Photographer, director and activist ( Bangladesh)
- Amal de Chickera Human rights activist (Sri Lanka)
- Doudou Diène former United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (France)
- Eva Joly member of the European Parliament (France)
- Rama Yade Former secretary of state for human rights ( France)
- Jamel Debbouze actor (France)
- Benjamin Bejbaum founder of Dailymotion (France)
- Mireille Fanon-Mendès-France president of the Foundation Frantz Fanon (France)
- Patrick Boitet chief editor, French Television (France)
- Frederic Debomy author and activist (France)
- Babylon Circus musicians (France)
- Mathieu Flammarion President Info Birmanie (France)
- Souhaib Klouz Collectif Halte au massacre en Birmanie-HAMEB (France)
- Zebda musicians (France)
- HK les Saltimbanques musicians (France)
- Prof. Dr. Mohammad Redzuan Othman Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University Malaya of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
- Barbara Harris-White Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, Oxford Universtiy
- Laurent Jais music producer and director (France)
- NY Kogyi Burmese Human Right Activist
- Sonia Randhawa, Media activist