An ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state has resulted in an exodus of currently stateless Rohingyas from Myanmar. More than 500,000 mostly Muslim Rohingyas have fled into Bangladesh between August and September 2017, increasing the national count of Rohingyas to 800,000. The government of Myanmar frames the violence as a crackdown on terrorists by the military. However, reports from the newly built refugee camp in Bangladesh indicate that indiscriminate violence was experienced by men, women, and children. Consistent with the literature on wars, rape was used by the Myanmar military as a weapon of war. Among women who have traveled to the camps there are signs of violent gang rape and forced pregnancies.
A large proportion of the newcomer Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are part of vulnerable groups; 180,000 are under five years old, 320,000 are women and girls, and 30,000 are above 60 years of age. About 12% of the households are female-headed, making them particularly vulnerable, 3% are pregnant women, and 7% are lactating mothers as of September 2017 (International Organization of Migration). The intersection of gender, ethnic minority status, and traditional mores endanger women in flight and exile, as they balance their household’s wellbeing and personal safety. Women are targeted through systematic rape and suffer physical harm through assault, both in their home and while fleeing (Bartolomei, Eckert & Pittaway, 2015).
The UB School of Social Work recognizes the impact that genocide has on individuals, communities, and countries that step up to allow free passage of refugees into their countries. Right now, Bangladesh is the only country that is taking in Rohingya refugees, while others such as Tukey, Saudia Arabia, Azerbaijan, and Malaysia have sent relief. International organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM, and Doctors without Borders, Khalsa Aid, and Brac, are in Cox’s Bazar District Refugee camp, but resources remain very low.
The UB School of Social work recognizes the importance of international support for the Rohingyas, including support from the United States. We urge the international community to recognize the genocide against Rohingyas in Myanmar and take a stand against it.
We further recommend the international community’s support of the Rohingya people, not only by providing aid and relief but also creating safe spaces in countries that they can move to; guarantees of safety as repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar begin; and to allow Rohingyas citizenship in Myanmar or formal refugee status by UNHCR so that they no longer remain stateless.
We stand in solidarity with Rohingya refugees who are being forced to flee their homes amidst widespread violence and arson. In the spirit of our trauma-informed and human rights-based curriculum, we recognize the human rights of refugees to not be violated, to migrate, resettle, or go back to their homelands, and pursue a safe and secure future. We also realize the widespread impact of trauma and emphasize the importance of psychological safety in addition to physical safety for refugees.
Nadine Shaanta Murshid
Annette Semanchin Jones
Seventy F. Hall
Jesse C. Sarubbi
Matthew L. Shwartz