The Rohingya genocide echoes a similar violent past, and politicians are waking up to the historical connection.
The horrific persecution the Rohingya Muslims have been experiencing in Myanmar has prompted many world leaders, as well as victims of past genocidal efforts, to compare their plight to the plight of the Srebrenicans in Bosnia.
If anything, that shows that Aung Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace prize winner, may end up having a lot more in common with Radovan Karadžić, the former President of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War and convicted war criminal, than her fans may have once expected.
According to Camil Durakovic, the former mayor of Srebrenica, the suffering the Rohingya people have been going through as the Buddhist majority seems to close in on the Muslim minority hits close to home.
As a people who are not even allowed the same rights as citizens of Myanmar, the Rohingya surviving in the west Myanmar region of Rakhine, once known as Arakan, are being accused of having moved to the region during the British colonial rule. However, the Rohingya are indigenous to the Arakan region, therefore they have lived in the lands that border with Bangladesh for over a millennium.
But as early as 1982, the Rohingya started feeling their status as a minority eat away at their rights. From the 1980s on, they were denied basic rights and now, government crackdowns on their villages have shown that government-sponsored terrorism, rape, abuse, and mass murder are being either supported by or plainly ignored by the country’s high-ranking officials.
To Durakovic, this makes the plight of the Rohingya similar to that of the Srebrenicans because “[e]verything that is happening in Myanmar today had happened at dozens of other places before, and it had happened to” minorities in Bosnia as well, he wrote in his op-ed.
It’s because of the massacre they suffered and the genocidal actions of people like Karadžić, Durakovic wrote, that each year on July 11, the Srebrenicans say in their prayers “never again to anybody.”
Unfortunately, he continues, “[t]he Rohingya are now enduring what we, Bosniak Muslims, endured during the war and the genocide, and what we are still enduring to this day in the Republika Srpska.” And what’s worse, a Nobel Laureate seems to be at the forefront of a war to prevent the world from questioning what is going on in her country.
But Durakovic isn’t the only one linking the genocide in Bosnia to what is going on in Myanmar.
The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari gave a speech at the UN saying that the “Myanmar crisis is very reminiscent of what happened in Bosnia in 1995 and in Rwanda in 1994.”
Buhari urged the international community to do more to bring attention to this matter, so that lives can be spared. Still, Suu Kyi used her latest televised appearance to downplay the government-sponsored “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” that has forced 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country.
As pressure builds to force nations to address this issue and pressure Myanmar to allow UN investigators inside the country to evaluate the allegations of abuse, we must wonder if Suu Kyi will remain complacent and, perhaps, a willing player in this massacre or if she will live up to the hype that got her finally freed from political imprisonment and later elected.
Something tells us that it will take a lot more than pressure from the international community for her to change her mind and by then, it might be too little too late for the most persecuted minority in the world.