For Rohingya Fleeing Genocide, Digitized Language Is Crucial

Unicode Standard is planning to provide the persecuted Rohingya minority a much-needed tool to preserve their beleaguered identity.

Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslims have been denied all basic human rights in Myanmar. They have been rejected, tortured, massacred and driven out of their homes into another country — all because of who they are.

However, the embattled ethnic minority is about to receive some relief in the form of digitization of their language, which will help them to preserve their identity.

The Unicode Standard, responsible for creating the universal standard of digital characters and numbers, is reportedly planning to encode “Hanifi Rohingya,” a writing system that was developed for the Rohingya in the 1980s.

A digital alphabet would indeed be a boon, especially in these troubled times.

Since August, more than 626,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled a genocidal campaign by the Burmese military, the worst exodus of a community in such short time since the Rwandan genocide. At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including 730 children, were killed just in the first month, according to Doctors Without Borders.

What's worse, despite independent media organizations and human rights groups documenting widespread abuses against Rohingya, Myanmar's government refuses to admit any wrongdoing on its military's part. The country has also been accused of harassing journalists, making media coverage of the military crackdown even more difficult.

The digitized language would allow the Rohingya to write send text messages, emails and social media posts in their own language.

“If a people do not have a written language of their own, it is easier to say that as an ethnic group you don’t exist,” Mohammad Hanif, who developed the Hanifi Rohingya writing system, told The Guardian.

“It is easier to repress them,” said Hanif, a Rohingya madrassa teacher living in Bangladesh.

Although a majority of Rohingya people lack access to technology and literacy, digitization of their language provides the much-needed recognition of their struggle, which seems to be endless, for now.

Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

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