CAIRO – Amid reports of torture and starving the sizable Muslim minority, an umbrella Muslim group in North America has called for respect of human rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
“ISNA rejects these ongoing oppressive policies and is deeply sorrowed by the recent killing of innocent Rohingya Muslims,” the Islamic Society of North America said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Sunday, July 15.
“We stand firmly against the usage of ethnic and religious differences to perpetrate the persecution of minority communities, regardless of country, religion, or circumstance.
|Rohingya Muslims...An Open Wound|
“The government of Myanmar's current course of action is unacceptable, and the Rohingya people must be afforded basic human rights.”
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Myanmar’s ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingyas, are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
Myanmar’s government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Sectarian violence plagued the western Rakhine state last month after the killing of 10 Muslims in an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on their bus.
The attack followed the rape and murder of a woman in the state, which borders Bangladesh, with Buddhists blaming Muslims for that.
The violence has left dozens of people dead and tens of thousands homeless.
The official death toll of the rioting and its aftermath has been put at 78, although the real figure may be much higher.
International observers are banned from visiting northern Rakhine state, where the majority of Rohingya live, making accurate data collection impossible.
Last week, Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar’s security forces of using “brutal force” against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
ISNA called on Myanmar’s authorities to respect the basic rights of Rohingya Muslims who have long experienced great hardship and oppression in their country.
“Rohingya Muslims require government permission to marry, are forbidden from having more than two children per family, and are subjected to modern-day slavery through forced labor,” ISNA said.
“Because the national government denies them the right to citizenship in their homeland, many Rohingyas have their land confiscated and they are restricted from travel.”
The call comes as aid groups have warned that Rohingya Muslims are being tortured and starved into fleeing the country.
"We are worried that malnutrition rates already have and will continue to rise dramatically,” Tarik Kadir of Action Against Hunger told The Guardian.
“If free and direct humanitarian access accompanied by guaranteed security is not granted with the shortest delay, there's no way they won't rise.”
Aid workers have been struggling to reach those affected by sectarian unrest since early June, amid complaints of government restrictions on their movement.
The UN said Friday that 10 aid workers in Rakhine state had been arrested, five of whom were UN staff.
The vast majority of aid workers assisting the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine have been either evacuated or forced to flee in recent weeks.
The group's staff were forced to leave Rakhine state, where some 800,000 Rohingya live and where malnutrition rates were already far above the global indicator for a health crisis.
"There's no way of measuring the impact over the past month because staff have either been evacuated or forced to flee," Kadir said.
"And given that rainy season is underway, when you factor in all these other problems, we don't need to measure it to know it's a catastrophe."
Aid groups also reported torture of Rohingya men and children, as young as 12, in a police station after police "handed them over" to Rakhinese youths inside the station."I saw these youths burning the testicles and penis of old men with a cheroot [Burmese cigar] and also hitting young Muslim detainees with an iron rod and pushing a wooden stick in their anus," a resident of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine said.
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