CAIRO – A leading American Muslim civil rights group has sent letters to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh urging Burma to stop Rohingya Muslims’ prosecution and Bangladesh to protect the minority refugees.
"Your government must take urgent steps to end human rights violations by its security forces and to allow unimpeded access for relief organizations and international monitors seeking to enter affected areas,” Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote in the letter cited in a CAIR press release.
“Once calm is restored, Myanmar must revise its 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to Rohingya Muslims.”
Ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as Rohingyas, are complaining of persecution and discrimination in Burma.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled their homes in June after ethnic violence rocked the western state of Rakhine after the killing of ten Muslims in an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on their bus.
The attack came following the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman, for which three Rohingyas were sentenced to death.
At least 77 people were killed in the violence and thousands of homes were burnt and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingyas in the wake of the riots.
Human Rights Watch accused Wednesday Burmese forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims in the wake of the ethnic violence.
“Burmese security forces committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in western Burma in June 2012,” the New York-based group said.
“Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left many of the over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care.”
CAIR called on the Burmese government to take measures to immediately stop Muslim killings.
"We urge you to cooperate with the international community to take immediate measures to address the ongoing killings and abuse of Rohingya Muslims," Awad added.
Another letter urged the Bangladeshi government to offer humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Muslim refugees.
“The government of Bangladesh, with the support of the international community, must offer full humanitarian assistance to those forced to flee Myanmar,” Awad said in a letter addressed to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“Denial of this assistance will inevitably result in even greater suffering, which we should all seek to prevent.”
The letters, sent on Thursday, August 2, are not the first from CAIR concerning Rohingya Muslims plight.
In July, CAIR called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to take concrete steps to help stop the killing of civilians in Myanmar and Syria.
"As a world leader, our nation cannot stand on the sidelines while civilians are slaughtered in nations like Syria and Myanmar," CAIR's letter to Secretary Clinton stated.
“More forceful actions must be taken to end the violence.”
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims 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.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Last month, Burmese President Thein Sein said that Rohingyas should be settled in a third country.