Pakistan's Rohingya Muslims speak about world's silence on their plight

Around 860,000 people were forced to flee Bangladesh during the 2017 incident.

56-year-old Ibrahim Hussein, a resident of Karachi and a Rohingya Muslim, still mourns the death of his dozen family members, including infants, who were killed in a crackdown by the Myanmar military on the 25th of August, 2017. The incident was termed as the textbook example of genocide by the UN.

Around 860,000 people were forced to flee Bangladesh during the 2017 incident. As the world prepares to observe the third anniversary of the brutal military crackdown against Myanmar\\’s Rohingya Muslims, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims living in Pakistan still look for their loved ones who went missing.

Settling in Karachi

After Myanmar and Bangladesh, the largest population of Rohingya Muslims, currently live in Karachi and they are estimated at about 400,000. They started to trickle into the region in the early 1940s – before the creation of Pakistan. After 1980, the numbers stopped rising because India closed its borders with Bangladesh and put restrictions on the travel to Pakistan.

Former Pakistani president, Ayub Khan, who ruled the country from 1958-1969, had allocated land to Rohingya refugees in 1962, paving the way for two settlements – Burma Colony and Arkanabad.


Communication blockades

Hussein looks for his young niece and cousin. He says:

We have tried our best to locate them. During the last three years, we have contacted several human rights groups, including the Red Cross, to know about them but of no avail. They [family members] were trying to flee together, but they soon separated due to a stampede-like situation. Several got killed, some managed to cross into Bangladesh, while the two went missing. Some of our village mates said they [niece and cousin] were killed. Others said they made their way into Bangladesh with some other group.

The Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh\\’s southern district of Cox\\’s bazaar houses over 1.2 million Rohingya refugees. However, phone restrictions and an internet blockade are why Hussein is unable to look for his missing family members. He says:

It has now been three years since we have been approaching every available source to look for them. Only Allah knows whether they are alive or dead.

Mohammad Taha, another Rohingya Muslim and resident of Karachi has a similar story to share.

Five of his family members died, and two of his maternal cousins went missing after the crackdown. He says:

We have been trying to locate our relatives who managed to reach Bangladesh, but we still have no news. We have minimal contact with them. They contact us whenever they get a chance to get out of the camp and call from a public call office.

Global silence is killing

The silence from the international community is hurting the Rohingya people the most. The UN dubbed them the \\’world\\’s most persecuted people\\’, but no one did anything to ease their misery.

A Rohingya community leader, Noor Hussein Arakani, says:

It\\’s been three years, and nothing concrete has been done to hold Myanmar government responsible for the genocide, and the safe resettlement of Rohingya Muslims. Instead, the [Myanmar] government is more vigorously persecuting them.

In November 2019, Myanmar government rejected the International Criminal Court (ICC)-approved-inquiry over crimes against the Rohingya community.

Arakani further added:

It\\’s only Turkey, Gambia, and a few other Muslim countries that consistently fight our case on the international forums. Generally, there is a criminal silence over Myanmar\\’s widespread human rights abuses on the part of so-called superpowers. There is no other leader like the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been standing beside Rohingya Muslims. The entire Rohingya community prays for him.

The story first published in Express Tribune.

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