By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - Rohingya refugees in southeast Bangladesh are commemorating the second anniversary of a brutal crackdown on them by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state.
The military attack on the minority Muslim community in August 2017 was described as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" by the UN while several rights groups and other international bodies called the systematic human rights violations against and mass killing of Rohingya a "genocide" and "crime against humanity".
- Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are primarily Muslims who live in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Available data suggest they are made up of over 3.6 million people who have been rendered stateless and face discrimination in Myanmar.
The ethnic minority is considered by the United Nations to be “the most persecuted minority in the world.”
The government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya among the country’s 135 official ethnic groups.
Rohingya have suffered brutal crackdowns at the hands of local monks, Buddhist nationalists, and Myanmar’s military forces, which forced them to leave their homeland and take refuge in other countries.
On Aug. 25, 2017 Rohingya faced an inhuman military clampdown -- termed ethnic cleansing and a crime against humanity -- forcing more than 750,000 of them to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
Muslims came to Arakan, now Rakhine State, an independent coastal kingdom in today’s Myanmar, starting in the 1430s.
A small number of Muslims lived in the region when the Burmese (now Myanmar) empire conquered it in 1784.
As fate would have it, Britain occupied Burma starting in 1824 until 1948, when the Buddhist-majority country gained its freedom.
Meanwhile, Muslims from neighboring Bengal, now West Bengal in India and Bangladesh, would travel and trade with inhabitants of Arakan. Many of them settled in the region.
More so, after Britain occupied Burma, many people were brought from Bengal as bonded laborers to the region.
Notably, Britain had promised an autonomous state for the Rohingya in exchange for their help in World War II. It never happened, however.
Even after Burma gained independence, the Rohingya did not get their promised rights. The Buddhist country never acknowledged the Rohingya as an ethnic group.
1962: Myanmar becomes a military-run state and launches state-sponsored persecution under “Operation Dragon King” targeting the Rohingya people.
Burmese forces are accused of rape, destroying homes and villages, and mass arrests.
State persecution of Rohingya triggers migration to nearby Bangladesh in huge numbers.
1978: Following “Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation,” nearly 200,000 Rohingya begin fleeing en masse to neighboring Muslim-dominated Bangladesh.
1982: Myanmar declares 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. Rohingya find no mention and are stripped of their nationality and citizenship.
1990: Mass migration continues, and nearly 200,000 more Rohingya reach Bangladesh.
2012: Myanmar forces renew targeting of Rohingya in which more than 200 people are killed and another 150,000 made homeless.
2014: Rohingya denied registration in first official census conducted by government of Myanmar.
2015: Elections held in Myanmar after year of autocratic military rule but Rohingya are barred from voting or standing as candidates.
2016: Armed conflict rages, forcing more than 87,000 Rohingya to leave their country.
2017: Rohingya face the most brutal military clampdown -- termed ethnic cleansing and a crime against humanity -- forcing more than 750,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
2018: Around 781,000 refugees set up camp in nine settlements in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Myanmar attempt to return 2,260 Rohingya but fail after the community protests, as refugees refuse to leave the camp without guarantees of their safety.
2019: Myanmar announces on Aug. 15 that it has “cleared 3,450 people to make the journey home from a list of more than 22,000 refugees provided by Bangladesh.”
- New Home: Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
More and more Rohingya refugees came to Bangladesh, traveling by sea or walking through dense forests. Many died on the way by drowning or some other cause.
In Bangladesh, they made the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district their new home. Kutupalong and Nayapara areas started as the two registered refugee camps.
There are now around 1.6 million refugees living in Bangladesh, mainly in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar.
In Bangladesh, Rohingya are still waiting for justice and a say about their future as they want a secure, safe and dignified life in their homeland in Myanmar with citizenship and basic human rights.
- Where are Rohingya fleeing to?
Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the U.S., Canada and some European countries.