Sheikh Hasina talking turkey with Rohingyas


-Akhlaq Ahmed Usmani*

Rohingya Muslims have been a long suffering community. They have been prosecuted ruthlessly by Myanmar Army, while world watched. Myanmar Government refuses to recognize them and claims that Rohingya Muslims are not from Myanmar but are Bangladeshi illegal migrants. That is the reason Myanmar does not recognize Rohingyas as one of the 134 official ethnicities of the country. Myanmar’s nationality law states that foreigners cannot be naturalized citizens of the country unless they can prove a close family connection to the country. This crisis got international media attention when thousands of Rohingyas escaped away from inhuman conditions in Myanmar in their rickety boats to South Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. Initially, Malaysian government refused to give them asylum and the response of other governments was also not positive.  Human Traffickers made the most of situation exploiting the plight of these homeless people.

In January, 2017, UN Special Envoy Yanghee Lee openly criticized the Human Rights situation in Myanmar. She particularly criticized the actions take by Myanmar Army in Rakhinee State, which has caused 65,000 Rohingyas to flee across the border to Bangladesh. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “was horrified” by a report on conditions in Myanmar and sexual abuse of Rohingyas by Myanmar Security forces. Pope Francis has also criticised the persecution of Rohingyas by the Government and the Army. He said that Christianity is a religion of tolerance. He said about Rohingya’s that “They have been suffering, they are being tortured and killed, simply because they uphold their Muslim faith.”

UN Investigators have interviewed several escapees from Myanmar and have come to the conclusion that Myanmar government is engaged in massive ethnic cleansing. This ethnic cleansing has garnered huge local support. When Malaysian Government sent aid for Rohingyas, large number of Buddhist (normally known for tolerance and belief in Ahimsa or Non-Violence) monks and demonstrators protested at Thilawa and Yangoon Port waving “No Rohingyas” sign. Myanmar Government initially barred the entry of the relief carrying ships and their passage to Rakhinee State Capital Sittwe. Later when Myanmar Government often a little under international pressure, they demanded that the relief be distributed equally to Rakhinee Buddhists and Rohingyas.

When Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s first democratic leader is facing great dilemma as her international reputation in global community is at stake. Human rights groups across the globe has criticized her action. Massoud Shadjareh, head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission has labelled her as Islamophobic. What kind of world we are living in where massive rape and slaughter is encouraged by government machinery headed by a Nobel Peace prize winner. When she took reins of power, Rohingyas and Human rights groups cheered expecting that under her guidance, the government stand against Rohingyas will mellow down. But no such thing has happened actually.

Rohingyas have become a nationless and landless people, they have earned the name “Boat People” because they got global attention, when they tried top escape persecution by Myanmar Army in rickety boats. Whole world has criticized Myanmar for treatment of Rohingyas but few were willing to give them asylum. World community has given only lip service to the idea of giving refuge to Rohingyas. Leaders of the world have been talking but nobody has been willing to offer some land to the landless for living. Finally, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has emerged a leader, who is willing to offer some land to these landless. She has made arrangements for temporary settlements at Cox’s Bazar. She has designated an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal called Thengar Char for relocation of Rohingyas as part of an ambitious plan for resettlement of Rohingyas. This plan has been criticised because of inhabitability of the island on accounting of its being prone to flooding at high tide. However, here we will like to say that land reclamation is not a new thing and it has been done successfully in Mumbai, Manila and several cities and what can be done in Mumbai or Manila can be replicated in Thengar Char.

Bangladesh is not a rich nation with budgetary surplus and its government is seeking International support for making the island habitable. “The foreign minister requested for international help and also for taking the Rohingya population,” Imam said. “Bangladesh has a serious political, economic and financial problem because of the influx.” Bangladesh government has already kickstarted the project to make the island habitable. Prime Minister’s military secretary Major General Mia Mohammad Zainul Abedin has visited the island and asked the local administration to set up a helipad, jetty, deep tube well as pre-cursor for the project of making the Island habitable. Bangladesh has started on the path of rehabilitation of Rohingyas while rest of the world is giving lip service to the plight of Rohingyas.

Photo Credit: Prime Minister office of Bangladesh

*Editor of