Is the Rohingya crisis a genocide?

Based on Professor Gregory H. Stanton's theory, this crisis could be considered genocide

Is the Rohingya crisis a genocide?

Since 2015, the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingyas has gained international visibility and attention. This crisis unleashed the apparent dilemma in the international community about whether or not it should be identified as a genocide. On the one hand, the government of Aung San Suu Kyi denies an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. On the other, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein classified the situation as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and condemned Myanmar’s refusal to Human Rights investigations. This situation hinders the action power of the United Nations and also alienates the aid needed by the ethnic group.

According to Gregory H. Stanton, a Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at the George Mason University, the “Genocidal Process” can be analyzed through 8 phases. The stages are classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. In light of these stages, we analyze the Rohingya case:

Classification and Symbolization

The first stage calls for a racial and ethnic classification through laws, like the Nazi Nuremberg laws of the apartheid racial classification laws in South Africa. In the case of Myanmar, there are four laws to be mentioned: 1) Marriage restrictions (the Rohingya are the only ethnic group in Burma that must ask the government for permission to marry); 2) No freedom of movement (strict limitations to transit within or between townships in Rakhine State); 3) Two Child-Limit (Rohingya women are legally forbidden to have more than two children); and 4) their condition of Statelessness (the Myanmar’s government through the 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya an official legal status).

Read also: The uncertain future of Rohingya Muslims

Symbolization is the stage where the group obtains a social label or name. For example, Myanmar’s officials call the Rohingya “Bengalis” in a despective way to claim the ethnic group come from Bangladesh and have no relation to Burma. However, these stages, according to Stanton, are “fundamental operations in all cultures and they become steps of genocide ONLY when combined with dehumanization”.

Dehumanization, Organization, and Polarization

Dehumanization is concept understood as the “denial of the humanity of others”, consequently, permitting the murder or individuals with impunity. The Rohingya group has faced continuous discrimination, religious intolerance, and violence. One of the many examples where the ethnic minority has been attacked due to religious or ethnic motivations and the government has failed to provide human security. Moreover, Myanmar’s officials have also increased the restrictions for the United Nations and other international organizations to provide humanitarian help. From this perspective, the government has shown no willingness to provide neither legal nor basic humanitarian help to the Rohingya.

The organization of the genocidal process can vary, in some cultures in highly bureaucratic and in others is not.  However,  “it is always organized, often by states but also by militias and hate groups”. For example, the previous attack in Tula Toli by the army across northern Rakhine state in September or the mob attack last years in the mosque and Muslim-owned buildings in the Bago province by a Buddhist nationalist.

Violent and discriminatory actions derived from ethnic-religious tensions, that clearly show the polarization in the society. According to Stanton, without further action, it could  “proceed in a downward cycle of killings until, like a whirlpool, it reaches the vortex of mass murder".

Preparation, Extermination, and Denial

In the three last stages, a genocide may include a higher preparation for the identification of the victims. In some cases maps are made, individuals are forced to carry an ethnic ID or some asset to easily perform a methodical social division. Also, ghettos or camps are created, and in its more brutal form, exterminations camps are used. According, to the UNHCR more than 809 thousand people have fled persecution and violence in Myanmar to seek refuge in Bangladesh, and Human Rights Watch estimated more than 288 Rohingya villages have been destroyed. Also, in 2015 an investigation from the Yale Law School mentioned the classification of the Rohingya crisis could be defined as genocide under the international law, due to the systematic violence the group is suffering because of their ethnic and religious identity.

The excessive violence in Myanmar against the Rohingyas group is just the tip of the iceberg of a deep political-ethnic conflict in the Southeast Asian country. Despite the political discussions that exist to define a situation as a genocide, it is evident that there is a humanitarian crisis against the Rohingya because they belong to an ethnic and religious group different from the majority in Myanmar. Therefore, it is urgent that both the United Nations and the international community take a firm stand on the crisis. Preventing the violence the Rohingya live and let them live with recognition, freedom, and security. Because as Stanton says “the strongest antidote to genocide is justice".

 

Latin American Post | Alessa Flores Vela

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda

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