OUr Responsibility to Rohingya

Zoha Siddiqi, Sidwell '19 and Esha Chaudhuri, Harvard University, '21

A crucial information recap on the all too overlooked atrocities facing the Rohingya Muslims, and why – and how – we can do something.

354 villages have been burned. 655,000 people have fled from their homes. Thousands have been raped and murdered. Hundreds have died in the formidable path to safety.

This is only part of the story of the Rohingya Muslims.

The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority group living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, a primarily Buddhist coastal country in South Asia. Since August of 2017, the Rohingya have been subject to ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s military. However, this oppression is not new – in fact, the Rohingya have faced persecution and violence by their country’s government and military for over half a century.

In 1962, a military coup in Myanmar installed dictator U Ne Win to power, starting a 49-year oppressive military rule in the country. That same year, the Rohingya were given foreign identity cards in place of national registration cards, and in 1982, they were bluntly denied citizenship, limiting their access to schooling and healthcare and cementing their status as a stateless population. In 2012, the murder and rape of a Buddhist in Myanmar caused a two-year long sentence of persecution and violence by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya – Rohingya families were even limited to having two children – and in 2014, the Rohingya were excluded from the Myanmar census. In August of 2017, as a response to a Rohingya insurgency at a military post, the Myanmar military started the most recent and unprecedentedly aggressive waves of violence against the minority group.

Photo: New York Times, 2017

No matter who we are, we have a stake in this situation, and it is our responsibility to take action. If you are a Muslim, you have the responsibility to help your persecuted brothers and sisters. If you are a woman, you must denounce the severe sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls. If you are South Asian, you need to assist the Bangladeshi refugee camps struggling to provide food, shelter, and clothing to the escaped Rohingya.

As a Muslim, a woman, and the daughter of two South Asians, I feel especially pained by the situation. As all these parts of my identity coincide with those who are suffering, I feel that it is my duty to become involved in finding a solution to this horrific problem. However, regardless of my faith, my gender, and my ethnicity, my humanity is what compels me most to take action.

As a human, we all have the responsibility to fight these crimes against humanity.


1. Contact your elected officials. There are bills in both the House and Senate that will place sanctions on the Burmese military and travel restrictions on military leaders if they are passed. Though there is no guarantee, targeted sanctions have produced concessions from the Burmese military in the past.

a. Find your representatives here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/

b. Call and tell them to support H.R.4223 and S.2060.

2. Donate to refugee aid organizations. As civilians, there is not much we can do directly to stop violence. However, we can help mitigate its consequences and aid its survivors. The IRC is “on the ground in Myanmar and Bangladesh providing as many families as possible with water, food security, protection, and health care. There are thousands more who have been uprooted from their homes and are in need of lifesaving aid.”

a. Donate to UNHCR at http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/rohingya-emergency.

b. Donate to the International Rescue Committee at www.rescue.org.

3. Spread the word. International awareness is crucial to pressure governments to address an issue. Share an article on social media to help educate others about the issue. Several are listed below (or share a post from the Human Rights Watch Facebook page).





e. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41566561

4. Stay informed. ‘Like’ the Human Rights Watch or International Rescue Committee on Facebook. Follow coverage of the crisis by HRW (https://www.hrw.org/asia/burma), Amnesty International (https://www.amnestyusa.org/rohingya/), or other news organizations.