Thousands of Rohingya refugees marked the second anniversary of their exodus into Bangladesh by rallying and praying as they demand Myanmar grant them citizenship and other rights before they agree to return.
About 200,000 Rohingya participated in a peaceful gathering, which was attended by UN officials, at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday.
People sloganeering “God is great, long live Rohingya” as they marched in the heart of the world’s largest refugee camp to commemorate what they described as “Genocide Day”.
Some carried placards and banners, reading “Never again! Rohingya genocide remembrance day” and “Restore our citizenship”.
On August 25, 2017, nearly 740,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh – joining 200,000 already there – after Myanmar’s armed forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks on security posts.
Sunday’s rally came days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border.
“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” Mohib Ullah, one of the organisers of Sunday’s protest said.
The Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority, are not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and are rendered stateless.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal in November 2017, with a plan to return the refugees within two years.
Bangladesh, with the help of the UN refugee agency, attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya on Thursday for a second time after the last attempt in November, but none agreed to go back voluntarily.
A UN-established investigation last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crackdown on the Rohingya.
Myanmar dismissed the allegations.
On Thursday, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released a new report concluding that rapes of Rohingya women by Myanmar’s security forces were systemic and demonstrated an intent to commit genocide.
The report said the discrimination Myanmar practised against the Rohingya in peacetime aggravated the sexual violence towards them during times of conflict.
The UN has called the Rohingya crisis a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Source : Various