NEW YORK — The Rohingya have suffered a pattern of persecution, lacking even the most basic human rights, starting with citizenship, by their own country, the Myanmar, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
In an article published Tuesday in the Washington Post, Guterres wrote that systematic human rights abuses by the security forces in Myanmar over the past year were designed to instil terror in the Rohingya population, leaving them with a dreadful choice: stay on in fear of death or leave everything simply to survive.
Small children butchered in front of their parents. Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed, the UN official said, adding that villages burned to the ground.
Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts I heard last week in Bangladesh from Rohingya refugees who had fled widespread killings and violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, Guterres explained.
Describing the horrible situation in Myanmar, Guterres said: " one man, a member of this mostly Muslim ethnic group, broke down in tears describing how his eldest son was shot dead in front of him, the man’s mother was brutally murdered and his house was torched to ashes. He said he took refuge in a mosque but was discovered by soldiers who abused him and burned the Koran." These victims of what has been rightly called ethnic cleansing are suffering an anguish that can only stir a visitor’s heartbreak and anger. Their horrific experiences defy comprehension, yet they are the reality for nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees, he added.
After a harrowing journey to safety, these refugees are now trying to cope with the harsh conditions in the Bangladesh district of Cox’s Bazar that have naturally resulted from the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
Bangladesh is a developing country with resources stretched to the limits. Yet, while larger and wealthier countries around the world are closing doors to outsiders, the government and people of Bangladesh have opened their borders and hearts to the Rohingya, he added.
The compassion and generosity of the Bangladeshi people show the best of humanity and have saved many thousands of lives. But the response to this crisis must be a global one.
A Global Compact on Refugees is being finalized by member states of the United Nations so front-line countries such as Bangladesh are not alone in responding to a fleeing wave of humanity.
For now, however, the United Nations and humanitarian agencies are working flat-out alongside the refugees themselves and host communities to improve conditions. But far more resources are desperately needed to avert disaster and to give fuller expression to the principle that a refugee crisis calls for a global sharing of responsibility.
An international humanitarian appeal for almost $1 billion is funded at only 26 percent. This shortfall means that malnutrition prevails in the camp. It means that access to water and sanitation is far from ideal. It means that we cannot provide basic education for refugee children. Not least, it means inadequate measures to alleviate the immediate monsoon risk, Guterres wrote.