According to most historians, there were at least five genocides during the 20th century. Of the most known were the Holocaust during WWII and the Rwandan genocide during the 1990’s.
Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. Genocide is typically considered to be a form of ethnic cleansing, which is defined as the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society.
Genocide and ethnic cleansing are vehemently detested by the overwhelming majority of people in all societies all over the Earth. But why is it that something that is so openly detested is only very rarely spoken about while it’s happening?
It is common for most people to hear about genocides or other forms of ethnic cleansing only after they have happened. The public typically learns about these events through some form of history class or through films or television. As a society, we get so sad reading about the Native American genocide, we feel heartbreak when we watch “Schinlder’s List” documenting the Holocaust or “Hotel Rwanda” documenting the Rwandan genocide.
Then as countries, societies and individuals, we say “never again.” We say, “Never again will we let something like this go unnoticed,” yet as an international community, we find ourselves at that moment again in which the cries of an ethnic cleansing seem to be falling on deaf ears.
According to the United Nations, right now in Burma there is an ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya ethnic group. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Burma, and according to Human Rights Watch, they have faced a progressive ethnic cleansing since August of 2012.
Since that time, they have faced forced labor, limited access to education and health care, arbitrary detention and other civil rights abuses leading up to the ethnic cleansing.
In August of 2017, there was a severe military crackdown, and within the first month, according to the most conservative estimates, 6,700 Rohingya were murdered by the Burmese military.
Also since that time, over 300,000 Rohingya have left Burma for neighboring countries like Bangladesh and India, culminating in over 700,000 Rohingya refugees that have had to move abroad.
To escape, many Rohingya have had to cross the mountains barefoot. According to many reports, Burma’s military has gone as far as shooting civilians as they’re leaving and laying landmines along the borders in the mountains as the refugees are crossing.
This issue has been going on for some time, but has been largely ignored by western media, and has even evaded the radar of some western governments.
It’s important that as an international community, we not give our attention to this crisis 30 years from now through history books or an Oscar nominated film. The human rights violations and the assault on freedom in Burma is happening now, so let us give our attention, our voices and our support to the crisis and not wait until it’s a trend in 20 to 30 years.