Activists denounce sexual violence against Rohingya

Thousands of women and girls are believed to have been tortured, raped by Myanmar security forces in the last six months

By Anadolu Agency

International experts and activists have called for more solidarity with Rohingya women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence by Myanmar security forces.

Speaking at “Rohingya Crisis and Solutions”, an international conference in Cologne, Germany, Dr. Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Coordinator, said thousands of women and girls are believed to have been victims of sexual violence in the last six months.

“This violence is not only widespread, it is deliberate and it is targeted. It is part of the campaign,” he said, referring to the Myanmar military’s recent crackdown to drive the Rohingya out of northern Rakhine state.

Razia Sultana, an educator specializing in trauma and sexual violence, said many Rohingya women and girls were tortured, gang raped or killed by the Myanmar army.

“My own research and interviews provide evidence that government troops raped well over 300 women and girls in 17 villages in Rakhine state,” she said in a video message.

Sultana criticized the international community for failing to stop the violence by the security forces.

“The international community — especially the UN Security Council — has failed us. This latest crisis could have been prevented if the warning signs since 2012 had not been ignored.”

Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization, has called for courage and determination in bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice.

“In 1995, a vast number of women, mothers, girls and little girls were raped in Srebrenica. That is why we, mothers, refused to sit still and raised our voices seeking truth and justice,” she told the conference.

“We gathered in great numbers, protested, gathered in the streets and public areas demanding the authorities to listen to us. At first, they did not listen or understand. But we refused to give up and demanded answers to our pleas. After excessive effort, they finally heard us,” she added.

Subasic, whose husband, son and other 22 family members were massacred in July 1995 by Serbian military forces, underlined the importance of researching and documenting the crimes, submitting petitions to international organizations and filing lawsuits against those responsible for these crimes.

She urged world powers to take action against crimes and genocidal policies by the Myanmar regime.

“Staying silent about genocide is nothing other than approval,” she said.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the UN.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on Dec. 12, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

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