St. Lucy's Priory High School

The world’s most persecuted people

Dwelling in Rakhine State of Myanmar and adjacent areas of neighboring Bangladesh, are the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya are largely Muslim while a small portion are Hindu. They speak the language of Rohingyalish, linguistically similar to Chillagonian, which is spoken in the southernmost area of Bangladesh.

Prior to 1962, the Rohingya were recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma, now referred to as Myanmar, where members of the ethnic group served in high government positions such as representatives of the Burmese parliament, parliamentary secretaries, and even ministers. However, 1962 marked the beginning of the end of the Rohingya people’s political and social rights.

A 1982 Citizenship Law enacted by the Myanmar government stated that members that settled in Myanmar after modern 1823 were excluded from obtaining citizenship. According to the Myanmar government, the Rohingya had not met the cutoff date.

The Rohingya were thought to be a recent creation. Contrary to this claim, there has been substantial proof to meet the belief that the Rohingya inhabited the Rakhine State for at least 25 years before the cutoff date that granted citizenship and recognition.

What the United Nations labeled as “the world’s most persecuted people,” have suffered tremendous systematic discrimination for decades because of their stateless nature. Not only were they wrongfully denied citizenship, they are currently restricted from access to basic necessities such as medical assistance and education.

In 2012, the Arkan Rohingya Salvation Army, better known as the ARSA, was formed following Rakhine State riots that ensued due to weeks of sectarian disputes. The ARSA have staged attacks on the people of Myanmar and even murdered two security officials on Oct. 16, 2016.

The Rohingya claim that their attacks were retaliation for their maltreatment and lack of recognition.

In August of 2017, the Central Committee for Counter Terrorism of Myanmar declared the ARSA a terrorist group.

The group, however, stated that Myanmar has only vilified the Rohingyas’ actions to defend their rights in order to make the government appear as though it were fighting terrorism.

The Myanmar military has, over the course of several years, burned down dozens of Rohingya villages, and raped and slaughtered women and children.

These actions led the United Nations to label these ensuing events as a “textbook definition of ethnic cleansing.”

The Rohingya have been demonized in the country they were once part of, and stripped from their citizenship and recognition as members of the Asian country of Myanmar, leaving them stateless. They have only suffered, as well as imposed tragic consequences, because of their fight to be recognized as a denomination, and to receive humane and equal treatment.

–Maeli Lopez