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Among the issues that are being discussed in the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, many leaders are addressing the Rohingya refugee crisis that has led to thousands of people being killed and displaced from their State.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority who have lived in the Buddhist Myanmar’s Rakhine State since the 8th century. They are not considered one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups and in 1982 their citizenship has been denied. Myanmar considers them as illegal immigrants coming from the neighbouring Bangladesh, so they do not have freedom of movement or access to education or employment. They are denied land and property rights and the land on which they live is one of the poorest states in the country, with ghetto-like camps and a lack of basic needs.

Actually, they have always faced discrimination. During the years of the British colonialism, many workers migrated to Myanmar from India and Bangladesh and because Myanmar was considered a province of India, this migration was defined as internal. After the declaration of independence in 1948, the government viewed this migration as illegal and so denied citizenship to many Rohingya, but it allowed those whose families had lived there for at least two generations to apply for identity cards. This situation worsened after the military coup of 1962 and a new citizenship legislation of 1982 rendered them stateless. The country has then struggled to move from a military-controlled junta to a democracy headed by “unofficial” elected leader and Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi.

In late August, the violence between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and Myanmar’s military exploded and the latter one launched a “clearance operation” to purge Rohingya militants. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Burma is carrying out a systematic attack on civilians to expel this minority from the Buddhist country and defined this situation as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published reports that witness human rights abuses by the Myanmar authorities.

Since the violence began, more than 400.000 people have fled to Bangladesh and thousands of women have been beaten and raped by government soldiers. At the beginning, Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto leader of the country, has refused to discuss about this situation. Indeed, she broke her silence only two days ago, with a controversial speech in which she condemns all human rights violations and unlawful violence. She said that she is aware of the “world’s attention” focused on Myanmar and that her government “does not fear international scrutiny.” She also added that “it is possible to visit these areas and ask to those who have stayed why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages.” Actually, access to Rakhine State has been restricted to media, human rights groups, and diplomats and even Amnesty International has accused the government of denying aid workers access to the State. The Nobel Peace Prize used the word “Rohingya” in her speech only in relation to the Army (ARSA) and defined them as a terrorist group. Later on, the Rohingya Army released a statement saying that it is obliged to defend and protect the Rohingya community in line with the principle of self-defence and denied its categorisation as a terrorist organization.

In the UNGA, UN Secretary General Guterres asked to Myanmar authorities to “end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognize the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity.” Many other leaders and Nobel Peace Prize laureates, as Malala and Justin Trudeau, are asking to Aung San Suu Kyi to take control of this situation and end the violence against this minority.

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Caporedattrice International per l'A.A 2017/2018.