In response to all the rubbish written about the ‘Saudi-backed jihadis’ of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA): it appears they are small groups of irregular forces standing in defense of the Rohingya people against the high-tech Burmese military. True jihadis in the real & best sense of the word; those called champions of the oppressed when you consider that the military wiped out most of the underground network of Rohingya citizen reporters. They deserve respect, not opprobrium.
My apologies for too lengthy posts about the Rohingya crisis but I didn’t know how to abbreviate the information. They are in a crucible now & we need to discuss our role in standing with them.
The New York Times published an article yesterday titled “Will the Rohingya Ever Return Home?” That profoundly sad & heartbreaking question must be on the mind of every Rohingya refugee living in squalor & without rights in Bangladesh & other countries. Their situation differs from many refugees because they are stateless, denied legal identity & citizenship by Burma which refuses to call them by their proper name but refers to them contemptuously as “Bengalis.” Their existential crisis is not just a matter of losing belongings, livestock, lands but their historic ties to Arakan/Rakhine state, their culture, social, economic, & political life in all their richness & complexities, & their cohesion as a people. The genocide against them is a political & psychological dislocation shattering the very foundations of their lives. Where do they go from here?
They must also be asking “If we cannot return to Burma, can we remain living in such squalor in Bangladesh where our children have no rights, no futures, no hopes nor dreams? Will they live & die in such conditions?” With so many countries like China & Russia arming the Burmese junta & so many others raking in billions from trade & investments in Burma, are the odds against them too great? Is it time for the Rohingya to write their obituary as a people?
They know damn well there’s no point in false or romantic hopes. Without the development of massive political opposition to the military junta within Burma (as there was in 1988) & an opposition that can bring down a very entrenched, adaptable, & powerful fascist regime, the odds against the Rohingya safely returning to Burma for a long while are very dire. Without such an internal opposition & in the absence of sustained & massive international solidarity, the Rohingya people will likely be in exile for a while. But nothing in this world is static, especially in the barbaric phase of capitalism. The Burmese economy is controlled by the generals who are implementing a neoliberal economic program to solve the stagnation crises of military capitalism. This is placing them at odds with Burmese working people & farmers who are being expropriated, environmentally poisoned, & displaced. Since Burma is a prison house of nations, they are also engaged in civil wars with several ethnic groups, some of whom have expressed solidarity with the Rohingya people.
Media portrays the Burmese people as a solid phalanx of racism against the Rohingya people & fully supportive of the genocide. It doesn’t help that the Catholic Church is part of that. The 1988 movement was a long time ago in political terms but it left a heritage & shows what is possible in Burma other than sniveling support to the fascist junta. Any opposition that does exist is either in exile, in prison, or subjected to repression. When did that ever stop tough-minded men & women from rejecting tyranny & fighting for justice?
By collaborating & building forms of solidarity, particularly in defense of refugee rights, we can help embolden political opposition. The two young Reuters reporters arrested for exposing massacres of the Rohingya are just one expression of political opposition we know exists. If we defend them, we will give heart to other Burmese that they will not be alone if they speak out against genocide, ethnic repression & war, neoliberal exploitation & plunder. Building the forms of international solidarity are of the essence in helping the Rohingya people get back home to live in peace as their children deserve.
Photo is Rohingya woman at Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh.
(Photo by Adam Dean for NY Times)
Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina is called the “mother of humanity” by mesmerized disciples who apparently don’t recognize the ruthless inhumanity of sweatshops & child labor or of forcibly deporting traumatized refugees back to the killing fields of Burma or to an uninhabitable island in the middle of nowhere. Believe it or not, Bangladesh has not abandoned that monstrous scheme. You have to hand it to her for being an adept politician particularly skilled in handling photo ops of herself in maternal poses with Rohingya refugees–while at the same time entirely collusive with Burmese genocidaires.
Hasina’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal just handed a list 8,032 Rohingya refugees from 1,673 families to Burmese Home Minister Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe for forcible repatriation. Were any of the 8,032 people consulted about whether they want to go back? Are any being treated for injuries sustained in their escape from genocide just a few months ago? Do any have special medical needs? Have they even recovered from the trauma of genocide? How many are children? Are there orphans, widows, or elderly among them? Are any of them thought to be political dissidents by either government? What happens if they refuse to go? Will they be shipped back at gunpoint & in livestock carriers?
Rather than post one of the countless photos of Sheikh Hasina doing her maternal schtick for the media, we should look at the faces of these Rohingya refugee children & ask ourselves whether they deserve to be deported to concentration camps? Whether they deserve to live in squalor in refugee camps in Bangladesh? Mostly, we need to ask what we can do to demand no forced deportation–no decisions of any kind about the future of Rohingya refugees without their direct participation–& to demand our governments provide massive humanitarian aid & asylum rights to all to whichever countries they choose with visas & full refugee rights.
(Photo by Tomas Munita for NYTimes, September 2017)
You know that fiction governments & journalists promote about the distinction between the Aung San Suu Ky civilian government trying to forge democracy but helpless against the Rohingya genocide because it does not control the military junta? Whether that deceit comes from treachery to protect foreign trade & investments in Burma or from political naiveté doesn’t really matter when it comes to consequences for the Rohingya people. Investigative journalists should be able to distinguish the facts which speak louder than lies. This is Burma’s Home Minister Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, a cabinet member for the so-called civilian government, who arrived today in Bangladesh to negotiate the forcible deportation of Rohingya refugees. For the moment, we can put aside allegations that Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe orchestrated the 2017 assassination of Ko Ni, the constitutional lawyer who consulted for the Suu Kyi government & was shot dead at the airport while holding his small grandson. After all, they are only allegations & will remain so since it is excluded that Suu Kyi would initiate an investigation into a general who is a member of her cabinet.
We can however look at what is reported by the so-called civilian government itself. Its representative signed the forcible repatriation agreement with Bangladesh whilst the military & nationalist vigilante death squads are still torching Rohingya villages, bulldozing & expropriating Rohingya lands, & still executing & hunting down Rohingya fleeing for their lives. If it is true that the Suu Kyi government is attempting to forge democracy but cannot control the military, it would never agree to forcibly deporting people so the military can complete the “final solution.” What kind of democracy would include or ignore genocide? Exactly what kind of democracy is that civilian government trying to forge?
If the civilian officials have nothing to hide, it would also not put Arakan/Rakhine state on lock down so that human rights monitors & journalists are debarred entry to investigate mass graves, mass land expropriations, conditions in those camps. If it really is trying to forge democracy, it would want some heat put on the generals by international exposure of their genocide. But Home Minister Lt. General Kyaw Swe is in Dhaka to press for the deportation plan to proceed despite objections by several prominent politicians, human rights groups, & UN officials that the Rohingya are still in danger & do not want to go back & be slaughtered.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief & Resettlement, a cabinet post of the so-called civilian government is the agency building the concentration camps for deported Rohingya–the camps that look like army barracks, don’t appear to have sanitation facilities, & are surrounded by reinforced fences topped with razor wire. Can someone explain persuasively how concentration camps fit into the plan for forging democracy?
Photo is Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, Home Minister of the so-called civilian cabinet.
(Photo from Rohingya Vision)
If anyone is debating whether to see the movie “Molly’s Game,” don’t waste your money. It really stunk. It is based on a true story but it just isn’t a story worth telling about people who aren’t particularly interesting. There are all sorts of people whose lives are so much more interesting & dramatic than obsessive high-stakes poker players. There was no emotional depth, no ‘there-there’ at all to the lead character played by Jessica Chastain. One could get more real drama out of the man who lives next door or any number of ordinary people who struggle with life. Now they have a story worth telling. One could get more real drama out of a fire hydrant. If I had to describe the film & its characters in one word, it would be “vapid.” Filthy rich, but vapid.
Roger Waters is fearless & uncompromising in his support for Palestinians & BDS but will someone please kick his ass for his outrageous & intemperate misogyny? He does Palestinian solidarity no service by using women as an insult & shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this crap. He may be tough lounging in his palatial homes but Ahed Tamimi is a hell of a lot tougher sitting in an Israeli military prison. How dare he insult her gender!
In practical politics, not just ideally or romantically, solidarity with freedom struggles is not an act of noblesse oblige or some stinking pity thing. It is absolutely reciprocal. As war, occupation, persecution, genocide, & brutal exploitation expand & dominate the globe, none of us are getting out of this on our own. We’re in this together. A victory of the oppressed anywhere changes the balance of power to the advantage of the oppressed everywhere. Kids are at stake. All our lives are at stake. The future of humanity is at stake. We just have to learn forms of solidarity that are not episodic but as relentless as those of Palestinians, Kashmiris, Syrians, Rohingya, & others who refuse to bend the knee to violence & power.
Mehbooba Mufti, India’s chief minister in Kashmir, reported last month that in the past two years the government had arrested 11,290 stone pelters in Kashmir. She claimed that first-time stone pelters between 2008 & 2017 were released on amnesty with conditions that parents take action to prevent future resistance to occupation. What actually happened to most of these young people–whether they were released, detained, placed in administrative detention, charged with a crime, or are subjected to harassment or other punitive measures wasn’t reported. Except that Mufti did report steps taken to “wean” young people away from “anti-national activities & militancy,” including surveillance on social media & periodically shutting down the internet. Another measure is to impose restrictions on protests like those on February 11th, the day to commemorate freedom fighter Maqbool Bhat who was hung by the Indian government on February 11, 1984.
These are protesters, with a stone pelter in front, on February 11th in Srinagar to commemorate the life & death of Maqbool Bhat. May his legacy always inspire them in their struggle for freedom as he inspires the oppressed around the world.
(Photo by Faisal Khan)
The dignity of Palestinians who stand against apartheid & ethnic cleansing: 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi arriving in Ofer military court near Ramallah, West Bank, to face twelve charges in a kangaroo court for slapping two Israeli soldiers armed to the teeth.
The hearing on Tuesday was closed to the public & to journalists since kangaroo courts cannot tolerate too close a scrutiny. Her trial was postponed until March 11th. Reportedly, nearly 100% of all cases in Israel’s military kangaroo courts end in convictions.
International defense of Ahed Tamimi is part of solidarity with all Palestinian political prisoners, including children. Every year an estimated 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested & prosecuted in an Israeli military court, mostly for stone pelting which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. As of December 2017, 321 children were political prisoners in Israeli prisons where they are subject to abuse.
(Photo by Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)