It was early on Sunday morning when Mahmud heard the shocking news. His neighbor told him: “Last night there were several attacks on border police camps in our area. Nine policemen were killed and many weapons looted. The army blames an unknown Rohingya rebel group. Now we are heading for trouble!” The government immediately introduced a curfew and started operations to capture the attackers. Mahmud’s neighbor was right: This meant difficult times ahead for the disenfranchised Rohingya population of Northern Rakhine State.
Since that fateful 9th of October, the situation for the Rohingya people has turned from bad to worse. Army and police combed the area in search for the alleged terrorists – without much regard for rule of law or human rights. In the absence of independent observers or media the security forces showed no restraint. Soon, the first reports about atrocities like arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings or burning of houses surfaced in online media sources.
One night, Mahmud heard ominous sounds approaching his house. Instantly he understood that now it’s his village’s turn. And only moments later the soldiers violently banged against his locked gate. Trembling, he opened the gate. Immediately he was pushed to the ground and restrained by a soldier. Around a dozen other security personnel rushed into his house and ordered his family to come out. They had to wait and watch while the soldiers searched their house. They turned everything upside down and took all their valuables: money, gold, even a pack of cigarettes! Mahmud was filled with helpless anger. He asked the commanding officer: “Since you haven’t found anything illegal, why do you rob us of the few possessions we have?” The officer replied with a violent punch which sent Mahmud straight to the ground. Then, two soldiers grabbed the younger sister of Mahmud’s wife who was living with them. They threw her on the ground and raped her repeatedly. The family looked on in horror, children crying, women sobbing.
Stories like Mahmud’s are commonplace in Northern Rakhine State after the October incidents. These “counter-terrorism operations” only deepen the resentment and hatred between Buddhist and Muslim communities even further. The flicker of hope which many Rohingya have had after the new government took office earlier this year has been brutally extinguished. Now, many Rohingya people only wait for the reopening of the border so that they can flee abroad. Others are hoping for revenge… The next round of escalating violence and streams of refugees seems to be just a matter of time.
- For an end to the cycle of violence, hatred and despair, and for a lasting just solution of the conflict.
- That the perpetrators of violence will be brought to justice according to the law.
- For healing of the wounds in body and soul of the traumatized victims.
- For God’s special protection on the few families of Rohingya believers in the area. They are fearful of both, the government and their Muslim neighbors, who might use the opportunity to harm them.