Nasima Khatun, 60, lives in a shelter camp near Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Along with her daughters, she endured a life-threatening journey to flee religious persecution in Myanmar. A few weeks back, Myanma military took control of her village and started firing in all directions. She lost her husband, land, house, and community. She is not alone.
Every day, Al Jazeera (the source of Nasima’s story) publishes gut wrenching tales of Rohingya Muslims fleeing terror unleashed by Burmese forces. The United Nations reports that over 87,000 members of the persecuted Muslim community have crossed into Bangladesh since violence erupted on August 25.
In this glorious age of “human rights” diplomacy, major world powers have not only refused to take moral responsibility, but have also refrained from directly condemning Myanmar’s oppressive regime.
Reported by Reuters on September 18, 2017 by the publication’s staff, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Secretary-General that China supports efforts by Myanmar to protect its national security. Myanmar’s other neighbour, India, is indirectly blaming Rohingyas for the ongoing crisis. Wire, a left-leaning publication in India, published Devirupa Mitra’s article on September 19, 2017 stating India’s representative to the UN claimed that violence was “triggered” by “terrorist attacks which led to the loss of lives amongst the security forces as well as the civilian population.”
Furthermore, instead of taking in more refugees, India’s Hindu nationalist government has openly supported the deportation of Muslim refugees. Even the world’s self-proclaimed human rights activist, the United States, has careful worded its statements to not offend Myanma interests. Dhaka Tribune, a national newspaper in Bangladesh, outlined on September 19, 2017 that the U.S. will simply provide humanitarian aid to Bangladesh, and will not put direct pressure on the Myanma junta.
So, why is the international community always apathetic to the cause of persecuted minorities? Why do great powers that love proclaiming their prowess to the world suddenly become shamefully silent? Why have we always failed to prevent ethnic cleansing? The answer is simple, yet scary. In a world where diplomacy abides to the sacred principle of national interest, countries often have very little to gain from fighting for persecuted minorities. For instance, why would rising powers like China and India offend a vital neighbour like Myanmar and push it away from their sphere of influence?
Domestically, refugees have always been a contentious political issue. In the short-run, they induce an additional economic burden, increase the prospects of law and order problems, and disturb the ethnic makeup of a country. Why would a poor country like Bangladesh ever risk overstretching itself?
Our analysis yields a gloomy conclusion. It is absolutely naïve to expect the international community to act. As long as countries prioritize interests over people, persecuted minorities will not have their voices heard. They will be trampled, and quickly forgotten. This is unfortunately the sad reality we have to grapple with.
When I first started writing this article, I hoped to give my readers a solution, an optimistic outlook. However, as I identified the cause of our apathy, I realised that I would be lying to myself if I gave you one.