Thursday 13 November 2014

Rohingya friend: between a rock and a hard place

Out of the frying pan into the fire. Between a rock and a hard place. The latest I read on CNN "Caught between a hammer and an anvil". That's where my Rohingya friend is right now.

I'll call him John. If I call him John, rather than Mohammed, might you better understand he is a human being with feelings just like you and I? (or to paraphrase Obama in 2012, someone who holds within himself the same dignity just as you do and I do).

He used to live in the ghetto, where he would send us updates on their struggle for survival, and the odd photo, of malnourished people wading through mud, fishing for mini minnows to feed their starving children.

Being the oldest of the boys, the responsibility to feed his siblings and find medicine for his poorly mother (with heart condition) weighed heavy on his shoulders. So at a time when most young men would be living it up, studying for a promising future whilst partying hard in the evenings, John took the decision that most young Rohingya men his age are obliged to take: to escape, to find work in order to send money back to his family to save them from premature death due to malnutrition and lack of medicine.

Fortunately for him he did not have to face death by drowning, as for most Rohingya the only way out is via the sea and almost definitely into the hands of the brutal traffickers. John managed to bribe his way out of the ghetto and was smuggled into the city where he faced a new enemy: loneliness. The message he sent me was that people in the city, even ones he knew as a child, would not talk to him. Why was that? we pondered. We concluded it was fear - fear of another person's needs, when you can hardly take care of yourself. Even I was afraid to listen to him, I admitted, because his story was so sad, and I so unable.

He had saved up his every last penny and handed them over to a relative stranger to purchase an ID card and passport, without which he could do nothing. With some regret he realised he had nothing left and would likely see nothing in return. So he had no money, and his place of residence (a relative of a friend) could not go on indefinitely, since all were struggling to exist. I tweeted a little of his sadness and a generous soul stepped forward with some life support: £200 which he managed to send over via Western Union - a little space to breathe.
I said I would pray and advised him to pray. My inability left me depressed.

Then a small miracle: the relative stranger returned with an ID card and passport. Alhamdulillah! For a few days John dreamt of his new future. The world was his oyster. What next? I asked. He dreamt of the UK or USA. That is where I shattered his dreams. "Don't come to the UK" I told him "it is so hard for immigrants these days, and they may not let you in". Having a passport does not grant you entry, he came to understand. Obtaining a visa near to impossible. I suggested Ireland seems more welcoming - I think there is a nice Rohingya community there. But what did I know? Really I knew nothing. He asked if I could find him a job - send him a letter of invitation so he could apply for a visa - if only things were that simple. More let down.

Does anyone have any advice for a young Rohingya man fleeing persecution? Is there any way he could get to another country that would actually let him in, help him find a way to achieve his dream: to find work so he can send money back to his starving family in Burma?

The latest I heard, he was thinking to go to China. Why China? I asked. Did he have friends there? No, it was just the only way out, as far as he could see.

Between a rock and a hard place. One of a million. But surely we can help one?

Latest update: My friend tells me they are hunting for the Rohingya in the city, checking every place to make sure they do not take refuge there. "I am afraid, don't know what will happen next".

If by some miracle, anyone can offer some help or advice, please email me

Wednesday 9 July 2014

British Gov Ignores Precursors of Rohingya Genocide

Last month in the British parliament, Caroline Lucas MP put a question to Hugo Swire MP, regarding precursors to genocide of the Rohingya. Mr Swire avoided answering her important question by answering a different question that was not asked. I have therefore emailed the following communication to Mr Swire:

Dear Mr Swire,

Re: question posed by Caroline Lucas MP in parliament on 19 June 2014, concerning precursors to genocide of the Rohingya, and your response:

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether precursors of genocide exist in Burma for the Rohingya; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Swire: It is the policy of the British Government that any judgment on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for international judicial decision, rather than for governments or non-judicial bodies.

I feel that you avoided answering this very important question. You were not asked whether genocide has taken place, but rather if the British government has assessed whether precursors to genocide exist. We all know they do exist thanks to the excellent research carried out by organisations such as End Genocide (please see their recent report 'Marching to genocide in Burma' ). Here you can listen to the director of End Genocide, Tom Andrews, talking recently regarding the high risk of escalation in the violence into full blown genocide:

It appears that the British government are ignoring such warnings and are continuing to invest in Burma, sending aid to the very authorities that are working to eliminate the Rohingya. Surely it is the responsibility of every government worldwide to listen to the professional warnings of genocide and to act accordingly? Do we have to wait until several decades later, after a genocide is completed, for international courts to confirm what we knew was happening but chose to ignore. Is this really British policy?

I therefore request that you pass on the original question to William Hague, as was requested by Caroline Lucas, and call for an urgent assessment as to whether the British government is turning a blind eye to the precursors of genocide for the Rohingya in Burma.
Yours sincerely,

Jamila Hanan
British Citizen
Human Rights Activist

You can read the full details of the question and answer, as well as a detailed parliamentary debate on the issue of persecuted minorities in Burma, in the June Burma briefing by Burma Campaign UK:

Note: This blog post is free to republish.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Rohingya: Waiting for Massacre in Maungdaw

Rohingya man held in stocks in Myanmar.

It only seems like a matter of time before a massacre takes place in Maungdaw (which is the area in Myanmar/Burma next to the Bangladesh border). Recent events suggest Myanmar authorities have plans to 'cleanse' the Myanmar/Bangladesh border from the Rohingya 'viruses' - worryingly it seems that not only do they want Rohingya living within the border of Myanmar, but they don't want them hanging around in camps outside either.

For a long time now international media has reported that this 'conflict' has been confined within Myanmar's borders - but concern has been expressed that 'ethnic tensions' have the ability to inflame the entire region and result in an increase in 'terrorism' that stretches beyond Myanmar's borders. This is the 'spin'.

Now here is the truth: There is no 'conflict' in Myanmar - just state sponsored genocide. Any 'ethnic tension' to be found is a direct result of state sponsored propaganda and policies to eliminate the Rohingya. Evidence of Rohingya 'terrorism' is being actively fabricated by Myanmar authorities. The real 'terrorists' are without doubt the Myanmar army and police, who happily go about persecuting the Rohingya with full impunity.

Right now there is a real risk that terrorism will spread beyond the border of Myanmar and into Bangladesh, but it is not terrorism undertaken by the Rohingya, but rather the Myanmar authorities - in the first instance the border police - but this plan stretches across all authorities and 'security forces'. So expect violence, and excuse for mass atrocities, and clearance of the Rohingya, both within Myanmar and even beyond.

Here I have put together a list of links to atrocities that have taken place recently against the Rohingya in the region of Maungdaw, which is close to the Myanmar/Bangladesh border. You can see that the vast majority of the atrocities are committed by the Myanmar authorities, in particular the police and the army - this is clearly not 'ethnic tension'.

4th June - 11pm 20 Rohingya shops burnt down
4/5th June - Rohingya man murdered
4th June - 3 Rohingya children slapped and held for ransom by Myanmar military
3rd June - Rohingya lady gang raped and murdered by military, husband arrested, falsely accused of being an RSO member "She died whilst the fourth military man was raping her".
1st June - Administrators of Rohingya villages were told by border police police that they would re-implement a 'Nasaka Style Census Operation' against them soon
30th May - Bangladesh report Myanmar border police as attacking the border
30th May - Ten Rohingyas Forced To Serve As Porters For Myanmar Military In Bangladesh-Myanmar Border Armed Conflict
29th May - border police beat up 10 year old
28th May  -  8  Rohingya sentenced to 7 years in prison, falsely accused of burning own homes in previous massacre that took place in Duchiradan
26th May - Myanmar border police enter Bangladesh and shoot dead 16 year old Rohingya boy in camp
26th May - innocent Rohingya man arrested and taken for framed photo shoot with guns strapped around him, labelled wrongly as an 'RSO' member
25th May - homeless Rohingya in area, whose homes were previously burnt, are told by authorities that hey will not be rehoused - despite previous promises, and Rohingya lady wrongly arrested on 26th accused with starting fire
25th May - Rohingya man sentenced to 7 years for using a phone that military had told him to use
25th May - two Rohingya men tortured by border police for money
24th May - 8 Rohingya families in Buthidaung forced To vacate their houses by authorities
21st May - At least 36 Rohingya killed by Myanmar border police since 17th May
18th May - Police commander summons Rohingya village leaders demanding that 13 'RSO' members be found - threatened with killing if not found - starting to spread lying propaganda about RSO invading (Rohingya Solidarity Organisation - a long time disbanded group).
11th May - Rohingya villagers summoned to meeting by commander of security force (Hlun Htein) told that  NaSaKa style rules and regulations will be enforced on the Rohingya community again, and warned that in time the Rohingya villages will be raided and anyone that does anything without permission will be punished.
8th May - two Rohingya men put 'in the stocks' in Northern Maungdaw
4th May - Rohingya man tortured by police for two days before being released - died at home on 6th May
29th April - police severely beat up elderly Rohingya man who dies later
25th April - mosque caretaker detained by police for protecting mosque - warned not to repair it
8th April onwards - many Rohingya in Southern Maungdaw have been subjected to forced labour by the security forces including 14 year old boy who was severely beaten, found on the road in serious condition
3rd April - reports of armed Rakhine militants entering from Bangladesh
30th March - Rohingya house torched, others robbed, sightings of armed thugs
30th March - Security forces seen throwing stones at MSF office
26th March - 7 Rohingya shops burnt in Northern Maungdaw
24th March - 969 extremists reported to be gathering at monasteries in Northern Maungdaw, trying to set homes on fire
22nd March - Authorities shoot fake video with staged violence in Maungdaw

Many other arbitrary arrests where money was extorted throughout April and May:

1. Sign this petition. It IS important. Anyone can sign, you don't have to live in the US. You do have to create an account but that only takes one minute. Hint: check spam box for email confirmation after creating account/asking for pwd reminder.

2. Contact your member of parliament/congress. Send them this blog post, and these recent reports too:
Ask your politicians to call on your government to take urgent action to save the Rohingya in Myanmar and to avoid another massacre taking place in Maungdaw (which is the area in Myanmar close to the Bangladesh border).

Saturday 12 April 2014

Myanmar: Building a Legacy of Genocide

One of the first video clips I saw of the Rohingya genocide was this one in June 2012:

As a mother of a boy of similar age, his cry pierced my soul and compelled me to act.

Further amateur video coming out at that time alerted me to something extraordinarily wrong that was happening in Burma.

I had no knowledge of genocide or Burma then, but after hurriedly contacting those I could find with experience of Burma, its politics and its history of similar such crimes against minorities, I came to understand that it was indeed plausible that a genocide was taking place. I was stunned to find Genocide Watch had issued a genocide emergency alert for the area, yet it was clearly being ignored by the international community who were busy with the world tour of Aung San Suu Kyi, praising the Burmese government for reforms and dropping sanctions.

My research led me to this documentary, Genocide: Worse than War, an exploration of the nature of genocide, ethnic cleansing and large-scale mass murder in our time. It is by Daniel Goldhagen, the award winning author who has devoted his life to researching genocide in the hope to find ways that would put an end to stop such killing, which he argues claims more lives than war.

Genocides follow standard patterns. Here Genocide Watch lists 10 stages of genocide. Goldhagen's key finding explained in this documentary is that genocide is always politics, and it is always planned and organised by one or just a few people. This conclusion comes from deep research of just about every genocide he could find over years of work. One would be a fool to dismiss such findings. The type of people who organise genocide are those that have risen to power through careful calculated decisions where pros and cons of actions are weighed up. Genocide is a carefully calculated decision. Key to stopping genocides therefore is changing the balance so that the consequences of committing a genocide outweigh the benefits.

A video of the Rohingya exodus that took place in June 2012 was leaked out and published on YouTube in October 2012. This shocking video shows clearly the way in which thousands upon thousands of Rohingya were forcibly driven from their homes and marched into remote camps in the countryside, never to return to their homes again.This was not an operation that happened suddenly to protect people in a hurry, amidst violence that had organically broken out - this was  well planned, well organised, and led by the military. This video should leave no person under any illusion as to the lack of state involvement (and control) in this genocide.

With this understanding I had two questions in mind:
1. Who is the person (or maybe few people) organising the Rohingya genocide?
2. How do we change the balance so that the consequences for those people who are planning and organising this genocide outweigh the benefits?

I do agree that there is a huge amount of hatred and tension between ethnicities in Burma, especially in the state of Arakan/Rakhine. However, this hatred is driven by propaganda and encouraged through state policies of persecution. Whatever efforts to build peace (and I know there are many, and they are important) will always struggle, because behind everything that is taking place, there is a mind set on eliminating the Rohingya from the land, calculating, plotting, and this mind has power, lots of it.

Not knowing much about Burma I started to research previous leaders. I was interested to see that the efforts to remove the Rohingya had started in the late 70s/early 80s, with removal of the Rohingya's right to citizenship in 1982, and then further clearly defined elimination campaigns taking place in the 90s led by the military junta. It therefore seemed logical that whoever is behind this current campaign was involved with previous persecution. In addition, whoever it is must have influence over all arms of the security forces, since all had been implicated in crimes. The mastermind had to be at the top of the hierarchy, the very top.

Was Thein Sein the mastermind behind the genocide? Everything I had read led me to doubt this. It seems that his time as president is already numbered. Previous dictator Than Shwe has already spelt that out. Behind the scenes people tell me that Thein Sein is a puppet.

The real puppet master, it seems, is still Than Shwe. Apparently 'retired' in 2012. I've never heard of a dictator that retires. They die. Sometimes they are removed. But retiring? Not unless they are forced too. It just doesn't happen. Everything I read about his character appears to fit the description of a genocidal mind. But all this is just speculation, without proof, and I can say this, because I'm a nobody - don't expect anyone in any organisation to mention such a name for fear of repercussion.

I may be wrong about the person, but still, I am convinced, there is a mind planning, organising, giving orders. Genocide simply does not happen by chance.

So here is my message to that person organising the Rohingya genocide:

"You may not believe it now, since you have largely gone about all of your previous atrocities with complete impunity, but there will be consequences to your actions. Gone are the days when you can eliminate 1 million of your people unnoticed. If the Rohingya genocide goes ahead:
- It will become very difficult for businesses to carry on as before. Whilst organisations may be happy to do business now, they will not afterwards.
- Your position as a member of the international community will change. Whilst you may be getting away with crimes now, after you eliminate the Rohingya, you will not be accepted as before.
- You will be pursued personally at the ICC. You got away with previous crimes, just, but your days are numbered, and advances are being made in international prosecutions. A nail in the Rohingya coffin will seal your fate.
Most of all, consider this: You will leave behind a legacy, like Germany, like Bosnia, like Rwanda. Burma/Myanmar will be forever known as that blood stained place of the Rohingya genocide. You will never eliminate that memory. Is that what you want to leave behind for your children?"

Of course, the dictator genocidal mastermind might change his mind. I have hope in that, because he is a calculating person, and the sums don't add up. And what then? Will the Rohingya be saved?

I have a campaigning friend that describes big planned projects as being like huge oil tankers. Once they get going, they take a long time to stop, because they start to carry their own momentum. To stop the Rohingya genocide, the brakes need putting on, direction needs changing, the genocidal mastermind can change his mind, but even then it will take a huge amount of work to rebuild the damage done and stop the hatred, build peace, heal wounds, and everyone will have to play their part in that.

Friday 21 March 2014

Double your Donation for the Rohingya

Over the past few years many people have asked me which organisations they can donate to that would ensure aid reaches the Rohingya. The answer has always been a little muddled, since getting aid in to the hands of the Rohingya has always been a difficult operation with few NGOs operating in the area and those that have been have generally had to keep a really low profile.

Partners Relief are one charity however that have managed to do some fantastic work for the Rohingya. They have actually operated in and around Burma for years working with different ethnic minorities wherever the need has been greatest. They operate through building trusted friendships with those people who need help and assisting them in whatever ways they can as the opportunities arise.

Here is a video from some of the wonderful work they were doing in 2012 after the attacks started:

This is how the Partners Relief story began:

Is that not beautiful?

Partners relief is founded by a truly wonderful couple, Steve and Oddny Gumaer.
This is Oddny talking about the Rohingya:

I'm posting all these videos to help you understand how much I trust and love these wonderful people so you might be encouraged to support a wonderful opportunity we have this week.

Oddny has written a beautiful book Picking Flowers on Dusty Roads which includes short stories from their work in Burma over the years. I'm in the middle of reading it at the moment, and every word is an inspiration.

Oddny also writes a blog. This is the most moving blog post I have ever read in my life. It is about a Rohingya lady who lost nearly all of her family.

Steve is equally amazing. When a tropical cyclone threatened to wipe all the Rohingya out last year, and the rest of the world had let these people down, Steve was on the beach with them, risking his own live to feed 5000 people who had not eaten in days!

A few weeks back my Rohingya friend in Burma was giving me updates over Facebook as a fire approached his own home and they gathered their belongings in case they had to leave. Thankfully the fire was put out before it reached my friend's house. He sent me these photos, you can see from them how terrible it was and how desperate the situation is now.

Can you imagine watching this fire approach? Trying to put it out with a small bucket and no protective clothing? Can you image running to save everything you have and to keep your family from danger?

Can you imagine looking at this, where once stood your village?

Can you imagine the fear of these children as they waited to see if their parents returned and wondered where they were going to live now?
What will become of these people now?
Is this where they will live now, start again, and with what?

I contacted Steve and Oddny at Partners Relief to ask if we could set up a fund to try and help the victims of the fire (and those before). They told me of a fantastic opportunity that has just arisen. For every donation received to the Rohingya this month, a generous donor has agreed to match the amount, up to $50k USD!

This is too good an opportunity to miss. We can actually DOUBLE OUR MONEY for the Rohingya! But we only have one week left to make the most of this chance. Please help! UPDATE AS OF Thursday 4th April, we have an extension until the END OF THIS WEEK to donate to this fund (just a few days left - please help make the most of that).

To give please follow this link and make sure to select 'Emergency Fund' to ensure it goes to the Rohingya:

Please be assured that Partners Relief are doing everything they can to make sure all donations reach the Rohingya.

Please ask your friends and family if they can donate also. Thank-you!!

Saturday 25 January 2014

Rohingya Podcast Interview

This is my second podcast interview with Walid Darab on Greed for Ilm.

I give an update on the situation with the Rohingya, talk about the science of genocide, and give some tips on what anyone can do to get involved in the campaign to stop it.

My first interview was here.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Long Night - poem for the Rohingya

Rohingya women and children exactly like this one in the camp at Manzi were brutally slaughtered by Burmese security forces and armed thugs following a raid on their village at Du Char Yar Tan on Jan 14th 2014

I tweeted this poem last night from bed, as I lay there waiting for news from my Rohingya friends who I knew had been awake all night, wondering if their homes were to be raided following an order to arrest all Rohingya men and boys over the age of ten.

We feared that the men would be taken away to be killed, and that the women left would be raped and their children hacked to pieces, as they had done so previously the week before at the village of Duchiradan (also known as Du Char Yar Tan as well as Kiladong). Indeed all the warning signs were there for an imminent massacre following a period of propaganda, visits by the infamous 969 group to the area, a call for militias who were understood to now be in training, and an official meeting where Rohingya village leaders had been warned of their fragile existence.

Long Night

Rohingya no more
Rwanda once more
Never again
Over and over again
Sit and contemplate
Can we change fate?

The advice we received
During this hour of need:
Avoid the word genocide
When you plead
That would oblige them to act
They don't like that 

A long night
Of extreme fright
All you can do is pray
They said
My children in bed
May all soon be dead

Take my tears
My fears
Save us
We have nothing left
Heart aches
Heaven shakes
Morning breaks
World wakes

by Jamila Hanan

The last line I wrote with hesitation. Should I have put a question mark at the end? This morning, my Rohingya friends are still alive, and people are coming together it appears. Officials behind the scenes are holding urgent meetings and in the media today we have official confirmation from Fortify Rights of the massacre we know took place. Pressure is on to stop the genocide. I am hopeful.

Please feel to publish the above poem with link to
For verified information about the massacre, just released today, please see this statement by Fortify Rights.

For media interviews regarding the Rohingya, please contact who has a list of people available for interview.