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Bangladeshi lawyers protest Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya

They also censure their own government's policy of sending back refugees fleeing violence

Bangladeshi lawyers protest Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya

Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyers criticized the Bangladesh government for pushing back Rohingya refugees on Nov. 23. (ucanews.com photo)

Stephan Uttom, Dhaka
Bangladesh

November 25, 2016

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About 250 Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyers held a rally and human chain in Dhaka to protest against the ongoing persecution of Rohingya Muslims in neighboring Myanmar.

During the demonstration on Nov. 23 at the Supreme Court, the lawyers lambasted Aung Saan Suu Kyi's government for failing to stop the violence in in Myanmar's Rakhine State while also criticizing Bangladesh for refusing to shelter fleeing refugees.

In recent weeks, hundreds of Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown on alleged Islamist insurgents in the bordering area.

The military crackdown was set off by coordinated attacks on three Myanmar border posts on Oct. 9 which left nine border police dead. Retaliatory raids have killed over 90 people since then.

The Bangladesh government has put border and coast guards on high alert after about 500 Rohingyas tried to enter Teknaf in Cox's Bazar district by crossing the Naf River on boats. They were denied entry and pushed back.

"Innocent people including children are being killed and women are being raped in Myanmar and as human beings we can't accept it. No matter what caste, creed or political ideology, we must be united to save disparaged humanity. The Myanmar government must take steps to protect Rohingyas," Mahbub Uddin, secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association said during the rally.

"The lawyers are united and we will meet the local representative of the United Nations to call an end to the persecution of Rohingyas immediately," he said. 

Tajul Islam, a member of the association, criticized the Bangladesh government.

"I don't know what kind of heroism we can achieve by pushing back people who want to escape deadly persecution and save their lives," he said.

Islam pointed out that Bangladesh has lost sight of its own refugee past when 10 million fled to India during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. 

"We feel proud about the war but we forget that we have had a refugee past and now we refuse to shelter a few thousand Rohingyas," he added.

Father Albert Thomas Rozario, a Supreme Court lawyer and convener of the Justice and Peace Commission at Dhaka Archdiocese, echoed similar sentiments.

"It's really heartbreaking to see what's happening to the Rohingyas. Myanmar now has a civilian government whose leader won the Nobel Peace Prize and they should have stopped the brutalities unleashed against the Rohingyas," the priest said.

 

Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyers protest against the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar at the court in Dhaka on Nov. 23. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Islamic groups protest

On Nov. 22, hundreds of supporters from several Islamist groups marched on the streets of Dhaka and burned effigies of Suu Kyi to protest against the attacks.

They also demanded that Suu Kyi return her Nobel Peace Prize as her government is failing to protect the minority.

"Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are facing horrific abuses and killings but the government is failing to protect them. If the government of Suu Kyi can't save the Rohingyas and restore peace in Rakhine, she must return her Nobel Prize," said Ahmed Abdul Kader, secretary of Khelafat Majlish, an Islamic group.

Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamic party, also condemned the violence against the Rohingyas in a statement and held a nationwide protest rally on Nov. 23.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry called Myanmar Ambassador Myo Myint Than to express the government's deep concern at the deteriorating situation and its implications for Bangladesh.

The Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority and their presence in Rakhine can be traced back over centuries but the Myanmar government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.

Although equally unwelcome in Bangladesh, tens of thousands have still managed to flee to the country since the 1970s to escape persecution at the hands of their Buddhist neighbors and Myanmar's security forces.

Now the Bangladesh government has taken a tougher stance and boatloads of refugees have been denied entry. They have also banned three international aid groups — Muslim Aid UK, Doctors Without Borders, Action Against Hunger — from operating among unregistered Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar.

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