- For Immediate Release & Distribution -

PRESS RELEASE: CAIR-Chicago and RefugeeOne to Speak Out on Burma Persecution of Rohingya Muslims

(CHICAGO, IL, 8/20/2012) — The Chicago office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) and RefugeeOne (refugeeone.org) are hosting a press conference to speak out against and spread awareness about the human rights violations currently taking place against Rohingya Muslims in Burma / Myanmar.

Since June, the Burmese army and police have led a campaign of persecution targeting Rohingya Muslims through mass arrests and arbitrary violence. 650 Rohingyas have been killed, 1,200 are missing, and more than 80,000 have been displaced.

Two Rohingya Muslim refugees will speak at the press conference to describe their experiences in Burma / Myanmar.

Abdul Malik Mujahid, President of the Burma Task Force USA (burmamuslims.org ), of which CIOGC is a member, will also speak at the conference.

The press conference will then follow with an educational event in which the hosts and the Rohingya Muslim refugees will discuss the situation the Burma / Myanmar and take questions from attendees.

When: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Where: CAIR-Chicago, 28 E. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60604

Who: CAIR-Chicago, RefugeeOne, Abdul Malik Mujahid (Burma Task Force USA and CIOGC), Council for a Parliament of World Religions

Why:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), RefugeeOne, and the Burma Task Force USA are urging the U.S. State Department and the international community to address the suffering of the almost one million Rohingya in Myanmar (formerly Burma), as well as those who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

CAIR also recently sent letters to the governments of Myanmar, Bangladesh and the United States seeking protection for Rohingya Muslims who are facing a renewed wave of ethnic and religious persecution.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which released a report on the humanitarian crisis:

“Burmese security forces committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in western Burma in June 2012. Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left many of the over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care.”

Myanmar President Thein Sein said the “only solution” to the conflict was to expel the Rohingya to other countries.

A number of Buddhist monks’ organizations that played vital role in Burma’s struggle for democracy have taken measures to block any humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community.

There are roughly 111,000 refugees housed in 9 camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. There have been charges that groups of them have been shipped and towed out to open sea from Thailand, and left there.

The UN has described the Rohingya people as the world’s most persecuted minorities” and “among the world’s least wanted.”

Melineh Kano, the acting Executive Director of RefugeeOne said: “The stories we hear from our Rohingya refugees are harrowing. The situation is rapidly worsening. These lives can be saved. There are thousands sitting in Refugee camps in Malaysia. We ask that the State department give them high priority and speed up the processing of their resettlement in the US.”

Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, former Vice President of RefugeeOne and current board member said: “This crisis is unfolding in full view of the world but there has yet to be the international response expected for a crisis of this level. We call in part, on the US to offer asylum assistance to more Rohingya who are facing certain destruction.”

SEE: Government Forces Targeting Rohingya Muslims

HRW Report: Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan State

Even when Rohingya Muslims are able to flee to the relative safety of Bangladesh, they face hostility and rejection. Bangladeshi authorities have also ordered three international aid agencies not to help the Rohingyas fleeing to that nation.

SEE: Bangladesh Tells International Charities to Stop Aiding Rohingyas

While the persecution has escalated into mass killings and human rights abuses over the summer, the persecution has long been ongoing. Rohingyas have been stripped of their citizenship since a 1982 citizenship law. They are not allowed to travel without official permission, are banned from owning land and are required to sign a commitment to have not more than two children.

Amnesty International states:

“The Rohingyas’ freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Burma citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction; and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps.”

“In 1978 over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the ‘Nagamin’ (‘Dragon King’) operation of the Myanmar army. This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution.”

In its letter to Myanmar President Thein Sein, CAIR urged the Burmese government to take urgent steps to end human rights violations by its security forces and to allow unimpeded access for relief organizations and international monitors seeking to enter affected areas and to its 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to Rohingya Muslims.

In a similar letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina CAIR asked the ate government of Bangladesh to offer full humanitarian assistance to those forced to flee Myanmar, in cooperation with the international community.

In July, CAIR called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to take concrete steps to help stop the killing of civilians in Myanmar and Syria.

CAIR’s letter to Secretary Clinton stated in part:

“As a world leader, our nation cannot stand on the sidelines while civilians are slaughtered in nations like Syria and Myanmar. More forceful actions must be taken to end the violence.”

CAIR-Chicago is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

-END-

CONTACT:

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, arehab@cair.com, 312.212.1520 or 202.870.0166
CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator, Aymen Abdel Halim, ahalim@cair.com, 312.212.1520

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