(Part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Stage 3: Dehumanization and Demonization)
When a country sets out on a campaign of genocide or ethnic cleansing they always start by checking off the stages of genocide. Myanmar is no exception to the rule. In Burma the junta has been gearing up for this latest round of ethnic cleansing for decades. Their brutal tactics of warfare and oppression are now being applied to the Rohingya.
This is how the Burmese government has proceeded thus far.
The first stage of genocide is the stage of classifying the targeted community so that the target can be isolated. This stage was accomplished in every genocide that has occurred in the past and present. In Germany the government and media set out to isolate the Jewish community by highlighting the religious differences. This let the government separate the "Jude" from the "German". In Myanmar the government has isolated the Rohingya in exactly the same way. They have denied citizenship and forced the Rohingya into a classification all their own. Thus making a virtual difference between the "Muslim" and the "Buddhist".
When the stage of classification is met the government embarking on genocide moves on to applying symbols to the targeted community. This second stage of genocide is often hard to identify since most societies already have applied symbols to their way of identifying themselves. For Christians the symbol of the cross is a symbol they appreciate. This same symbol becomes a symbol of hatred when used by groups like the KKK. And thus how genocidal regimes begin the manipulation of symbols or the application of new symbols that mimic preexisting symbols. In Cambodia the Khmer Rouge made their isolated targets more visible by applying the blue scarf. In Myanmar the government has isolated Rohingya by limiting the use of religious head scarves and beards. These parts of identification with the religion of the Rohingya have been used to identify the Rohingya by their neighbors and helps with the goal of stage one and leads into the affects of stage three.
Isolated and identified by the application of symbols or the use of existing symbols to inspire hatred against the targeted community the attackers move on to dehumanization. This is the third stage of genocide. In Rwanda the radio blared with the comparisons of Tutsi to "cockroaches". This is the same comparison the government in Bahrain has made against the Shia Muslims. And in doing this the governments inspire the masses to think of the targeted group as less than human. In Myanmar the Rohingya are thought of as slaves or animals. The government in Burma allows for Rohingya to be forced into hard labor by the military and local police. This for of humiliation often leads to physical and emotional abuse that reminds the Rohingya that they are not human in the eyes of their Rakhine neighbors.
(Rohingya Child Waiting For Medical Attention)
As the targeted society is demonized and used as the excuse for all the troubles of the given society the next stage of genocide begins. Often the fourth stage of genocide begins without warning. The organization of genocide, the fourth stage, is key to launching the attacks on the targeted community. The government will usually use militias to carry out their sadistic desires so as to limit responsibility for what happens next. In Darfur this has been done with the training and deployment of the Janjaweed, "devil on horseback". However there are exceptions to the rule, such as the SS in the Nazi army. And in Myanmar we witness both the exception and the rule all in one.
In Myanmar stage four is accomplished by using the military to round up Rohingya and force them into small areas much like the Nazi ghettos. The mobs, led by the Buddhist monks and politicians, are then able to be led to the target without warning. With the targeted community isolated and left vulnerable by the junta the mobs can raze the Rohingyas' homes and kill indiscriminately.
Stages five and six are often carried out simultaneously. Stage five is polarization. This is when the leaders of the genocidal regime begin to ramp up the extremist rhetoric. The goal is to further isolate the targeted group while fanning the flames of hatred. This is usually where the leaders of the extremist begin to give justification drastic actions against the targeted community. In Germany the SA was considered to be less than willing to carry out the "Final Solution". So during stage five the SS were brought about to kill off anyone who might stand in the way of the end goals of the regime.
In Myanmar stage five has meant that the junta has prevented outsiders from having access to the Rohingya refugees. At the same time the Burmese military has allowed extremist in the Buddhist community to encourage violence against the Rohingya. These monks and politicians have led marches and held protest against the Rohingya as they fan out across the Arakan state.
Stage six is the preparation for genocide. This is where the distribution of weapons and dispersal of militias takes place. For the Hutu in Rwanda this meant that the militias began to gather where they would later set up road blocks. The infamous machetes were distributed as the militias spread out across the country. For those trapped in Myanmar the police and militia are known to have been supplying the Rakhine mobs with weapons. They have been giving the mobs firearms and machetes while organizing attacks with the leaders that deploy the angry young Rakhine men.
(Attacks on Rohingya in July)
As stage six concludes the next stage erupts. Stage seven is the stage that makes genocide. This is the stage of extermination. This is the hell we all remember when we think about the Holocaust, Bosnia, and Armenia.
When the Hutu mobs in Rwanda began their attacks it took them less than 100 days to kill 800,000 Tutsi. Their weapon of choice was the machete. Their methods were primitive. Yet their hatred allowed for them to kill so effectively that the world had little time to respond. In Myanmar this is appearing to be the same case.
As the Rakhine Buddhist mass and prepare for their attacks the world seems helpless to respond. The sparks of violence are very quick and violent. The attacks flare out of control and seem to burn themselves out. Or so it would appear.
The junta in Myanmar uses stage seven at times when it appears the outside world is not watching. In October the attacks on Rohingya occurred as the world press was focused elsewhere. The preparation is done while the media and relief workers are focused somewhere else or denied entry. These attacks then are given an allotted time span to occur before the military will give the appearance of stopping them. Yet the military of Burma has not once yet engaged the attacking Rakhine. They have not once attempted to fight back against the "ethnic violence" that is burning out of control in the Arakan state.
This where stage eight takes effect. The stage of denial and cover up.
(Rohingya Woman With Her Children)
For the Armenians this stage of genocide has been going on for nearly a century. For almost 98 years the Turkish government has ardently denied any actions that could constitute genocide against the Armenians. This has been a wedge between the Armenians and Turks for decades. And thus the most painful stage for survivors has been left open ended for the Armenians.
In Myanmar the government denies that any actions that could constitute genocide or ethnic cleansing have ever gone on or are taking place. They claim that the ethnic tension is "an age old tribal feud" that is just coming to the surface again. This is the government's way of denying any responsibility for the genocide or accountability for the actions taken by the Rakhine.
So how many more dead or displaced Rohingya will the West need to admit that genocide is taking place in Myanmar? 1.5 million, 6 million, or 20 million? Why can't the West admit that this is genocide?