More From Alder's Ledge

May 23, 2013

Is Forced Sterilization Next?

Myanmar's Two Child Limit For Rohingya
(The Darkness Visible series)

(How does it feel to be "illegal"?)

When the Rohingya were forced out of their homes and into ghettos the world said nothing. When the Rohingya were forced to watch their sons and husbands being marched off to do slave labor for a government that hates them, we said nothing. While the Rohingya girls were taken off to rape camps the world refused to speak up. When the planting season passed and the Rohingya were made dependent upon foreign aid for food, the UN couldn't find it in them to say something. 

Now the Rohingya are facing the monsoon season in camps set up in floodplains. Their children are starved as the Burmese blockades hold fast. Their sons and husbands live as broken men as they are made to live under the boots of fascist soldiers. Their daughters and mothers are forced to live in fear of the minions of a genocidal regime. So where is your outrage?

Last week the government issued yet another restriction upon the Rohingya of the Arakan state (note this restriction has been on the books for decades, just being enforced more rigidly now). In a community where medical assistance is almost as scarce as food, the Rohingya are now prohibited from having more than two children. This extension of restrictions specifically issued for Rohingya Muslims adds to the marital laws already on the Myanmar's books. It states that only "monogamous marriages will be recognized" somewhat ironically since Burma does not recognize the Rohingya or permit them to lawfully married. From there the restriction goes on to demand that any Rohingya couple married may only have two children at any point in time. 

“Regarding family planning, they can only get two children,” Arakan State government.

One is suddenly forced to ask just how Burma plans on enforcing this vast breach of a basic human right? Does this new restriction give the authorities in Myanmar the legal means to begin enforcing such measures as forced sterilization? After two children are you supposed to pay fines for all other children that might result from natural sex? And if sterilization is the next step then does that mean that the Rohingya women will be sterilized or will it be the Rohingya men? 

Win Myaing said, “It’s being implemented to control the population growth, because it’s becoming too crowded there.”

Win also stated very clearly that this new restriction is not for Buddhist members of Myanmar's society. This clarification was only diluted by Win's statements back in February when the spokesperson for the Arakan government said of Buddhists jumping the border from Bangladesh, "...if they come, we will help them." Yet according to Win today the Arakan is just "too crowded" to allow minorities to have children. Somehow, however, the Buddhists immigrating from Bangladesh are more than welcome to have as many children as they wish despite being immigrants in an ethnocentric society. 

So with Win Myaing's statements are we to assume that the government of the Arakan is willing to begin to take measures to end the current birth rate of Rohingya Muslims in Burma? 

Maungdaw District Authorities,"will not use force, but if people want to marry [or register newborn children] they have to submit forms to relevant local authorities and gain permission.”

If we are to take the leaders of Burma at their word we would believe that Burma is willing to allow Rohingya to marry and even have children. After all, "will not use force" is a rather clear promise that the soldiers will not round up the undesirables or even force them to live in unsanitary and unsafe ghettos. "Will not use force" should insinuate that the government will not use armed soldiers to keep food, water, and medicine just out of reach of Rohingya refugees. "Will not use force" would signify that Rohingya men would not be marched off at gunpoint to work for a government while their wives and daughters are left defenseless against said government. So why can't we take Myanmar at its word? 

In Europe the Romani people were told that they would be receiving medical attention time and time again (both during the Porajmos and since then) only to be forced into being sterilized. The governments of Norway, France, Hungary, and Germany are all just a few of the perpetrators of this said offense. In some cases the Roma women who were sterilized did not realize what had happened till years later. But no matter when the victim realizes what had been done to them... the affects of the crime are always there. 

So if Western nations (the so called "developed world") are not above using this form of ethnic cleansing then why presume that Burma is telling the truth? 

Was starvation too slow for you Myanmar?

This new restriction is just the latest step in a long line of steps that Myanmar has taken toward its original goal of completing its genocide against the Rohingya people. By limiting the number of children that Rohingya can give birth to the government opens up a new list of excuses for taking action against them. It permits abuses to be committed against the Rohingya without hesitation on the part of the government officials committing these crimes.

In the past Myanmar has shown that it is unwilling to recognize Rohingya marriages. It has set fees so high that marriage itself was out of reach (it also taxed the right of the Rohingya to die as a means of escaping repression). Through this it should be clear to the Western leaders that Burma will never recognize the right of the Rohingya people to give birth. And most of all, it should be obvious to the West that with new laws like this one being made that Burma has no intention of recognizing the existence of the Rohingya already alive... let alone those yet to be born.

“The two-child policy is only for Bengali fathers and mothers who have no citizenship. They have no ID, they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,” Than Tun, of the Arakan Social Network. “The order came from the president and it was implemented as a regional notice.”

Thein Sein's promise of working to mend the relationships the state has with Muslim minorities in the Arakan should be seen for what they are... lies. While he paid lip service to the West he was issuing new orders such as this one geared at the ethnic cleansing of the Arakan. By calling the Rohingya "Bengali" he admits once again that the Rohingya have no place in Burmese society. In his view the Rohingya are simply "undesirables". 

Source Documents
(Note not all sources are listed)

Irrawady News

Washington Post (blog)

The Huffington Post

A look at the enemy:

Oliver Soe Thet, "...mothers are forced to get much much more children than they and specially their Husbands can feed and educate , — all under the pretext of a religion to ensure that they outnumber the other race in a soon time. If peaceful living together is with the Bengali community in North Rakhine on the program than they will understand and fully agree with such a step."

From Instagram: 
@moonoimartyn, "The Rohingya are invaders trying to implement Islam by rape, torture, murder, and forced conversion. Islam and Muslims bring the biggest form of genocide. The Buddhist have the right to fight back."

May 21, 2013

Faceless Killers

The Anonymity Of Myanmar's Murderers
(The Darkness Visible series)

When Hitler came to power the world was shown the face of the evil that had befallen it. That little mustache and comb-over hair style has come to define what it means to be evil for many of us. No matter how you dressed the man, no matter how many kissing baby scenes are shown to us of him, Adolf is still the man who launched the Holocaust. For Jews, Romani, Sinti, Communist, Poles, and countless other victims the simple addition of that mustache to an image invokes the memory of his terror.

A similar attachment to the image of Pol Pot can be found in Cambodian communities around the world. The memory of what happened when the Khmer Rouge took power still haunts the landscape of Cambodia. The men who helped bring about the horrors of the "party" still linger as old reminders of what once was. Old men now, the rest of Cambodia wait for the Khmer leaders to pass away as the world forgets the hidden genocide that these savages unleashed.

It is in this way that the two genocides define what it is in historic cases of this crime for the people, the victims, to know who it is that oppresses them. In the case of the Holocaust survivors it was their neighbors and their countrymen. They could almost predict who it was that sold them out to the gestapo. Old rifts in the social fabric were brought to the surface as the Nazi regime exploited the worst tendencies of mankind. For these victims of genocide there was clearly the Nazi party itself to blame... Hitler at it's head.

In Cambodia the order of the Khmer party was clouded. Most victims knew their attackers. They had grown up with these people. Like the Jews of Europe, the Cambodian victims of genocide could often name their attackers by name and often where they had lived and grown up. But the major difference was that in Cambodia, most of the victims of the genocide couldn't identify just why they were being selected for death. Instead of being selected for ethnic differences the Cambodian regime chose their victims by social class, political affiliation, level of education, and level of "pollution" by foreign influences. Just as to who was giving the orders, most Cambodian victims couldn't tell you any of the other party leaders outside Pol Pot himself.

What links the two genocides in just how they came about is the establishment of a "cult of personality" that their architects were able to create prior to the start of the killing itself.

Adolf Hitler came to power almost against the will of the German people... almost. With the acceptance of his political style (fascism) the German public warmed to the ideas the man presented. This was aided by the fact that Hitler offered the world, literally. For all the setbacks the German people felt they were suffering under the rise of the Nazi party Hitler always seemed to have a perk to offer so as to soften the blow.

Pol Pot on the other hand came to power through war. It was in this conflict to gain control that Pol Pot was able to manipulate his followers into blind obedience. With promises of utopia at the other end of the tunnel, Pol Pot was able to build camaraderie amongst the old peasant class. His cult went from being the outsiders to being the rulers. Thus allowing Pol Pot to force ideals that the majority of Cambodia had rejected upon them through military dominance.

In Burma we can't seem to identify the leader of the government outside the puppet he/she/they present in Thein Sein's presidency. We are told that Myanmar is a government in transition from military rule to democratic rule. Yet the old junta offers up one of their own to act as president. So without transparency we are left with only a puppet where past genocidal regimes have offered a cult like leader.

For months now I have watched as countless activist single out Thein Sein as the supposed mastermind of the genocides against ethnic minorities across Burma. And with every claim to that extent I have countless questions that go unanswered. Such as how does the mastermind of the Rohingya genocide promise to start looking at recognizing the Rohingya as an ethnic group? Hitler never promised to help his victims in any way whatsoever. And how is that Thein Sein is the leader of this genocidal campaign when he can't seem to organize his own party let alone an offensive campaign of extermination? Pol Pot had his party wrapped up air tight before launching his genocide.

Before anyone starts to assume I'm defending Sein let me make it clear now that Thein Sein should be held accountable for his role in this genocide. The man should be tried for crimes against humanity. And for doing nothing to stop it, Thein Sein should be executed.

I just don't think that Thein Sein is the brains or the muscle behind the genocides occurring in Myanmar. He is just a willing puppet.

The old junta is still hiding behind the scenes. They still push the buttons in Myanmar's government as they hide amongst the seats of its political parties. When Rohingya were found within an opposing party they demanded (and got) the expulsion of Rohingya from positions within the government. In doing this they act like the SA prior to the formation of the SS in Hitler's Germany. They weed out their enemies and single them out for death.

Faceless, the true leaders of Burma are able to avoid guilt by pinning it to willing accomplices. If the world suddenly decided to act and stop the Rohingya genocide it would be Thein Sein left standing beneath the gallows. This is the benefit of being invisible. They can still elicit the fear that they have grown accustom to without the threat of being held accountable.

Saddam Hussein achieved this not by hiding behind the curtain but rather by forcing members of his government to sign off on the most corrupt orders that came off his desk. By affixing guilt to countless others Saddam made it less likely that he alone would be held accountable for the deaths of thousands of Kurds and Iranians. When he decided to use chemical weapons the world was unable to claim that Saddam alone gave the order since the papers were littered with other signatures. It was only through his narcissism that Saddam got himself hung.

So is it the lack of narcissist in the junta that leave us without a clear figurehead to blame for the genocides currently taking place in Myanmar? Doubtful.

The door to Burma has been sealed shut for decades. Before the country opened up a couple years ago the only stories we had of life behind the blinds was that of what refugees had told the world. Today we finding out that their tales were just the tip of the iceberg. We are seeing what it means to be trapped under the weight of mad men. Looking through the doorway we are seeing desperation, starvation, and hopelessness.

The fact that we can't write down a list of the killers' names doesn't mean that they don't exist. We can see the evidence of their misdeeds from the Shan state down to the Arakan state. On the faces of Rohingya refugees we can read the stories of these murderers' sins. The evidence is there even if we can't yet find just who it was that put it there.

Thein Sein is a admiral foe. He is far from weak, the junta wouldn't have put him out in front if he wasn't. This is a smart enemy who knows how to manipulate the media attention he receives as he lies from behind a tainted smile. When in the presence of world leaders he knows how to walk and talk. Thein Sein is a talented foe.

But he has a weakness.

No man wants his legacy to be that of destruction and murder. Thein Sein is no different. All it takes to break his facade is the correct pressure from the right leaders. With the right people cutting him off at the knees, Thein Sein's narcissism will come to the surface.

So now all we have to do is find a way to make heroes out of cowards.

We need to find ways to get our nations' leaders to come out and address the issue at hand. We can no longer tolerate lip service from the people we elect to represent us. If they will not act then we must go against the political affiliations that have guided us this far. We must seek out leaders who will seek justice even when it is hard to do.

Until then we must continue to apply pressure on our current leaders. We must be relentless in our efforts to grab their attention and hold it. Once we have them by the leash we must guide them to the actions we want. We cannot wait for them to come around to the issue on their own, G-d knows they never will. It is our duty to push them toward what is right. It is our battle to force politicians to do what is most unnatural for politicians to do... that which is right.

May 17, 2013

Ethnic Purity

A Tyrant's Pipe-dream
(The Darkness Visible series)

(In Burma its the man with the gun that writes the law.)

When the Serbian nationalist launched their war against the other states that had once made up Yugoslavia the world sat on the sidelines and watched. We watched as radical nationalism led to the same sins that it had produced in Germany. We watched as the barbwire went back up. We watched as rape camps were established. We watched as men and boys were worked to death and starved till they became the walking dead. We watched as what we had called genocide in Germany was renamed "ethnic cleansing". All along we knew it was absolutely wrong. All along we sat silent as the sins of our past were marched back out for the world to see. 

Just as radical nationalism took root in Serbian extremists it can now be seen skulking beneath the surface in the Arakan State of Burma. Like a serpent it slithers just below the facade that the radicalized Rakhine mobs have crafted. The lies that hid for a short while in Serbia are building up the "cause" the Rakhine extremist monks claim to be fighting for. Those who deny it exist refuse that ethnicity lay at the root of the Burmese movement. 

For the past year many have claimed that the Rohingya are spreading Islam where it never existed prior to this outbreak of violence. They claim that the Rohingya are invaders. They claim that the Rohingya are the aggressors. Yet history refuses to back these claims. For lack of evidence, these pillars of the radical Buddhists' movement are left unsupported. 

Without religion to fall back upon, the Rakhine mobs can only rely upon the ethnicity of their victims to rally support amongst poor Rakhine communities. Slurs such as "kalar, ogres, and unclean" float the hate filled message of the true aggressors. These draw upon old ethnic bigotry that the monks were well aware already existed. Islam is just the latest excuse to be added to their arsenal of reasons to attack. 

Yet the Rakhine monks are far from the main reason for the apparently sudden outburst of ethnic violence in Burma. For decades the Burmese military junta have been pushing ethnic minorities toward the borderlands. Those who are not considered ethnically pure are mercilessly attacked. Villages are torched, the inhabitants driven off into the forest and mountains, and the scorched earth filled with landmines. This is a war for ethnic purity. It is a war that has been raging without relent every since the generals hijacked Burma's government.

The Rakhine mobs are simply the willing tools of the "reformed" government. Their targets are highlighted in the same way the Nazis spread across Europe, in a blitz. With government supported propaganda the communities to be "cleared" are highlighted for the mobs. The mobs build, the tension rises, and the stormtroopers come rushing in. All that is left is the lebensraum that the government of Myanmar desired in the first place. 

Radical nationalism is much like genocide in this way, it has patterns. You can check off its rise in stages. And yet we often overlook it's presence with every occurrence of its wretched growth.

In Burma we were shut off from what was happening behind the shroud that the Junta had created. However the moment the door was cracked we should have been able to identify the lies Burma's leaders were feeding us. Instead in the darkness of Burma's past we saw a glimmer of hope for its future.... however misguided that may have been.

The first step for radical nationalism to take root is for the political landscape to be divided into an "us vs them" scenario. If the radical nationalist cannot segregate a party and isolate its members they will resort to ethnic divides to isolate a group to dominate. Once under control the movement can begin to spread its cancer across the landscape.

Much like the Nazi movement and that of the extremist Serbian movement, radical nationalism is alluring to the impoverished and isolated. It offers a cause greater than themselves to which they can attach themselves to. It offers hope to a portion of society that has old scores to settle. And by offering a path forward, even the most extreme views can be swallowed.

When the extremist can seduce their followers to an ideology of "us vs them" they simply have to switch the bait to "you are the oppressed" and "this is your land". With this the extremist become more than just ethnically centered but create the myth that nationalism can be defined by ethnicity and ethnicity alone. With this the excuse for action to right the imagined wrongs can lead to acts previously unimaginable.

In Burma this has meant that select ethnic groups have been given the green light to "retake" lands that they were told were taken from them. Ethnic groups that find themselves on the wrong side of this rewritten history of Burma are pushed out. This has led to the Shan, Chin, Kachin, Kaman, Rohingya, and other minorities being driven to the edges of their homelands. Through being declared "invaders" they have been written out of Myanmar's existence.

We watched the same thing occur in Bosnia. When the Serbs needed excuses to retake their "homeland" in Bosnia they used the same excuse Hitler had for invading the Sudetenland. Ethnic purity and ethnic heritage had given them a perverted justification for genocide. And just as the Serbs and Nazis proved, there is always somebody who just doesn't belong. There is always another undesirable to be removed.

In this aspect ethnic purity is a dream of the radicalized mind. Even if the Rohingya were gone tomorrow there would always be another group that the Burmese majority would need to remove. For at the core of radical nationalism is the need for that "us vs them" mentality. Without it the need for radicalized nationalism ceases to exist.

So now we must ask ourselves; are we going to set on the sidelines in Burma? Will we watch as the same sins of our past are dragged out for the world to see? Are we to watch as the Rohingya are starved to death in camps as the barb wire goes back up? Or will we take this opportunity to learn from the lessons history is attempting to teach us yet again?

The blockades that existed prior to the cyclone still exist. Food, clean water, and medicine are still being withheld from Rohingya as they die in the squalor of Burma's version of concentration camps. With every passing day they perish from diseases that could have been easily prevented. With every passing hour they fall to starvation and thirst.

For my ancestors who suffered under the yoke of radical nationalism there were liberators in the form of resistance. Brave young men and women took up arms against a foe that appeared to be impregnable. Through their actions the blood of my ancestors was not lost to the pages of history. With their courage came freedom.

We may not be able to storm the beaches of the Arakan with guns blazing. Yet our resistance is just as dangerous in this modern age. As Stalin said, "ideas are more dangerous than guns...". Our voices are our ammunition.

So take this opportunity to resist. Take this opportunity to scream for those who have been made voiceless. Pick up your weapon and join the fight.

How to Scream:
  • Share articles like this one on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterist, Blogger, Tumbler, and other social media outlets.
  • Write your local and federal Representatives in government and ask that they stand up for the Rohingya.
  • Join "tweet storms" and other social media protest in support of the Rohingya. 
  • Share the plight of the Rohingya with your family and friends (maybe even the old fashion way, you know... face to face). 
  • Email your religious organizations the story of the Rohingyas' plight in Burma. 
  • Contact local leaders in your community and ask them to support the Rohingya in any way possible. 
  • And just get creative in ways to spread the message as far and wide as possible (please keep it legal though). 

Literally thousands of lives rely upon you, the free world, to speak up and join the fight. So use your freedoms in the way that they were meant to be used... to help others.

May 16, 2013

الحمد لله

(The Darkness Visible series)

"And as for those who have attained to faith in G-d and hold fast unto Him - He will enfold them within His grace and bounty, and guide them unto Himself by a straight way."
~An-Nisa 4:175

The media may all be fleeing back to the civilized world now that the humanitarian crisis they had prayed for has now been avoided. But we here at Alder's Ledge still have our eyes on Burma. Our voices still are lifted as the Rohingya people are now drenched in rain, homeless, and starving. Unlike the media of the West, we do not run from the fight for fear of political correctness or mass appeal. Our humanity does not allow us to leave the battle so abruptly.

We thank our L-rd, who has shown mercy, for the fact that the cyclone diverted north and lost it's steam. We praise His name for the grace that was shown to these already suffering people. This is no small miracle when we think of the thousands of Rohingya who had been left on the beaches as Burma awaited the storm that would wash away their undesirables. Blessed be All-h.

Yet in our moment of relief we must now look forward to the reality of what this rainy season has in store for the Rohingya. This is the time of year in which they will be hungrier than ever as the crops they once relied upon were not planted. This is the time of year when they could use a roof over their head and not just a rain soaked sheet or straw thatch covered in UN cloth. This is the season when the tears of Rohingya mothers mix with the rain that washes them away.

While the world seems all to ready to look away we must ask ourselves how we could ever do the same? Have we not come this far? Have we not seen the crimes of Myanmar against the Rohingya? Can we forget what we have seen as easily as they who turn their backs now?

Come now and let us rally once again. Let us find strength in the moral courage that has guided us this far. May our souls not grow weary or callous to the suffering that we face. And let us forever remember that while this tragedy hurts us in ways we might not have expected, it is hell for those actually living it. So let us rally once again and take up the fight once more. Lift your voices, lift your heads, and straighten your backs... there is still a long way to go.

For many in this struggle there seems to be the question of what to do next. With every prediction we have made, with every tragic event we have warned against, there is this day after. Today we get relief from the fear that came with the cyclone's threat of annihilation. Yet now what?

Now we must restart our campaigns of bombarding our own governments with pleas for the Rohingya who have been left voiceless. We must make certain that our own representatives in our state and federal governments know that we hold them responsible for their inaction. We must let every member up the chain, from the ground level up, that we will not accept silence in the face of genocide. This requires a constant screaming on our part. It requires us to be louder, bolder, and more tenacious than any other group out there. It requires our utmost effort to break the silence.

If you have not contacted your local officials yet you need to. If you have not contacted your state representatives yet you need to be doing that now. And if you have not contacted your countries leaders, well you know what you need to be doing.

This is a fight for justice. It is a war against the silence that surrounds genocide. Regardless of the ethnicity, religion, or cultural customs of the victims; we must pursue an end the slaughter and justice for the victims. These are our brothers and sisters no matter what differences might exist between us. We can only hope that if the tables were turned and things were different that they would do the same for us.

After screaming for the Rohingya to your government you need to get out into the community and, in the words of Obama, get in the faces of those around you. With all due politeness, you must start drawing upon the pillars of our own community and engage them all. This requires you to bring up the plight of the Rohingya with churches, mosque, and other religious organizations in your area. You must engage the leaders of these organizations in very personal ways (face to face preferably). With tact, you need to make the suffering of the Rohingya people their own suffering. Let them see that you bear the suffering in your own way. Making oneself vulnerable allows the other person to see your true sincerity and reveals your passions.

If you cannot, or are not comfortable doing so, engage others in this manner than seek out others who can. Find leaders in your area that are able to organize events and meetings. Explain the plight of the Rohingya as best you can so that it is as clear as possible to them. Try to stick to the facts at all times. Any sense that you are bias will set turn some people away from your cause.

And if you still aren't able to find outlets such as these then there is always the aspect of donating your online presence to the cause. By sharing posts like this one on your social media sites you spread the message to your circle of friends. You can also scream by putting these messages into your own words or republishing articles like this one on your own blogs (please link if possible).

Still unable to find ways to scream?

Try putting your money where your mouth is (or finger tips for you bloggers). Donate to organizations that are working hard in Burma to ease the suffering of the Rohingya. Groups such as Partners Relief and Development are constantly taking up the fight where it counts most. They get dirty in the field trying to alleviate the suffering as best they can. But this takes money, lots of it, and that is a resource that constantly needs replenished.

Just ask yourself what you could go without to find the funds to donate. Maybe it is a cup of coffee or a coke. Perhaps you could cut out some of the snacks or junk food that you sneak into your diet from time to time (what better diet plan could you ask for). Or maybe you have a few extra dollars that you spend on minor stuff throughout the week. Anything you can sacrifice could go a long way in Burma, right?

G-d has been faithful once again and answered our prayers in Myanmar. He has spared the lives of countless Rohingya. Where there was certain death the L-rd has brought life. Life that the government of Myanmar threatens with starvation and deprivation.

Join the fight if you haven't already. And if you are battle weary, feel free to leave your name in the comment box below so that we here at Alder's Ledge can keep you in our prayers (note that comments are not published until read, so we will not publish unless you ask us to). We have a long way to go. Let us scream out to Burma now that we have just begun to fight.

Donate to Partners Relief and Development by following the link:

May 13, 2013

What Could You Give Up?

How Much Can You Sacrifice To Save A Life?
(Screamers Post)

Imagine how you would feel if your home was nothing more than a cheap fabric tent. Or imagine if all you had over your head was a straw roof a scrap of nylon to sit on. If it was sunny and hot you might not feel as bad as the 17,000 Rohingya being forced to live on the beaches of Myanmar feel. They are living in tents and grass huts as the Burmese military and Nasaka prevent them from leaving. The rain is about to start pouring down upon them. The winds are about to start cutting through them like knives. A cyclone is barreling down upon them. So take a moment and imagine yourself in their place.

For nearly a year now the government of Burma has been killing Rohingya and burning their villages. Myanmar has been forcing Rohingya into camps and turning the villages they leave standing into ghettos. The world has stood silently by as the Rohingya have been tortured, victimized, and butchered. The UN has done nothing to stop the genocide. The West has remained idle as the leaders of Burma have been rewarded for their crimes.

Now mother nature is sending a cyclone toward the very beaches that the Rohingya are being forced out onto. The storm surge, winds, and seemingly endless rains all threaten the lives of these helpless Rohingya. This is a tragedy that has been well predicted. News and weather sources have plotted out the path of this storm for weeks now. Activist across the world have been sounding the alarm. And sources on the ground (in particular Aung Aung on Twitter: @aungaungsittwe) have been telling the world just how bad things really are.

So why are we once again just sitting back and watching yet another disaster play itself out? Why are we watching yet more Rohingya be killed by easily preventable causes? Where is the outcry?

I have personally been asking people to donate from the moment I heard about the cyclone. Again and again I have heard countless excuses. And yes, I know the economy is rough. I know that we all have bills that can't wait. But I also know that we all have things in our day to day life that we can go without.

For many this could be as little as a cup of coffee from Starbucks or that coke you start your day with. We have lunch and dinner out at a restaurant when we could have packed our lunch or cooked our own food. Maybe it is that next movie or entertainment event you have planned this month. You might even be able to skip the snack foods on your groceries this month.

Whatever it might be we all can find a little something to sacrifice to give a little extra this month. Our donations can help organizations, such as Partners Relief and Development, stay in the field longer and do more with the resources our cash can provide. With our little sacrifices we can help bring relief to a hurting and oppressed people.

So imagine yourself trapped on that beach with the rain starting. Imagine the winds as they pick up and the sounds of the sea grow more and more angry. Look out at your family, your children, as you hear the waves start to crash into the sand just yards from your tent. See the water begin to rise as you try desperately to push it out of your hut. Listen to the sounds of children all around you as they cry out in fear. Now ask yourself just what you would give to leave that beach and rush off to safety.

You can help save the lives of those trapped in harms way. Your donations can go toward helping those who survive this horrific tragedy. But none of that can happen till you dig deep and sacrifice a little.

Follow the links below and find it in yourself to help those who can't help themselves.

Partners Relief and Development
(Make sure to select Arakan Relief)

Donate through +Jamila Hanan fundraising campaign.

May 9, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name

Why Their Name Is Actually Important
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

As the campaign of ethnic cleansing drags on in Burma the Rohingya continue to suffer from starvation, easily preventable diseases, and forced isolation. When the Rohingya do anything that the Burmese officials dislike they run the risk of prison time, attacks, and possible death. This is all compounded by the fact that according to the government of Myanmar there aren't any Rohingya within Burma to begin with. And it is this aspect of the genocide that shows where Burma has the most success at carrying out their campaign of ethnic cleansing.

For a government to "cleanse" their country of a given targeted community the end result would be exactly what Myanmar's leaders already claim... the complete absence of the targeted community. The act of attacking the very name of a targeted community gives the state the power to attack without impunity. It robs the targeted community of its very core identity thus breaking apart the unity that arise from ethnic and cultural bonds. This allows the wedge to be driven in and permits the state leverage against their helpless victims. This is the very reason Burma has set out to deny the Rohingya the right to their own name, their own identity.

This act of "cleansing" a society of a targeted community not only robs the peoples of their identity but leaves them helpless. A government who is simply attacking its own citizens is clearly unable to be stopped (example: Syria). It is only when the government's attacks can be linked to the identified stages of genocide that outside organizations can claim ethnic cleansing... or genocide. But if the targeted community officially exist, well the term genocide is difficult at best to apply to the government's actions. And complicity to ethnic cleansing is hard to prove if there is no ethnic group recognized in the first place.

In recent months more prominent leaders have come out with documents and public addresses that state that all either claim the Rohingya are actually "Bengali" or never have existed within Burma before. One of the key figures in this long line of government puppets has been Aung San Suu Kyi. Or to be more accurate, a spokesperson that spoke to the press on her behalf.

(Source: Global Post

Once again the Euro poster child of democracy in Burma upheld the myths that Myanmar has been working so hard at establishing in world history books. Her statement, given through a spokesperson, coincides with the notion that Rohingya are nothing more than Bengali illegal immigrants that either established themselves during British rule or swept over the border as "economic migrants" (a term popular amongst Chinese leaders when talking about North Korean defectors). This once again leaves the world to assume that Suu Kyi truly does believe the propaganda her government has created or is more than willing to help spread it beyond Burma's borders.

However the main theory that Rohingya are immigrants or invaders isn't new. For decades now the Rakhine have been spreading myths like this one to discredit and isolate the Rohingya from the rest of Burmese society. And in an ethnocentric society, like that of Myanmar, the very idea of being an outsider is in ways worse than death itself. Once you have been made an outsider in a society that so desperately craves conformity you have no right to claim any given identity outside that  which has been handed down to you. For the Rohingya this denial of belonging to the Burmese society at large has been a tragic reality since the British left.

For Suu Kyi to come forward with her statements is, in a manner of speaking, an attempt on the part of Burma itself to reinforce the divide between what it means to be Burmese and what it means to be on the outside looking in. It is a divisive step that capitalizes on the fears of Rakhine individuals and the Buddhists population of Burma at large. It is the step that alienates the Rohingya and at the same time degrades them below the level of what it means to be human within Myanmar. In effect, it is the marrying of the first stage of genocide (classification) with the third stage of genocide (dehumanization). A fact that I would believe an intelligent woman such as Suu Kyi could and would understand long before making such damaging statements.

The name, the identity, of any given population is a treasure that cannot be measured. However, as ironically as it might seem, it is also a commodity that is decisively measured when used as a tool against them. Jews, Armenians, Bosnians, and any community who has suffered the tragedy of genocide should be able to understand this. But for the rest of the world it is a tragic aspect of society that they cannot understand until they see it in action. With the Rohingya are sadly showing the world what it means to have the most valuable part of your cultural identity used as a weapon against you.

Enduring a campaign of "begalization" in which they are forced to sign away their cultural identity, the Rohingya are pleading with the world to keep their name. Those who resist the policies Suu Kyi's words lead to are beaten and tortured. Those who resist their tormentors wrath are killed. This is the reality of what it means to be denied the most fundamental rights a community would seek to preserve for its individuals.

If the world was to watch they would see the bravery in the humble resistance. By not signing away their culture, the Rohingya show courage in ways the rest of the world has yet to show. They are already starving as the Burmese refuse them food and water. They are already plagued with disease as the government of Myanmar prevents them access to medicines. And yet the Rohingya hold onto their name.

So what does a name mean? Why would anyone risk their very existence to keep something we in the Western world are trained to overlook?

Shakespeare romanticized the surname in his classic Romeo and Juliet:

"What is in a name? That which we call a rose 
By any other name would smell so sweet;"
~ Juliet

Our surname is after all the first sense of identity that we get beyond ourselves. It is the watermark of our ancestral past that links us to generation after generation of people we often idealize. That name is a point of personal affection and conflict for so many of us. Yet for all the emotions that might boil up within us it is a part of us that most of us could never depart from. It simply has that much of a hold on how we identify ourselves. 

The next form of identity we are often stuck with is also passed down through generation after generation of ancestors. It too has a name. That being the name of our cultural and ancestral past, otherwise known as our ethnic heritage. For many in America it can be as simple as our skin color. For others it could be as specific as the faith our ancestors passed along to us. And for some it is the specific ethnic heritage from where our ancestors immigrated from (ie; Irish, German, Chinese, ext). But wherever the name comes from, it is part of us. We have proven over time in our collective past that is something we are more than willing to fight for. It becomes part of us in ways that we don't realize till it is already too late to change. And at the same time the question remains, why should we?

In that same monologue however Shakespeare gives the reader the essence of what drives us to defend that name. He hints at how others attack that name, and subsequently us as well. 

"Tis' but thy name that is my enemy;"

We aren't built to separate ourselves from the names that are passed down to us. It is part of human nature to cling to the identities we are given from the first breath we take. From those waking moments when we first become aware of who we are and from where we came we find ourselves attached to those parts of our own identity. They are parts of our worth. They are what defines how we see ourselves and how we imagine others see us. So when asked to "refuse our father, and deny thy name" we find ourselves dumbfounded. The most alien of concepts is that of altering our identity to fit the desires of another person (even more alien when it is a faceless figure such as the state). 

For the Rohingya this must be one of the many reasons they find strength to fight for their name... their culture. At the very least I have to imagine that it is a driving motivation, for it is the best way I can describe it; how I can rationalize it. 

In the same monologue Shakespeare's words lead us to a major motivator behind ethnic cleansing. For countries such as Burma it is the name that becomes the enemy. When they are able to isolate the targeted community it becomes the name and not the human being that is subjected to death. By destroying the name of a culture, a community, the attacker can justify their actions without rationalizing their hate. It is that devastating relationship between the first and third stages of genocide that must be made for a government to tolerate the actions it first inspired. 

For this reason alone perhaps Shakespeare had no other way to end his classic play but in tragedy. We aren't capable of making that leap from our identity to betrayal so easily. And that is exactly what it is for those who are faced with this wretched decision. For them it is a betrayal to their own identity. It goes against the long heritage they have with their fathers and their father's fathers. It is a point in time where they are asked to deny their ancestors and take up the facade someone else would forced upon them. It is the cleansing of their name and purges them of some amount of self worth. 

"A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head;
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad thing..."

If you would like to help you can follow the link below and read and sign the petition. Show your support to allow the Rohingya to keep their identity and help fight the Burmese campaign of cultural extermination. 

Petition created by +Jamila Hanan

May 6, 2013

What Does It Mean To Be Liquidated

Rohingya Face Burmese Version Of The "Final Solution"
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

In 1940 the German occupiers in Poland began to move the three million plus Polish Jews into overcrowded and unsanitary ghettos. One of which was the now infamous Warsaw ghetto. It was here that the Jews of Warsaw were first met with the face of the Nazi "final solution". Their very existence in Poland had spawned a perverse question amongst the racially motivated extremist both in Poland and Germany alike. For the Nazis this question was often refereed to as the "Jewish question". It quite simply could be summed up as "how to kill or expel all Jewish peoples within Europe". However Warsaw showed us that had Hitler been more successful in his attempts to slaughter the Jewish people in Europe that his ambitions may very well had spread much further than Polish or European borders.

By 1942 the Germans had arrived at the conclusion Hitler had been leading them toward all along. The "final solution" as Hitler saw it was the total extermination of the Jewish race both in Europe and the rest of the world. It was then, and only then, that Hitler believed his mythical Aryan race could flourish. So between July 23rd and September 21st the Nazi SS began carried out deportations from Warsaw sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in the Treblinka death camps. This was the first round of deportations. And it was the first hint the Jews of Warsaw had been given that they were not safe in their attempts to survive by cooperating with their oppressors.

During the time that passed after September of 1942 and April of 1943 the Jews of Warsaw experienced what it means to be "liquidated". What was left of their lives was being taken away as they watched the SS approach the camp and count the remaining living. They were like lambs in the eyes of their tormentors. And yet in that short period of time they found the strength to become like lions.

Today the Rohingya of Myanmar are in a very similar situation as the Jews of Warsaw were in the winter of 1942. They are trapped in ghetto like camps that are monitored and surrounded by Burmese military. Angy mobs of Rakhine Buddhists are the Rohingyas' version of the Nazi SS. And for the Rohingya still alive today, they are facing the very meaning of what it is to be liquidated.

In January of 1943 the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto arose like lions in the face of wolves. Outgunned, outnumbered, and barely able to organize themselves; the Jewish resistance fighters came out of the woodwork and attacked the SS as they attempted to restart deportations. Of the intended 8,000 Jews to be deported that day the Germans could only gather roughly 5,000. Yet the Jewish resistance didn't give up. They continued to fight back.

This is where the story for the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Rohingya of Burma splits in parallels. The Rohingya of Burma have no way to fight back. There is no resistance movement in the Rakhine like their is in the Shan state. Unlike the Kachin people, the Rohingya have no paramilitary units to call upon. Life for the Rohingya is a life of facing death while the world watches. It is a story unlike that of past genocides in the fact that we are watching truly helpless people being butchered while we as a world community do nothing to stop it.

During the Armenian genocide the Armenian people were largely unable to stop the deportations and massacres they suffered under the Turks. Yet for the bravery of a small number of Armenian men and boys, the Armenians did offer up some form of resistance. They may have been badly beaten by Turkish military. Their families were all murdered or sent to die in the deserts of Arabia. But they were able to fight back.

In Rwanda the Tutsi who were mercilessly slaughtered in the streets and in their homes were unable to push back against Hutu militias who had prepared for the genocide. And yet again the Tutsi people found hope in the resistance of armed Tutsi militias that helped force the murderous regime to cease its campaign of ethnic cleansing. The wounds that were left may still be raw today. But for the fact that resistance was made there are still Tutsi people alive in Rwanda today.

The parallels that genocides of the past have with one another are unmistakable. This is a crime that follows patterns. It is a sin that repeats itself when the patterns it follows are not broken. And in cases like this of the Rohingya people, it is a crime that will reach completion if the chain of events is not altered.

Burma may be proceeding more cautiously now that the world is watching. The leaders that have given the green light to this campaign of genocide against the Rohingya may be trying to romance the West and China alike. But even with these hindrances in their plans to kill off or expel the Rohingya, the process is still happening. The stages of genocide are still occurring like clock work in Myanmar.

From the moment the first Rohingya community was burnt out of their homes and villages the process of creating ghettos began. From the establishment of the first IDP camp within Burma the process of creating ghettos was complete. This is the same path the Nazis used in Germany and the rest of occupied Europe. This is the same pattern that Hitler followed when pursuing his genocide of the Jewish people. So why is the world assuming that this will not lead to the same results that occurred in Poland?

Liquidation is a terrifying reality for those who are victims of genocide. It means that the world as you know it has ended. The people you lived amongst your entire life now want you gone... exterminated... killed off... however you put it, it is a permanent word. There is no place that is safe for you anymore. Anywhere you could even hope to flee to could never be home. Liquidation means to you what death means to others... finality.

For the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto life meant starvation, disease, and suffering. Yet liquidation was somehow worse. It was the end to the torment they had been living in. And yet it was the death of hope.

Can we not offer the Rohingya something other than the death of hope? Can we not offer the Rohingya some form of resistance to their seemingly final solution? Or will we stand idly by as the Rohingya become the next name on a long list of genocide victims?

Want to find out ways to fight back against the genocide of the Rohingya people? Follow the links and information below.

Partners Relief & Development

Twitter Activist for the Rohingya
+Jamila Hanan @JamilaHanan
Nay San Lwin @nslwin
Aung Aung @Aungaungsittwe