Across the globe, Muslims are reacting with fury to the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar's state of Rakhine. The call to hold Myanmar's military and the government of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi accountable has united groups and figures as disparate as Turkey, Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Afghan Taliban, Iran, Turkey, and Russia's Muslim population, among others.
Nearly 90,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar in August after a military position came under attack, spurring “clearance operations” by the ruling junta. The ensuing bloodbath has led to the biggest crisis facing Suu Kyi, who stands accused of condoning the crimes against the long-oppressed minority, which include the torching of villages, rape, torture, and the extrajudicial killings of women and children. Since the 1970s, nearly a million members of the minority have fled persecution in the country.
Over 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to strip Suu Kyi of her Nobel Peace Prize, noting that “this once‐proud campaigner against wartime rape and human rights abuses by the Burmese military has opted to borrow from the Donald Trump playbook of denial and deflection.”
“Her office accused Rohingya women of fabricating stories of sexual violence and put the words 'fake rape' — in the form of a banner headline, no less — on its official website. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry — also controlled directly by Aung San Suu Kyi — dismissed 'made‐up stories,' blown out of proportion,” the petition added, noting that the one-time advocate of nonviolence had dismissed the “Rohingya issue” as being exaggerated by the international community.
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, called on her fellow laureate Suu Kyi to condemn the "shameful" treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, saying "the world is waiting" for her to speak out.
"Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment," Malala said in a statement on Twitter. "I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same … The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting."
Malala, 20, came to prominence when a Pakistani Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012 after she was targeted for her campaign against efforts by the Taliban to deny women education. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Taliban in Afghanistan – who have also been accused of rights violations and killings of civilians during its 16-year resistance to U.S. occupation. – denounced Myanmar's “ethnic cleansing” campaign during “the sacred days of Eid al-Adha.”
“We welcome the statements of support for the Muslims of Burma by those governments of the Islamic world, organizations, media and individuals who have raised their voices. We similarly call on Muslims worldwide to not forget these oppressed brothers of yours,” the group said. “Gird your loins for the defense, rescue, sanctuary and every type of aid to them and perform your obligation of Islamic sympathy towards them to your utmost extent.”
“Muslims are brothers,” the group added. “Do not await assistance from the inert human right claimants rather aid the oppressed Muslims of Burma with your own means, pray to Almighty Allah for their salvation, support them with your wealth, life and tongue and raise their persecuted voices so that the shadow of oppression is lifted from their heads.”
The Lebanese political party Hezbollah released a statement denouncing the “lethal silence” of “the arrogant system of the world,” blasting “the crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar which have victimized thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands.”
“These oppressed people who are subjected to the most heinous massacre are, in fact, victims of the Myanmar regime’s crimes … and global plots that have targeted them and other Muslims in the world,” the statement added.
The statement also took Myanmar's government to task for relying on Hezbollah's arch-foe, “the Zionist regime of Israel,” for arms. Human rights advocates have taken the Israeli military authorities to task for providing the government of Myanmar with lethal arms including Corner Shot rifles, Super Dvora patrol boars and other weapons that it insists on continuing to sell despite the government's atrocities.
Tens of thousands of people gathered at the square near the central mosque, known as the “Heart of Chechnya,” in the center of Grozny, the capital of the Russian Federation's Muslim republic, to take part in a rally to voice their indignation over the Rohingya Muslims' plight.
"Stop this bloodshed. We demand (that) the guilty are punished and crimes against humanity are investigated," Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told the crowd. "I am convinced that hundreds of millions of people around the world will hear our demand," he added, noting that he would fight his own government in Moscow if they support the Myanmar government.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif noted in separate phone calls with his Turkish, Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts that his country is prepared to develop and apply collective strategies by international organizations and Muslim countries in order to solve the ongoing crisis, according to Iran's English-language outlet Press TV.
Over the weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue in phone calls to over a dozen fellow Muslim heads of state during his customary Eid Al-Adha phone calls. The Turkish government has given over US$70 million in relief assistance to the Rohingya people, and it has pledged to assist neighboring Bangladesh if it allows further refugees into the country, who have filled international aid camps to capacity.
The number of those crossing the border into Bangladesh – 87,000 – surpassed the number who escaped Myanmar after a series of much smaller insurgent attacks last October that set off a military operation. That operation has led to accusations of serious human rights abuses.
The newest estimate, based on calculations by U.N. workers in the Bangladeshi border district of Cox's Bazar, takes to about 174,000 the total number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since October.
The new arrivals have strained aid agencies and communities already helping hundreds of thousands of refugees from previous spasms of violence in Myanmar.
"We are trying to build houses here, but there isn't enough space," said Mohammed Hussein, 25, who was still looking for a place to stay after fleeing Myanmar four days ago.
"No non-government organizations came here. We have no food. Some women gave birth on the roadside. Sick children have no treatment."