Demonstrators in their thousands in Bangladesh and other Asian countries took to the streets on Friday in protest at what is turning out to be genocide of minority Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar army.
In Bangladesh, protesters asked its government to open border to the Rohingyas fleeing the military persecution as demonstrators in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand rallied in front of the embassies of Myanmar crying out their anguish at the ethnic cleansing in the country’s northern Rakhine state.
From the demonstrations came the call for unity among Islamic countries to protect Muslims against persecution as the incumbent world leaders, including the UN, failed to deliver its duty in protecting Rohingyas, considered by many the world’s most persecuted community.
The Malaysian cabinet has condemned the violence by issuing a strong criticism of the Myanmar government for failing to protect the Rohingyas.
On the streets of Kualalampur, Malaysian marchers braved downpour to denounce the persecution.
In Dhaka, demonstrators torched an effigy of Myanmar’s de-facto leader Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, venting their anger against her silence over the persecution being carried out by none other than her military.
They chanted ‘Stop Genocide’ and ‘Build Muslim unity and free the Rakhine state from the grip of Myanmar.’
Qoumi madrassah-based Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam organised the demonstration in front of Baitul Mukarram after jumma prayers. Over 5,000 demonstrators participated in the protest.
Its Dhaka city unit president Nur Hossain Quashemi urged the United Nations and other international organisations to take immediate steps to stop the killings and persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
He urged the government to allow persecuted Runhingyas into Bangladesh by opening the border for them considering their human rights.
In the port city of Chittagong, more than five thousand Hefazat activists brought out a procession from city’s Andarkilla Shahi Jame Mosque after the jumma prayers and it ended at Cheragi Pahar, protesting at the atrocities on the Rohingyas.
Addressing the pre-procession rally at Anderkillah, Hefazat’s central secretary general Jonayed Babunagari said that if the massacre of Rohingya Muslims was not stopped immediately, Hefazat activists would march towards Myanmar to stop the killing and topple the government over there.
He declared the Hefazat’s next protest programmes that included a mass procession towards Myanmar embassy in Dhaka on December 1 and a protest rally in Cox’s Bazar on December 2.
Babunagari said that if the Myanmar government did not stop killings by December 2, they would declare a long march towards Myanmar to stop the killing.
Meanwhile, despite tightened watch along the border, Rohingyas have continued to enter into Bangladesh.
According to the UN, about 30,000 Rohingyas have been displaced by the atrocity by the military which launched its drive after an alleged insurgent attack on the country’s border outpost killed security officers.
After putting the northern state under lockdown, the Myanmar government restricted movements of journalists to the area. It has rejected allegations of genocide by insisting that Rohingyas were setting their houses on fire for international attention.
Rohingyas are denied citizenship and subject to harsh restrictions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where many view them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
The UN refugee agency says well over 120,000 have fled Rakhine since a previous bout of bloody unrest in 2012, many braving a perilous sea journey to Malaysia.
Last year, thousands were stranded at sea after a well-worn trafficking route through Thailand collapsed following a police crackdown sparked by the discovery of brutal human-trafficking camps along the Malaysia border.
In Jakarta, demonstrators from Indonesian Islamic organisations held protests outside Myanmar’s embassy, AFP reports.
Chanting ‘Allahu Akbar (God is greater!), they called for the government of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to sever diplomatic ties with Myanmar and for Suu Kyi’s 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.
‘This genocide is happening to women, children and the elderly,’ said Maya Hayati, a 34-year-old housewife.
‘If they (Myanmar) don’t want them, then it’s probably better to send them to another country. Don’t torture them like that in their own country.’
Muslim-majority Malaysia’s cabinet also issued a statement condemning the violence, an unusually strong criticism against a fellow member of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, AFP reports.
‘Malaysia... calls on the government of Myanmar to take all necessary actions to address the alleged ethnic cleansing,’ the statement said.
It said the Myanmar ambassador would be summoned over the crisis and that Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman would meet with de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other top Myanmar officials ‘at the earliest possible date’.
Around 500 Malaysians and Rohingyas marched through a heavy tropical downpour from a Kuala Lumpur mosque to Myanmar’s embassy carrying banners denouncing the Rakhine ‘genocide’.
Abu Tahir, a 60-year-old Rohingya man who demonstrated with a chain coiled around his body, said he had been cut off from his family in Rakhine since he fled two years ago.
‘The Rohingyas are being treated like dogs, and are being killed,’ he said, tears streaming down his face.
Amir Hamzah, 60, who heads the Malaysian Muslims Coalition, an NGO, said, ‘The people of Malaysia strongly condemn’ Myanmar’s actions.
‘We want an immediate stop to the violence. This is cruel,’ he said.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from South Asia