The hopes of the Rohingya

Three months ago no one in this world would have thought or even imagined that the political situation of Myanmar would change so drastically like it did starting from February 1st when the military staged a coup and arrested all legitimate elected members of the NLD party, including the state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Gyi, the president U Win Myint and all other high ranking government officials.
Three months ago the general elections from November 2020 were already long gone and the NLD, who won in a landslide again, were in charge to “lead” this country a second term.
The whole situation of course had always been a total “charade” for the last five years since the iconic leader Daw Aung San Suu Gyi and her party were never really ruling the country at all. They had been always under the absolute control of the military and were never free to change anything substantial like for example amending the 2008 constitution which guaranteed the total power to the military. The whole world had an understanding for this “straitjacket-situation”. But then months and years went by and not any strong attempt from the government was made to change anything at all, not even the things they definitely could have kicked off and could have tried to put in motion. One got the impression that they were not really trying or were not interested to take things in hand for the internal improvement, like for example implementing important labour rights or engaging in establishing new rights concerning freedom of speech. Also no attempt was made to free the masses of political prisoners and critics of the system who were imprisoned with long sentences, including many young students of whom many were in prison just for having participated in peace demonstrations.

Two Rohingya boys showing solidarity with the „three-finger-salute“, photo credit Haider Ali

In addition to that not one arranged peace talk or any meeting for reconciliation between the many ethnic armies and the government had any results or went anywhere positive. To the contrary, the peace negotiations with the representative leaders from different states and different ethnic armies came to a total halt. There was at no point any progress in sight. It appeared like these failures were accepted by the government and that nothing more could have been done. All hopes for getting peace inside Myanmar vanished. That was more or less the end of it. “The Lady” resigned and did nothing, literally nothing, at least I didn’t hear or read anything that could have gotten my bigger attention, not to mention of course her superficial and platitude speeches given on conferences or chatting during pleasant tea reunions with the foreign ministers from China and Japan.

The biggest disappointment was then of course her denial of the Rohingya Genocide in the beginning of December 2019 in Den Haag. That was it. She made herself guilty of slaughtering systematically the whole Rohingya community by protecting the army and lying for them. From that moment on there was no difference anymore between the civilian government and the Burmese military, responsible for countless atrocities and crimes against humanity on all ethnicities of Myanmar but most especially on the Rohingya community.

Rohingya solidarity with the spring revolution, photo credit Ro Tin Swe

So three months ago nothing was really moving in Myanmar. The people, except the ethnic minorities, were still deeply devoted to Aung San Suu Gyi, and she, who once claimed to lead this country into freedom and democracy, was absent, silent and sadly to say totally dominated by the killing generals of the Tatmadaw.
The Buddhist Bamar elite continued to enjoy their privileges and continued to have the most benefit from this situation. Their happy lives just went on like always whereas the vast majority of poor people and ethnic minorities were struggling to survive all over the country. The military clashes and fighting between the Burmese military and the multiple ethnic armies all over Myanmar increased and never stopped. The terrible war between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw in Rakhine State is still going on since two years and there is no end in sight.

Three months ago the Burmese people were existing and to a large extent believing in the made up construct of a prosperous country that was in a  “transition to democracy”. In reality the people got betrayed. All profitable businesses like the jade and timber trade were and still are in the hands of the totally corrupt military. The drug business with China, also controlled by the military, is flourishing and the only ones who get richer and richer are the criminal Burmese generals who are exploiting their own people and country, squeezing the last juice out of them like out of a lemon.

Illustration Mohammed Iddris

This salute is everywhere to be seen now in the camps, photo credit Mohd Salim

Three months ago I ran out of words to encourage all my Rohingya friends who are persevering under the worst imaginable living conditions in the refugee camps of Bangladesh to stay strong and to never lose faith and hope. There was definitely no end in sight for all this suffering. The uncertainty of how long this imprisonment in these camps could go on left every Rohingya, me also, in a total frustration. The only thing I saw was “mother Suu” and her party continuing to be passive for the next five years. That drove me literally insane.

Zia Hero Naing devoted to the revolution, photo credit Yassin Abdumonab

All these dark prospects for the future have changed now with this military coup. Not only for everyone in Myanmar but for all Rohingya also. This change is historic and within all this terror, killing, torturing, abducting, within all this cruelty, perversion and sickness this military exposes to the world now, lies the big chance for the country, the big chance for all ethnic minorities and the big chance especially for the Rohingya. For the first time in the last four years there is a valid hope for change, once this military is defeated. For the Rohingya this change would mean to be able to go back home to Myanmar eventually and this possibility shifted now into a realistic and actual nearness. The strong wishes of the Rohingya to be repatriated for real, to start anew at home in Arakan with freedom of movement, with free access to education, with assurance of all human rights, with no more discrimination and with their full recognition as Myanmar citizens is not anything totally unlikely to happen anymore but something that could be truly become real in the direct future.

Easter egg campaign „Save Myanmar“, photo credit MD Jamal

Rohingya solidarity starts young, photo credit Ro Tin Swe

All this hope arose because of the unbelievable strong unity and bond among the Burmese population, not only among the Bamar majority but among all people in Myanmar, including all minorities and also the Rohingya. No one had expected this either three months ago. This country is determined to resist against this military junta. This country is determined to never go back to this military dictatorship. This country stands together against all this terror. The new generation will fight and will not give up for their strong wish for renovation and democracy. Within the last five years they already got a very sweet taste of the conveniences, chances and the positive outlooks of an opening society and an opening country to the world which means they will not accept anymore the total darkness Myanmar was stuck in during the last six decades.

Burmese coup protesters, illustration by Qudama Rafiq

Today we know that standing against this powerful military will take much more time and will demand the strongest perseverance and resilience from all Burmese people, especially since the rest of the world is just watching and not coming to help. The Rohingya are forced to watch all this from far. If they could they would love to join this resistance and to do everything possible to help and support their Burmese brothers and sisters in standing and winning against this terrorist military junta that is slaughtering their own people all over Myanmar right this minute.

One thing is already sure today. There is no way to go back.