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Malala Demands an End to the ‘Heart-Breaking’ Violence Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Flickr: Statsministerens kontor

Malala Yousafzai is calling for an end to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, who are fleeing to Bangladesh in their thousands to escape violence in Myanmar.

The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner asked Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the “shameful” treatment of the minority people. 

“Every time I see the news, my heart breaks at the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” she wrote in a statement on Twitter

“Stop the violence. Today we have seen pictures of small children killed by Myanmar’s security forces. These children attacked no one, but still their homes were burned to the ground.”

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Read more: At Least 20 Killed in Capsized Boat as Ethnic Violence in Myanmar Gets Worse

Malala added: “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. 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.” 

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Violence has escalated against the Rohingya people in the northern Rakhine state in recent days, sparked by a coordinated Rohingya insurgent attack on dozens of police posts and an army base on August 25. 

The attacks were carried out by a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which claims to be protecting the Rohingya people from state repression. The Myanmar government says it is a terrorist group.

The UN said the insurgents attacked police posts and an army base with sticks, knives and crude bombs. In response, the Myanmar government has deployed its security forces to carry out clearance operations to defend the country against what they are calling “extremist terrorists.”

Read more: Rohingya Women Traumatized and Stateless After Mass Sexual Violence

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An estimated 90,000 Rohingya Muslims have made it across the border into Bangladesh, according to the BBC

Those who have made it out of the country accuse the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs of burning their villages. 

At least 400 people are believed to have died in the violence, with reports of troops firing indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women, and children. Last week, guards on the border with Bangladesh recovered the bodies of 20 Rohingya women and children whose boat capsized as they fled. 

Another 20,000 Rohingya are believed to be stuck at the Naf river, which forms the border, with aid agencies saying they are at risk from drowning, disease and venomous snakes.

Read more: Rohingya Muslims Are the Most Persecuted Minority in the World: Who Are They?

But violence is not new to the Rohingya population. More than a million Rohingya Muslims live in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, and they are known as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world

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In November 2016, a UN official accused the government of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims. This was not the first time the accusation has been levelled at the government. 

In April 2013, reports Al Jazeera , rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said Myanmar was conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. 

The Rohingya people are not considered citizens in Myanmar and have limited access to basic services, such as education. 

Malala’s statement asked for Rohingya people to be given citizenship in Myanmar, and for the international community to offer aid and shelter. 

“If their home is not Myanmar, where they have lived for generations, then where is it? Rohingya people should be given citizenship in Myanmar, the country where they were born,” she said.

“Other countries, including my own country Pakistan, should follow Bangladesh’s example and give food, shelter and access to education to Rohingya families fleeing violence and terror.”

Read more: This App Allows Users to ‘Walk a Mile’ in a Rohingya Refugee’s Shoes

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Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, for her “non violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” 

But she has been accused by Western critics , including Human Rights Watch (HRW), of not speaking out for the Rohingya minority. 

“Unfortunately, Suu Kyi is following her political, not humanitarian instincts,” said HRW Australia Director Elaine Pearson.

Activists from Indonesia, home to the world’s biggest Muslim population, called on the Nobel committee on Saturday to withdraw Suu Kyi’s peace prize during protests outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, according to state news agency Antara .