New Report Details Systematic Rape of Rohingya Women And Girls As 'Tool of Terror'
Sexual violence is being wielded as a weapon in a wider campaign of ethnic cleansing.
In Bangladesh, persecuted Rohingya women are opening up to reporters about yet another sickening aspect of their harrowing expulsion from their homeland.
According to a disturbing new report from the Associated Press, security forces in Myanmar have been using the systematic rape of women and girls as a “calculated tool of terror” and a critical part of the ethnic violence against Rohingya over the past four months.
More than half a million Rohingya people have fled violence in Myanmar since it erupted in August. Many are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations has called Myanmar’s attacks on Rohingya Muslims — an ethnic minority in primarily Buddhist Myanmar — a case of “ethnic cleansing.”
Now, nearly 30 women between the ages of 13 and 35 who were interviewed by the AP say that rape was a systematic part of that cleansing. Though they came from “a wide swath of villages” across Rakhine state — the historic home of Rohingya people — their accounts shared striking similarities.
Most women described the Myanmar security forces surrounding a village and then separating the men from the women, slaughtering the men and children, and then taking the women to another location and gang raping them, the AP reported. The women then had to walk on foot to Bangladesh, often while still bleeding and injured from the attack.
The Interviews with the survivors of sexual assault living in refugee camps paint a picture of a cruel and inhumane campaign of using sexual violence to inflict fear among the Rohingya people.
The youngest victim was a 9-year-old girl.
“There was a sickening sameness to their stories, with distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants’ uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves,” the report reads. “The rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar’s security forces has been sweeping and methodical.”
AP notes that Medecins Sans Frontieres — known in the US as Doctors Without Borders — has treated over 113 cases of sexual assault among Rohingya since August, though they suspect many more women were reluctant to come forward. Earlier this year Human Rights Watch also released a report about widespread rape among the Rohingya.
HRW noted that most women who spoke about their assault were raped by several men in uniform at once. Injuries resulting from this violence left them in need of immediate medical attention, severely psychologically traumatized, and in some cases pregnant. HRW concluded that these actions, amidst a litany of other violent acts carried out against the Rohingya since August of 2017, amounted to crimes against humanity under international law.
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The government of Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country formerly known as Burma, has been in conflict with the Muslim Rohingya people for many years. Clashes between the two groups have been escalating since 2012, and now more than half a million Rohingya refugees have fled their homeland as Myanmar security forces continue to carry out the violent expulsion campaign.
AP’s report brings to light more difficult details that describe the reality of life for the world’s most persecuted group. Forced from their homes, subjected to unimaginable violence, and robbed of safety and security, many of the women interviewed for the report felt robbed of their entire lives.
“I have nothing left,” one victim told reporters. “All I have left are my words.”