After a brutal military campaign against Muslims in northern Myanmar, Rohingya Muslim women are coming forward with stories of sexual assault by the Burmese military.
The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group in predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar (Burma). Myanmar does not recognize them as full citizens, making them effectively stateless. Although the group has long been persecuted, the current Rohingya crisis began in August, when a group of Rohingya insurgents attacked military posts in the country’s Rakhine province, the Burmese military started burning down Rohingya villages and killing civilians. More than 600,000 refugees have fled over the border into Bangladesh, and the United Nations describes the military’s assault as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
According to women who have fled Rakhine, the military is using rape ‘methodically,’ as a weapon of war. As foreign reporters are not allowed in the Rohingya area of Rakhine, reporters from the Associated Press recently spoke with 29 displaced Rohingya women and girls living in Bangladeshi refugee camps. The women, who ranged from 13 to 35 years old, all reported being raped by Burmese security forces in the last year. And, though there are differences in their stories, the underlying similarities give credibility to the UN’s claim that Burmese forces are using rape as a “calculated tool of terror” against Rohingya women.
Many of the women interviewed come from Tula Toli, where locals assisted the military in murdering Rohingya people and torching their homes with petrol bombs. The assault, which started on August 30th, is estimated to have claimed over 500 lives. Roshida Begum, one of the women interviewed, says she lost 17 relatives in the assault. “I can’t help but cry,” says Roshida, who was raped by Burmese soldiers along with other women in her village. “I want justice from the world, why did they kill my mother and father and sisters?”
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