Thousands of Ronhingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh have marked the second anniversary of the Myanmarese army’s deadly crackdown that displaced them.
Over 3,000 Rohingya protesters gathered at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday to demand their Myanmarese citizenship and other rights in their homeland.
They held placards and banners reading, “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day,” and “Restore our citizenship.”
The demonstrators were also expected to hold a prayer session for the victims of Myanmar’s brutal military offensive on Rohingya Muslims on August 25, 2017.
The violent raid forced more than 720,000 Rohingya people — more than half of them children — to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh. Thousands of others were killed, raped, or arbitrarily arrested.
The United Nations termed the offensive “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” with soldiers engaging in rape, murder, and the burning down of entire Rohingya villages.
Muhib Ullah, one of the organizers of the Sunday protest, said they planned a massive rally later in the day, when tens of thousands of refugees were expected to join.
“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” he told the crowd. “Myanmar is our country. We are Rohingya.”
Rohingya literally means a resident of Rakhine in Myanmarese.
The rally came three days after a failed attempt to repatriate the refugees to Myanmar.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and are rendered stateless.
On Thursday, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said in a report that the scale of sexual violence against the Rohingya was an indication of the Myanmarese military’s “genocidal intent.”
Myanmar soldiers "routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people,” it added.