13 August 2012
by Dr. Nazila Isgandarova, Contributor
Prime Minister Erdođan's wife Emine Erdogan and daughter Sumeyye Edogan visited Myanmar with a great hope to break the Ramadan fast with the Arakan Muslims in the camps in Switt. The main question before the Turkish delegates to Myanmar is to get accurate information about the situation and to figure out what Turkey can do in terms of providing humanitarian aid to people afflicted by the events.
Few days ago, Mrs. Emine Erdogan expressed her horror on what she had heard and called it “unbelievable” and “shocking.” What is “unbelievable” is manyfold:
First, the world, including the Turkish people, strongly believed that the religion of Buddhism is a peaceful religion and its followers are peaceful people with integrity and serenity. Second, the world continues to be silent about the human tragedy in the region.
What’s going on in the region is just an ethnic cleansing, which has been common throughout the 20th century in Burma against Muslims. The majority of the Buddhist population of the country see themselves as a powerful nation and recognize themselves the "right" to attack and chase off the Muslim residents, who were seen as “subordinates” and “aliens” in the country.
The ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Burma became worse due to the actions of elites and political actors. They were able to ignite the emotions of Burmese Buddhists against Muslims so well that the peaceful followers of Buddhism did not abstain from torturing, raping, and burning Muslims to death.
Mrs. Emine Erdogan was right when she described the events horrible and shocking. She actually wanted to ask why individuals chose to sink to such savagery against their own lifelong neighbours?
The answer to the question is hidden in the reasons of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Burma.
Ethnic cleansing is an action to force people, even all traces of them from a concrete territory. Many ethnic cleansing acts involve genocide. Genocide is an intentional killing of an ethnic, religious or national group. However, what is horrible, as Mrs. Erdogan expressed, is that ethnic cleansing is done in such a way that it instills terror in Muslims, so they flee and fear to return.
So, the Buddhist nationalists in Arakan chose a horrible way to instill such a fear in Muslims. They were forced out in most brutal fashion and hunger, disease, and the pains of displacement take many lives. However, the most horrible part of any ethnic cleansing against Muslim women in Arakan was the sexual violence.
The horrible stories about the Arakan women indicate that the Burmese Buddhists consciously decided to rape Muslim women collectively because women constitute the biological core of Muslims in Burma. They also carry a heavy task of passing on the Muslim cultural and spiritual values to their children.
Mrs. Erdogan was right when she described the violence as “unbelievable” and “shocking,” because rape became one of the tools of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Arakan, a way to terrorize them and make sure they did not come back to Burma again.
Rape is a form of punishment and insult the pride of all people regardless of their religion and ethnicity. Unfortunately, it became an emblem of the ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Burma and a shameful part of the history of Burmese people.