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Pakistan: Far From Myanmar Violence, Rohingya in Pakistan Are Seething

Wednesday 13 September 2017, by siawi3


Far From Myanmar Violence, Rohingya in Pakistan Are Seething


SEPT. 12, 2017

Photo= Hoor Bahar, 60, lives in the Arkanabad slum in Karachi, one of the estimated 500,000 ethnic Rohingya in Pakistan from an exodus in the 1970s and ’80s. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

KARACHI, Pakistan — It was happening again, but worse than ever: Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims were fleeing Myanmar while under attack by the security forces, and the deaths kept mounting.

Everybody in the vast Arkanabad slum of Karachi has family members who were affected by the government raids that started last month.

Outside Myanmar, and perhaps now Bangladesh, Pakistan is home to the highest concentration of Rohingya in the world, from a previous exodus of Rohingya in the 1970s and ’80s. A vast majority live in neighborhoods that are distressingly impoverished even by Karachi’s standards.

Now they are angry that Pakistan is not doing more to stop the killing in Myanmar, let alone improve the condition of the estimated 500,000 Rohingya who live in this country.

“The government needs to do more: Send them more aid, send them food, and break ties with Myanmar completely,” said Noor Hussain Arkani, who leads the Pakistan chapter of a charity in the Rohingya community, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. “We need world pressure behind us to end this violence, this hell. Just issuing statements isn’t enough.”

Pakistan was among the earliest and most strident in condemning the Myanmar government for its offensive, which started after Rohingya militants killed members of the security forces.

But even as politicians and civil society in Pakistan are up in arms over how members of the Buddhist majority in Myanmar are abusing the Muslim Rohingyas there, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya migrants here continue to live in desperation.

Photo: Across the Arkanabad slum, decrepit shanties with temporary walls, often with no doors and windows and unsteady corrugated roofs, house more than 100,000 Rohingya. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Across the Arkanabad slum — named after the old designation for Myanmar’s present-day Rakhine State — decrepit shanties with temporary walls, often with no doors and windows and unsteady corrugated roofs, serve as homes to more than 100,000 Rohingya.

The men mostly work as fishermen, while a small number weave carpets or are employed in garment factories. Malnutrition and diarrhea are common among children who have little access to schools and spend their days playing in rivers of garbage.

Residents said that up to 30 families shared a single tap of water. But even where running water is available, it often flows for fewer than four hours a day. There are no hospitals in the slums, and at least six women spoke of having a relative die giving birth because she had been denied admission to government hospitals.

Still, what people complained of the most in interviews last week was routine harassment by the police. Many spoke grimly of a “Burma Cell,” a special police division responsible for cracking down on Rohingya migrants. (Burma is the former name of Myanmar.)

Many Rohingya have carried Pakistani national ID cards for years but since the authorities started cracking down on fake versions in 2014, many have found it hard to renew their cards. And the second generation is being denied cards altogether, they said.

“Without cards, we are blocked out of jobs, our children can’t apply for admission in high schools and we can’t access government hospitals,” said Mr. Arkani, of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization.

In the slum of Burmi Colony, many residents spoke of being forbidden by the police to leave to fish. Mohammad Younis, a fisherman in his 30s, said he had not worked for half a year and his monthly salary of around $600 had shrunk to less than $60.

“When I try and take my nets and go out, I get stopped by the police, who ask for my ID,” said Mr. Younis, whose documents expired six months ago. “I show them documents to prove I am trying to renew my ID card, but they don’t even let me leave the colony.”

Photo: Abdul Hameed, a Rohingya fisherman, at a harbor in Karachi. Pakistan was among the earliest to condemn the Myanmar government for its offensive against the Rohingya. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

He added, “We will die, trapped here without access to our means of livelihood.”

Residents described arrests of people without cards who were then held either on impossible bail or until they paid a bribe directly to officers.

Malik Ishfaque, the station house master at the police station under whose jurisdiction many of the Rohingya-majority slums fall, said that officers were duty-bound to crack down on anyone who did not possess valid documents. And while he acknowledged that the Burma Cell used to exist, he said it had been dismantled.

Asked about instances of harassment and intimidation by the police that some Rohingya had described, Mr. Ishfaque said: “We act against these people because they are a group of thieves,” noting that crimes like pick-pocketing and robbery in the surrounding area were mostly committed by the Rohingya.

Despite having little, the Rohingya have been trying to directly help their people back in Myanmar.

Mr. Arkani said the community had raised money to send meat from 30 cows for the new wave of refugees in Bangladesh, as no new refugees were being allowed into Pakistan. The Rohingya Solidarity Organization had also set up a glass donation box, but it was almost empty.

“We are so poor already, but even then we try to raise whatever little money we can among ourselves,” he said. “But we need more help from Pakistani people who are rich, who have resources.”

Many who live here cannot even officially identify themselves as Rohingya. To avoid persecution and be accepted as naturalized citizens, many pretended to be Bengalis who migrated from East Pakistan before the 1971 war of independence, after which it became Bangladesh.

“You ask if we have enough to eat or drink, but I ask you: What is our condition when we cannot even say we are Burmese?” said Noor Jabbar, a community elder whose ID card expired three months ago but who has not succeeded in renewing it.

For his part, Khalid Saifullah, 70, who migrated from Myanmar four decades ago, described persistent mistreatment. “They won’t let me be a citizen, because then they have to give me rights and they won’t call me a refugee because then they have to give me aid,” said Mr. Saifullah, showing the high school diploma he had received from a school in Karachi. “I am not a citizen or a refugee. I am an illegal alien. I am nothing".



270,000 Rohingya Have Fled Myanmar, U.N. Says


SEPT. 8, 2017

Photo: The United Nations refugee agency said that 270,000 Rohingya had fled the fighting in western Myanmar since late August. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The number of Rohingya who have fled fighting in western Myanmar has climbed sharply to 270,000, placing a huge strain on camps in Bangladesh where they are seeking shelter, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

On Thursday, the United Nations agency said that about 164,000 Rohingya had fled since fighting broke out in late August.

Two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh that were already home to nearly 34,000 Rohingya “are now bursting at the seams,” Duniya Aslam Khan, a spokeswoman for the refugee agency, said in a statement.

“The limited shelter capacity is already exhausted,” she said. “Refugees are now squatting in makeshift shelters that have mushroomed along the road and on available land in the Ukhiya and Teknaf areas.”

The sharp increase is the result of more people leaving Myanmar and a more detailed count of those already in Bangladesh, Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies for the United Nations migration agency, the International Organization for Migration, said on Twitter.

The refugees in Bangladesh are mostly women and children who have arrived on foot, the United Nations refugee agency said. Some have tried to make dangerous crossings by boat. Last week, at least 46 Rohingya were found dead along the banks of the Naf River, which forms part of the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group that has faced severe repression in Myanmar, where a Buddhist majority has long ruled. About one million Rohingya live in Rakhine State in the west of the country. An additional 300,000 to 500,000 live in Bangladesh, many of them in grim refugee camps.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her long struggle against military rule, has come under increasing international criticism for the plight of the Rohingya. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, also a Nobel laureate, wrote in a letter Thursday that it was “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country” that “is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people.”

Senator John McCain of Arizona also wrote to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi this week, noting that he had been her friend and supporter and calling on her “to take an active role in putting a stop to this worsening humanitarian crisis as it spreads throughout the country.”

Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has also confronted Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi on Twitter over the violence against the Rohingya.

The most recent surge of refugees came after a Rohingya militant group attacked several police posts and a military base in Rakhine on Aug. 25. The government of Myanmar said 15 members of the security forces and 370 militants were killed.

Refugees say the military and Buddhist vigilantes have attacked villages, stabbing and shooting people, and burning homes. The government of Myanmar denies citizenship rights to the Rohingya and claims instead that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar officials have blamed the Rohingya for fires that have been seen burning in many villages across Rakhine, saying they are burning their own homes.

A BBC correspondent on a government-chaperoned trip to Rakhine reported Thursday that he saw Rakhine Buddhist men walking from an unoccupied Rohingya village that had just caught fire. “One of them admitted he had lit the fires, and said he had help from the police,” wrote the correspondent, Jonathan Head.