For decades, these people have been deprived of basic human rights and access to higher education by their nation's government. As a result, this ethnic group faces challenges such as limited social mobility and extreme poverty. Unfortunately, the suffering of the Rohingya people doesn’t stop there. In 2016, the Myanmar government commenced a military crackdown against the Rohingya people.
Religious difference and fear are the reason behind the persecution. Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist nation and the Burmese majority are afraid of the Rohingya Muslim minority spreading their religious values. Moreover, they claim that the Rohingya people are illegal Bengali immigrants even though the ethnic group have settled in the area for centuries.
The genocide itself is horrendous as the government of Myanmar claimed the lives of over 10,000 Rohingyas. To escape the atrocities, more than 600,000 fled to neighboring nations such as Bangladesh and India, causing a refugee crisis. This predicament is far more detrimental for the women involved. In the midst of the immense oppression and persecution, Rohingya women became the target of widespread sexual violence.
Several Rohingya women and girls, ranging from ages 9 to 35, have shared their painful experiences with rape in the hands of Myanmar soldiers. Few of the survivors decided to share their stories with news outlets and many of these attacks share common factors. According to the testimony of the victims, the sexual violence is usually carried out by a group of men in dark military uniforms.
Rashida Begum, a Rohingya woman, recalled her traumatizing experience with sexual violence to CNN. She and four other women were thrown on the ground and brutally gang raped by Burmese soldiers. They proceeded to slash Rashida’s throat and kill her baby without any mercy. They left her to die, all bloody and battered. Rashida revealed how she lost her family and her will to live in the hands of these soldiers.
Stories similar to Rashida’s are all too common for numerous Rohingya women. Fifteen year old Hala Sadak told the Human Rights Watch she was kidnapped from her home and tied to a nearby tree. As many as 10 soldiers took turns penetrating her. When her family found Hala lying on the ground, they thought she was dead.
An anonymous refugee in Bangladesh described how a group of Burmese soldiers murdered her parents and came for her a few days later. They tied her husband up and raped her in front of him. When he screamed, the soldiers shot him and slit his throat, taking his life. The woman soon found herself pregnant with her rapist’s child. She revealed she will continue surviving for the unborn baby as she has nothing else to live for.
It’s undeniably atrocious that Myanmar refuses to condemn their soldiers for utilizing sexual violence as a weapon of war. Government officials completely denied these allegations, claiming that Rohingya women are too unattractive to get raped, despite there are substantial evidence of these crimes. Various clinics set up in Bangladesh to treat Rohingya refugees confirmed treating rape victims. It’s crucial for the international community to put the Rohingya refugee crisis in the limelight and bring justice to those affected by sexual violence in this crackdown.