By Priyanka Mohanty
Research Intern at Jindal Centre for the Global South
O.P. Jindal Global University

About the Author

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, and a Director at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington, D.C. He has received the International Association of Genocide Scholars Awards on the Rohingya genocide; and awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Along with “The Rohingyas”, he has authored other seminal books: “Radical Origins: Why We Are Losing the War Against Islamic Extremism” and “Authoritarian Century: Omens of a Post-Liberal Future”. 

About the Book

The book “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide” is authored by Azeem Ibrahim is about the systemic ill-treatment and mass killing of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. The extreme form of denial against this minority community by the Buddhist fundamentalists, military, ethnic extremists of other communities for transforming Myanmar into a Buddhism safe and racially pure country has forced this population to either take refuge in other countries or become the victim of elimination. The author, in this book, uncovers the origin of the problem of state subjugation, discrimination, hostility faced by Rohingyas and the follow-up of the whole oppression.

The whole book is divided into seven chapters. To begin with, the first chapter is devoted to Myanmar’s (previously Burma) history up to 1948. The idea behind beginning the book with a brief glimpse into the past of Myanmar is to understand the timeline of Rohingyas’ arrival in the land of Arakan or modern-day Rakhine. Along with the timeline, the chapter conveys to the readers about the marginalization, denial of identities, basic civil rights faced by this minority community in a Buddhist dominated region. As per the UN Charter, subtracting basic rights and privileges from humans is completely unreasonable as no State can declare any individual stateless if they are born in that particular territory.

In the second and third chapter, from post-independence to 2015, the author has conveyed how the internal political dynamics, oscillating from democracy to military and then to democracy again, has affected the position of Rohingyas. Victimization of this unarmed community by the regimes to distract the attention from any crises (say, economic) was a recurrent and systematic affair. Strengthening the attacks and racial antagonism against them with constitutional laws, defining who are citizens and foreigners further degraded their existence since pushing them to latter bracket denied them education, land, unrestricted movement etc.  

The fourth chapter, “Implications for the Rohingyas”, based between the years 2008 to 2015, speaks to the readers about the constant atrocities faced by Rohingyas in Myanmar. Graduating through the pages creates a petrifying effect as the lawlessness and injustice aimed at this group by the Buddhist extremist, military as well the regime has pushed this community to a level where they are forced either to change into Buddhism, stay in impoverished camps or to leave the country as they are considered outlanders. The ongoing events exhibited in the book showcase that the Rohingyas are left alone in this fatiguing pandemonium.

In the fifth and sixth chapter of the book, “Genocide and international law” and “Genocide” respectively, the author has discussed situations from all around the world that depict how animosity towards a particular section with time becomes normalized and inadequate voice from international section sets up a prerequisite condition for massacring the whole community. The purpose was to make the readers realize that oppression against Rohingyas was similar to those of international cases of human violations, like in Rwanda (grave conflict between Hutus and minority Tutsis leading to slaughter of the latter). The author’s detailed analysis about the “triggers” that fades the zone between prejudice and outright genocide entails that any political, environmental and economic shock has the capacity to exterminate the entire community. Starting from irresponsive policies by the regime like their exclusion from 2014 census, plundering them from basic electoral rights, official documentation and forcing them either to identify themselves as Bengalis or to land up in refugee camps shows the “statelessness” badge for being a Rohingya.

In the seventh chapter, “what can be done?”, the author has suggested about the solutions like adhering to the UN Charter on citizenship and nationality, internal partition of Rakhine, involvement of international players and organizations in creating pressure so that the community facing one of the worst humanitarian disaster can look for a hope to end the hostilities that they have been facing since decades.

Altogether, “The Rohingyas” is a very thorough and detailed account of the events happening in Myanmar, targeting a single minority community. This book becomes an indispensable read for those readers who wish to obtain a full and complete understanding of the reality of the land of Myanmar and the effect of the present situation in the immediate and extended region. As mentioned in the book, the author wants to sensitize the world about the atrocities happening at this end of the world and direct the attention of international organizations to the same. The reality is grim and gloomy for the Rohingyas, and this book can help us to understand, in depth, the gruesome situation that this population has undergone and will continue to endure. 

Works Cited

Azeem Ibrahim, “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide”, October 10, 2017

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