Amidst the recent violence in Arakan in Burma, Restless Beings called a Press Conference to bring to light the human stories behind the relatively unheard and unseen Rohingya community.
The evening started with an introduction from the Restless Beings Co Founding Directors- Mabrur Ahmed and Rahima Begum about the Stateless Rohingya project which was launched in 2010 and the recent campaign to raise awareness in this state of emergency since last month.
Mabrur Ahmed spoke of the campaign so far in recent weeks, from protesting and lobbying the Bangladesh Government to open it’s borders to then petitioning the British Government with over 13,000 signatures from 130 countries worldwide. In recent weeks, the Restless Beings website has reached over 80,000 hits, meaning that the Rohingya name, through campaigning on social media is being heard, despite the mainstream media not giving them the coverage they deserve. It was then also announced that the next step is to be a silent protest coinciding with the performances of the Burmese athletes that are taking part in the Olympics- the world's stage. There are also plans to form a coalition with other charities to ensure that aid consisting of food and medical supplies can get through to the most vulnerable in Arakan.
Restless Beings, through a network of sources in Burma has been able to attain exclusive footage from the ground, showing groups of Rohingya being escorted out of their village by state forces and numerous horrific attacks on local Rohingya. The footage shown at the press conference and made available to the media that attended seeks to show as merely an insight, the strife and unknown abuse the Rohingya face, and to also show the international media that it is possible to obtain such news and report without bias.
Members of the Rohingya community in London part of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) Yasmine Ara and President Tun Khin were then invited to speak about their experiences. It also provided an upsetting insight into the struggles of the Rohingya long before the summer clashes. The evening provided to be an opportunity to speak to other Rohingya members of the audience. One Rohingya, whose family are still in Arakan spoke of the fear that they live in daily and the heart-breaking news of his 12 year old cousin being killed in the violence, whilst another Rohingya said that after fleeing Burma, they had to live hiding that they were Rohingyan, but in London, they are finally free to live and be known as a Rohingya.
As well as the media, some interested parties either keen to know more about the Rohingya or support the campaign took home DVD’s with all the footage screened and the media statement. They were all encouraged to share the footage and the stories of the Rohingya.
One attendee who had previously attended our Building Hope event last month where we spoke about the Rohingya, had said that before then he had ‘’never heard of the Rohingya and neither had his family or friends’’. Indeed, raising awareness of the Rohingya community is one of the biggest challenges. However, raising awareness is integral at this stage and everyone can act to ensure that the Rohingya and their struggles are known.
A plea was made to the media which was supported by over 46 other organisations to report on the stories of Arakan on an international scale in an unbiased manner. The mainstream media is starting to rise, but regardless we as individuals still have an obligation to continue to spread the news of the Rohingya struggles.
It is at such times, that the international media and world leaders are required to pressure leaders enacting such grave human rights abuses. This issue is not about politics, race or religion, it is purely about simple human rights, rights that the Rohingya have been denied decades before this summer.
It is our duty as humans to make the atrocities known, and to stand up for the oppressed.
Restless Beings Video: Be advised distressing images are shown.
Images: From Restless Beings sources in Arakan- Burma July 16-19th 2012.