Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted communities in the world and have been under extreme scrutiny by the Burmese government. Despite having lived in Arakan state since the 8th century (now a part of Burma), the Rohingya have not been recognised as citizens of The Union of Burma since the 1962 coup d'etat by General Ne Win. After decades of oppression and marginalisation, the passing of the 1982 Citizenship Law deemed them officially stateless. The Rohingya have been through a series of genocides, the latest wave being in 2017, where a million people fled Burma to Bangladesh.

Country of Origin: Burma, Arakan
Countries of Residence: Burma, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and others
Total Population: approx 1.2 million in Bangladesh, approx 600,000 in Burma, approx 400, 000 in diaspora

A Rohingya woman in Cox's Bazaar, taken after our Emergency Fire distribution.

  • 8th Century

    Dated Rohingya ancestry in Arakan

  • 1799

    A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in Burma Empire published by Francis Buchanan- The first historical document mentioning the Rooinga or today’s Rohingya.

  • 1947

    Constitution of the Union of Burma is proclaimed with some of Burma’s first citizenship laws. The Rohingya vote in the 1st Constituent Assembly Elections.

  • 1948

    Independent Union of Burma is created.

  • 1959

    Rohingya recognised as race with equal rights, by Prime Minister U Ba Sue.

  • 1962

    General Ne Win overthrows U Nu government in a military coup.

  • 1978

    Operation Naga Min was launched, Rohingya targeted and massacred; 250,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh

  • 1982

    Burma Citizenship Law enacted, no longer recognized Rohingya as citizens; 800,000 Rohingya left stateless

  • 1982 Onwards

    Rohingya subjected to abuse, forced labour, harassment, rape, arbitrary land seizure, destruction of property

  • 2012

    Two waves of violence erupted between the Rohingya and Rakhine in Arakan, devastating both community resulting in mass killings and torture, 135,000 Rohingya displaced whom now live in IDP camps in the Sittwe township.

  • 2015

    Boat Crisis in Andaman Sea: More than 10,000 Rohingya are left adrift not able to dock in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand or any other country. Many lost their lives on board. Eventually when allowed into Indonesia, Restless Beings act as first responders providing fresh drinking water and security for the camps in Aceh.

  • 2017

    August Rohingya Genocide: On August 25th 2017, the beginning of a mass exodus begins. Eventually more than 1 million Rohingya cross the border from Burma to Bangladesh fleeing Genocide by Burmese military. Wide scale reports of rape, child being burnt alive and over 20,000 deaths. Restless Beings act as first responders from August 23rd onwards providing the first 900 shelters for families.

  • 2017 - 2018

    As more and more people flee, Restless Beings begin providing emergency humanitarian assistance providing more than 20 tonnes of aid. We also publish a detailed report 'The Genocide of The Ignored Rohingya' at the House of Lords and provide advocacy and policy support to various international Governments.

  • 2018

    Restless Beings establishes 2 child friendly spaces and 1 womens friendly space to provide psychological support and a sense of normalcy for the children and women in the Rohingya camps.

  • 2021

    2021 - FebruaryCoup D'Etat by Burmese military ousting the civilian government. Rohingya remaining in Burma fear for safety and security now the military have full control of the country. The country teeters towards civil war as the Civil Disobedience Movement - a cross ethnic, religion and gender movement challenges the military rule

What's human rights abuses are the Rohingya facing?

Human rights abuses against the Rohingya have been entrenched into the social, political and economic systems of Burma or Myanmar for decades. Pushed to the margins of society, they are: restricted in movement, required to attain permission to marry from the NaSaKa (Arakan border force), denied the right to work, education and the freedom to practice their religion and cultural customs.

This is simply because the Rohingya- as one of the many ethnic minority groups in Burma, are different in race, language, faith, traditions and culture.

A man carrying a sack, taken in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar.

The Rohingya in Bangladesh

A burden to the densely populated country, Bangladesh offer very little protection to the Rohingya. Those living in the refugee camps are living in harsh conditions, struggling from malnourishment, illiteracy, neglect and isolation.

Not dissimilar to their lives in Burma, the Rohingya refugees are limited in their movement and are often subject to exploitation. Making 60% of the camps, women and children can be victim to sexual violence and trafficking, as well as this children are denied education and there's little to no access to health and medical care.

Additionally, the Rohingya are also met with hostility in Bangladesh. The locals in Cox's Bazaar are marginalised by their own government and live in severe poverty. Seeing the Rohingya refugees just being given space in Bangladesh stirs frustration amongst the locals. This hostility pushes the Rohingya to seek help in neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Unfortunately, like Bangladesh, they are met with the same hostility and doubly, these parts do not have the resources to house another community of such a large magnitude.

What Are We Doing?

During visits to the camps in 2009 and 2010, Restless Beings monitored the lack of access to education as well as the lack of employment and opportunities. This is why we built our Rohingya women and children centre. For Rohingya women and girls, one of the biggest needs is a safe space. Now a core part of the community, the space is run by women, for women of all ages and with needs, rights, dignity, and safety at the heart of all services. Our Rohingya Children Centres are a safe space for children of all ages. Both centres not only help young minds grow but also provide a routine, some sense of normality and encourage the children to slowly heal from the trauma they carry having experienced unimaginable violence.

  • Since 2009 Restless Beings have established relationships with the Rohingya diaspora living in the UK and other countries. It has been imperative for us to learn about the Rohingya culture, heritage and also about their own personal plight. Through this, we have worked collaboratively to champion the rights of the Rohingya community.
  • In 2012, the ethnic strife in Arakan between the Rakhine and Rohingya devastated both communities after two bouts of violence broke out in June and October; Restless Beings with immediate effect from protests and petitions to facilitating updates (photos and footage) to the likes of Channel 4, BBC and Al Jazeera. We had compiled our own report from what we had received from our sources in Arakan.
  • We first held a protest outside the Bangladeshi embassy in London and handed in our petition signed and supported by 2462 people.
  • During the Olympics a peaceful protest was held to raise awareness for the barbaric human rights abuses and state sponsored ethnic cleansing being inflicted upon the Rohingya communities by the Burmese government.
  • We then launched our second campaign, ‘Global Day of Action’; A petition signed by 11,112 people from all over the globe to urge the UK government to take action.
  • Our stateless Rohingya project is predominantly about raising awareness of decades long abuse against a community that rightfully deserve citizenship in their own homeland

It is Burma's duty to accept the Rohingya as citizens, accept their history and ensure the safe repatriation of each and every single member of the community back into Arakan. Although safer than being persecuted and killed in Burma, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh are a stateless community who want to return to Arakan, when it is safe to call it home. It is essential that the rights of the Rohingya are recognised internationally and we need your support to continue to ensure that it is.

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