In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), a Rohingya Muslim woman described the searing episode of her rape and the killing of her husband by the armed forces of Myanmar (formerly Burma), known as Tatmadaw, on the night of June 2017. She said that the Burmese soldiers entered in her home, bound her husband with ropes, slit his threat, ripped the scarf from her head, tied it around her mouth, and raped her. This is just one of the horrific atrocities Rohingya Muslims went through. Otherwise, myriads of Rohingya men, women, and children experienced persecution in the hands of the army men. Among the actions of persecution mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson remained the most common.

But how did it all start in the first place? The systematic incidents of injustices against the Rohingya made Rohingya Muslims bitter and angry. The collective anger translated itself in the form of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). On 25-August-2017, in retaliation to the killings of Rohingya Muslims and rapes of their women by Myanmar security forces, hundreds of ARSA members armed with machetes, swords, and other weapons attacked the Burmese police camps and military bases, killing at least ten police officers and an army soldier.

In September 2018, a shocking report by the UN fact-finding mission found that the Myanmar military committed large-scale gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against Rohingya women in Rakhine (Arakan) state of Myanmar. Constituted by the Human Rights Council, the report further stated that the rapes were often perpetrated by Tatmadaw soldiers in public spaces and in front of the families and the communities to maximise humiliation and trauma.

Additionally, Human Right Council said that a campaign of hate and dehumanisation of the Rohingya Muslims was underway for months and escalated after 8-June-2012, led by Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), various Rakhine organisations, and radical Buddhist monk organisations, and several official and influential figures. It was spread through anti-Rohingya or anti-Muslim publications, public statements, rallies, and boycotts of Muslims shops. The Rohingya Muslims were labelled ‘illegal immigrants’, ‘terrorists’, and portrayed as an existential threat that might ‘swallow other races’ with their ‘incontrollable birth rates’. In November 2012, the RNDP cited Hitler and argued that ‘inhuman acts’ were sometimes necessary to ‘maintain a race’. Since August 2017, Myanmar military forces soldiers and Buddhist militants have been intensively involved in the detestable humanitarian crimes against the Rohingya Muslims that resulted in a large exodus of more than 730,000 Rohingya to the neighbouring Bangladesh district of Cox Bazar.

The history of modern Myanmar and persecution of Rohingyas go hand in hand. Burma renamed Myanmar in 1989, was under British colonial rule during 1824-1942 before Japan invaded; pushing British out of the territory. British evacuation provoked Burmese nationalists to attack Muslims communities in then-Burma. In 1945, Britain liberated Burma from Japan with the help of Burmese nationalists and latter created independent Union of Burma in 1948; defying promise to give autonomy to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine (Arakan), living in the land since the 8th century. Tensions soared between the newly established Burma and Rohingya Muslims. Most of the Rohingya Muslims wanted Arakan’s inclusion in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Jinnah, however, regretted due to lesser Muslims’ proportionate to Burmese population and opined that Rohingya Muslims should strive for their rights within Burma.

In 1978, General Ne Win conducted a large scale military operation Nagamine (also known as Operation King Dragon) in northern Arakan that targeted and killed Rohingya Muslims. The action forced 250,000 people to migrate Bangladesh – one million Rohingya Muslims had fled Myanmar to various countries. Enacted in 1982, Burma Citizenship Law no longer recognises Rohingya as citizens of Burma – ensuing 800,000 Rohingya Muslims (1.1 million, according to some reports) stateless. Since then, Muslims in the region are the victims of dreaded exploitations by the Burmese army, including forced labour, rape, and religious torment. Rohingya Muslims cannot travel, work outside their villages and even marry without authorisation from the state officials. They are also effectively barred to vote in General Elections so have no political representation in the state’s parliament to raise voice for harbouring and protecting their fundamental rights.

They are the most persecuted community in the world that has been crammed between Myanmar (Formerly Burma) and Bangladesh (Formerly East Pakistan). Neither of the countries is willing to take them as a citizen; leaving almost a million people at the disposal of high hills, severe weather, and miserable food and health conditions. On May 29, a reproachful 36-page report by former Guatemalan foreign minister and UN ambassador Gert Rosenthal rebuked the conduct of its global organisation (US) for its “obviously dysfunctional performance” in Myanmar over the past decade. “The overall responsibility was of a collective nature, in other words, it can be truly characterised as a systemic failure of the United Nations,” the report said. UN Secretary-General António Guterres accepted the “candid, forthright, and useful report” about UN “systemic failure” in Rohingya crisis and assured to implement Rosenthal’s recommendations.

In the latest development, the prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda has requested court’s judges to order an investigation on the persecution, deportation, and other inhuman acts of the Rohingya people by Myanmar security forces. The ICC prosecutor’s request to initiate an inquiry into the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Rosenthal’s recommendations provide another opportunity to the international community. The United Nations, Security Council, and other regional organisations such as ASEAN and European Union can use diplomatic, humanitarian, and other means to force Myanmar in meeting its responsibility to protect its people from genocide and war crimes. Security Council should slap sanctions including travel bans, assets freeze, and arms embargoes on Myanmar as well as should pursue the case in the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that the perpetrators of killings and rapes of Rohingya people could be made accountable.