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Islam and the West ( 30 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Intervention Of The Biden Administration Should Lead To An Improvement In The Conditions Of The Rohingya

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

January 30, 2021

The Trump administration stopped short of categorizing the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar as a genocide, despite it being the clearest example of one for at least two decades.

Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the State Department, has committed to re-evaluating this determination. What, if anything, will come of this?

The facts are indisputable: After a multidecade campaign to dehumanize the Rohingya minority on the basis of religion, language and skin colour, the federal armed forces of Myanmar forced more than three quarters of them from their native lands and pushed them over the border into Bangladesh within the space of just six months in 2017-18, in what they described as “clearing operations.”

Whenever challenged by international commentators, the leaders of Myanmar — including the erstwhile Nobel Peace Prize laureate, State Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi — assert their sovereignty and right to act, on the basis of rejecting that the Rohingya even exist. This is despite the fact that we can see them with our own eyes, and their existence as a distinct, indigenous group in the area was documented before any Western empire annexed the area. The case of their persecution is currently being examined before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

So it is a mystery why the Trump administration refrained from categorizing their plight appropriately. Perhaps it was simply a case of people in glass houses not throwing stones. Or perhaps it did not want to lend any more credibility to the international institutional order that nominally judges and enforces these kinds of rulings under the UN system, as it worked tirelessly to undermine these institutions in other ways.

Neither of these considerations should restrain the Biden administration, and nor are they likely to. Both Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken are committed internationalists with the utmost regard for international law and human rights. So we should expect that the US position on the Rohingya situation ultimately will be subject to the determination made by the ICJ when the case is finally concluded.

In the interim, Washington is likely to regard the situation as, indeed, a genocide, even if only out of a principle of caution — there are still hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar, mostly living in extremely precarious conditions in camps for internally displaced people, and they need the international community to take a forceful stand to guarantee their safety.

Such a move by Washington will have an immediate effect on all Rohingya, but especially those in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The determination will prompt other international powers to make their own determinations, most notably the Europeans. They have been reticent to alienate the authorities in Myanmar, in the hope that the country will continue to make progress in other areas, particularly in its transition toward democracy.

Between the US and Europe, much more humanitarian funding will start flowing toward the refugee camps in Bangladesh, and the authorities in Dhaka will finally see some much-needed financial relief from the pressures they have been facing since the refugee crisis started.

Moreover, the Myanmar government’s room for manoeuvre will be severely constrained, and it will be forced to make immediate improvements, at the very least to the conditions of the Rohingya who remain in the country. It will also have to start thinking more seriously about some kind of long-term resolution of the situation it has created, for all Rohingya — or face a return to the kind of internal isolation it experienced in past decades, except now with the added threat of political and economic over-reliance on a hyper-assertive Beijing.

Whatever comes next, the announcement by the new team in Washington is good news. As always, these situations are delicate and there are inherent risks in such moves but, overall, we should expect that the intervention of the Biden administration should lead to an improvement in the conditions of the Rohingya in relatively short order.


Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at the Centre for Global Policy and author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide” (Hurst, 2017).

Original Headline: Will Biden call the Rohingya crisis a genocide?

Source: The Arab News


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