New ′retaliatory′ attacks on Myanmar′s Rohingyas | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 12.10.2012
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New 'retaliatory' attacks on Myanmar's Rohingyas

Rohingya activists have alleged that Myanmar's Buddhist protesters have launched fresh attacks on Muslims in retaliation to last week's attacks by Muslims on Buddhist temples and houses in Bangladesh.

Nurul Islam, a Rohingya activist in Bangladesh, told DW that a number of Myanmar Buddhists took out a protest rally on Sunday against the attacks on Buddhist temples and houses in Bangladesh. He alleged that the protesters attacked a 400-year-old mosque and burnt hundreds of copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and other religious texts.

"In the past few days, many Burmese Buddhists have launched a series of attacks on Muslims," Islam said. "They are posting derogatory texts and pictures about Islam on social networking websites. They seem to be retaliatory attacks.”

Last month, an outbreak of anti-Buddhist rioting in Bangladesh left at least four temples and dozens of homes gutted by fire. Muslims had taken to the streets to protest against an internet photo they said defamed Islam. At least 20 people were believed to have been injured in these riots. The rioters targeted the Bangladeshi town of Ramu and its adjourning villages, some 350 kilometers (216 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

Deadly riots erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state in June. Rohingya activists claim that more than 650 Rohingyas have so far been killed in these riots.

"After the violence broke out in Rakhine in June, the Buddhists started using social networking sites to organise attacks on Rohingyas," Aung Kyaw Oo, a member of the Rohingya community, told DW. "Now, after the attacks on Buddhists in Bangladesh, they have taken the anti-Rohingya campaign to a new height."

The prejudice

Rohingya Muslim men, fleeing from ethnic violence in Myanmar between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims (Photo: Saurabh Das/ AP/ dapd)

Bangladesh has started turning Rohingya away

Myanmar's Rohingyas live predominantly in the western state of Rakhine. They are not officially recognized by the Burmese government as an ethnic minority group, and for decades they have been subjected to discrimination and violence by the Buddhist majority.

Viewed by the United Nations and the US as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, many Rohingyas have fled to neighboring countries such as Bangladesh and India to escape persecution.

Despite the fact that Myanmar has embarked on a series of political and economic reforms, human rights organizations and activists say the situation of Myanmar's ethnic communities has not improved significantly.

Mark Farmaner, head of the Burma Campaign UK, says that anti-Muslim prejudice is not restricted to the Rohingyas, and that it is certainly on the rise.

"While I was in Myanmar just before the start of the crisis, I came across anti-Muslim prejudice everywhere. This prejudice is encouraged by the Burmese government, with ministers making derogatory remarks about Muslims publicly," said Farmaner.

But experts say it is difficult to get credible information out of the region. They say it is hard to tell the difference between rumors, propaganda and the truth.

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