Rakhine State, Burma — The Burmese military has long persecuted all sorts of ethnic minorities throughout Myanmar/Burma — Muslim, Christian, animist or Buddhist — but the violence toward the Rohingya Muslims in recent months has proven exceptionally brutal. Countless documented cases of human rights abuses and war crimes have been reported from multiple aid organizations, both inside and outside of the U.N. A very disturbing and more recent development has come out of an investigation from the Associated Press, as they interviewed 29 Rohingya victims of rape by the Burmese Army. Beyond these AP interviews, aid organizations have told SOFREP that rape is not a new tool of war used by the Burmese Army, and its methodical use has been widespread in the historical conflicts around the country.
One of the women who was interviewed by the AP told a gut wrenching story where she was raped and when her husband cried, they executed him in front of her by shooting him and slitting his throat, and then continued to rape her. She would end up pregnant from the attack. The ages of the interviewees were anywhere between 13 and 35. The stories continued:
The women spoke of seeing their children slaughtered in front of them, their husbands beaten and shot. They spoke of burying their loved ones in the darkness and leaving the bodies of their babies behind. They spoke of the searing pain of rapes that felt as if they would never end, and of dayslong journeys on foot to Bangladesh while still bleeding and hobbled.”
What does “methodical” rape as a weapon look like? It’s regularly executed, something like a battle drill. The AP said,
The most common attack described went much like F’s. In several other cases, women said, security forces surrounded a village, separated men from women, then took the women to a second location to gang rape them.”
The U.N. has also been calling specifically for the sexual violence to end, on top of the rest. U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten said that, “My observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including rape, gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity directed against Rohingya women and girls.” The U.N. is reportedly making efforts to increase the documentation and treatment of sexual violence toward the Rohingya, coordinating with the Bangladesh authorities on this matter.
There are an estimated 800,000 Rohingya refugees, and 600,000 of them have fled into the neighboring country of Bangladesh. The journey there is arduous, and the trek alone has resulted in many deaths, often drownings. When they get there, the refugee camps are packed and barely sustainable — and the Bangladesh government wants to ferry 100,000 of them to an “uninhabitable” island that is prone to flooding and made out of silt.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.