The Hindu – India extends support to Bangladesh for resolving Rohingya crisis

Dhaka – Bangladesh, 09 April 2018. India on Monday extended full support to Bangladesh’s efforts for resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people to Myanmar.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said this following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart M. Shahidul Haque on the second day of his three-day Dhaka tour. “India has been fully supportive of the efforts being made to resolve the crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people,” Mr. Gokhale said in a statement.

He said India has sent relief materials for 300,000 Rohingyas in September last year under ‘Operation Insaniyat’ to support Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts while he announced New Delhi’s plans for the second phase of such assistance.

“On the Myanmar side, we are providing socio-economic support under our Rakhine State Development Programme including construction of pre-fabricated housing in order to meet the needs of the returning people,” he added.

Mr. Haque said Bangladesh was “very happy the way our friend from India is looking at this [Rohingya] issue, looking to peacefully resolve the issue.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had recently asked India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas, fearing their prolonged stay in Bangladesh could create militancy related security risks.

Some 700,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled Myanmar since August to escape a bloody military crackdown.

The army in the mainly Buddhist nation denies the allegations and says its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal in November.

The only real solution of the Rohingya crisis would be their recognition as citizens of Myanmar.
Man in Blue

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-extends-support-to-bangladesh-for-resolving-rohingya-crisis/article23484259.ece

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BBC News – The Rohingya children trafficked for sex

Girls in their early teens are being trafficked into prostitution in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, a BBC News investigation has found. Foreigners seeking sex can easily gain access to children who have fled conflict in Myanmar and now face a new threat.

Anwara is 14. Fleeing Myanmar after her family were killed she searched for help on the road to Bangladesh.

“Women came with a van. They asked me, if I’d go with them.”

After accepting their help, she was bundled into a car, with the promise of safe passage to a new life. Instead she was taken to the nearest city, Cox’s Bazar.

“Not long after that they brought two boys to me. They showed me a knife and punched me in my tummy and beat me because I wasn’t co-operating. Then the boys raped me. I wasn’t willing to have sex but they kept going.”

Tales of trafficking in the nearby refugee camps are rife. Women and children are the main victims, lured out of the camps and into labour and sex work.

A BBC team alongside the Foundation Sentinel, a non-profit group established to train and assist law enforcement agencies combating child exploitation, headed to Bangladesh to investigate the networks behind the trade we had heard so much about.

Children and parents told us they were offered jobs abroad and in the capital Dhaka as maids, as hotel staff and kitchen workers.

The chaos of the camps offers big opportunities to bring children into the sex industry. Offering a chance of a better life to desperate families is a cruel tactic deployed by traffickers.

Masuda, 14, who is now being helped by a local charity, described how she was trafficked.

“I knew what was going to happen to me. The woman who offered me a job, everyone knows she makes people have sex. She is a Rohingya here for a long time, we know her. But I didn’t have a choice. There is nothing for me here.

“My family have disappeared. I have no money. I was raped in Myanmar. I used to play in the forest with my brother and sister. Now I don’t remember how to play.”

Some parents wept for fear of never hearing from their children again. Others smiled at the prospect of a life bettered, despite not having heard from their loved ones.

As one mother said, “anywhere is better” than a life outside the camps.

But where are these children being taken to, and by whom?

Undercover, posing as foreigners recently arrived in Bangladesh looking for sex, the BBC investigation team set out to see if we could get access to children.

Only 48 hours in, after asking small hotel and beach cottage owners, places notorious for offering rooms for sex, we found the telephone numbers of local pimps.

With the knowledge of police, we asked the pimps if they had younger girls available for a foreigner, specifically Rohingya girls.

“We have young girls, many, but why do you want Rohingya? They are the dirtiest,” one man said.

This was a recurring theme throughout our investigation. In the hierarchy of prostitution in Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya girls were considered the least desirable and the cheapest available.

We were offered girls by a variety of different pimps operating as part of a network. During the negotiations we stressed that we wanted to spend the night with the girls immediately, as we did not want to create a demand.

Pictures of different girls began to come in and we were told they were between 13 and 17. The number of girls available and the scale of the network was striking. If we did not like any of the girls in the photos, there were plenty more.

Many of the girls live with the pimps’ families. When they are not with a client, they are often cooking or cleaning.

“We don’t keep the girls for long. Mostly Bangladeshi men come for them. They get bored after a while. Younger girls cause more of a fuss, so we get rid of them,” we were told.

With the recording and surveillance done, we presented the evidence to the local police. A small team were assigned to set up a sting operation.

The pimp was immediately identified by the police. “I know him. We know him very well,” said one of the police officers. Perhaps an informant, or a known criminal, it was not clear exactly what he meant.

In preparation of the sting, we called the pimp, and asked for two of the girls we had seen in the photograph to be delivered to a prominent hotel in Cox’s Bazar at 20:00 local time.

The undercover foreigner posing as the client, a member of the Foundation Sentinel, waited outside the hotel with a translator. In the car park undercover police officers waited for the trafficker to arrive.

As 20:00 drew closer, frantic phone calls were made between the pimp and our undercover client. The pimp wanted the client to come away from the hotel, we refused. Instead, the pimp sent a driver to deliver two of the girls from the photograph we had seen.

After the money was exchanged, our undercover client asked: “If tonight is good, can we get more?” The driver nodded in agreement.

After collecting the cash, the police moved in. The driver was arrested, and childcare professionals and trafficking experts helped to arrange care for the girls.

One of the girls refused to go to a shelter, while the other, who said she was 15, went into social care.

The girls appeared torn between poverty and prostitution – they said that without the sex work they would not be able to provide for themselves or their families.

Moving women and children both domestically and internationally takes a degree of organisation. The internet provides the tools to both communicate between different members of organised crime groups and sell sex.

We found examples of Rohingya children taken to Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kathmandu in Nepal and Kolkata in India.

In Kolkata’s booming sex industry, they are given Indian identity cards and absorbed into the system, their identities lost.

At the Cyber Crime Unit in Dhaka, police explained how traffickers trade girls for sex over the internet. Open and closed Facebook groups offer a gateway to a child sex industry out of sight.

Amid a labyrinth of encrypted websites, we were shown a platform used by paedophiles to share information on the dark web. The goal is to share experiences of how to have sex with children around the world.

One prolific user offered a step-by-step guide on how to take advantage of children, specifically Rohingya, in a refugee crisis. He goes on to talk about the best ways to avoid detection, the lowdown on local law enforcement and the best areas to prey upon children.

Another user replies: “As this is happening now, and I feel like a vacation, any thoughts/local knowledge would be appreciated.”

The thread has since been taken down by the authorities but it offered a chilling insight into how refugee crises provide opportunities for paedophiles and traffickers to prey on people at their most vulnerable.

Both online and offline in Bangladesh a network of traffickers, pimps, brokers and transporters continue to supply women and children for sex.

The Rohingya crisis did not create a sex industry in Bangladesh, but it has increased the supply of women and children, forcing the price of prostitution down and keeping demand as strong as ever.

Names in this article have been changed to protect identities

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43469043

The Hindu – Myanmar President Htin Kyaw resigns

A statement from President’s office said that a new leader would be selected “within seven working days”

Yangon – Yangon Region – Myanmar, 21 March 2018. Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw resigned suddenly on Wednesday leaving the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi without a close confidant and political ally as she faces rising international opprobrium over the Rakhine crisis.

The president is an old school friend of Ms Suu Kyi, serving as her proxy in an office she was barred from occupying according to Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution.

His role was largely ceremonial given Ms Suu Kyi had awarded herself the title State Counsellor and called the shots within her civilian administration.

But he was nonetheless the country’s head of state and a key domestic ally for Ms Suu Kyi within her party.

Speculation had swirled for months about the health of Mr Htin Kyaw, 72, who had recently lost weight and has had heart problems in the past.

“Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw resigned on March 21, 2018,” a statement on the president’s official Facebook page said.

His office did not give many details for why he resigned Wednesday, only saying that “he wanted to take a rest from his current duty”.

It added that a new leader will be selected in “within seven working days”.

There were no immediate candidates put forward as long term successors, but several senior party names were floated when Suu Kyi took power.

Myanmar’s Vice President Myint Swe, a former general, will move into the role until a new president is in place, according to the constitution.

Loyal school friend

Mr Htin Kyaw, the country’s first civilian president since 1962, was widely respected and seen as completely loyal to Suu Kyi’s who said she would rule “above” him after he was elected in 2016.

He has stood firmly by her side even as as her reputation lies shattered internationally for not speaking up on behalf of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community.

A violent military crackdown has forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh, in what the UN has branded as “ethnic cleansing” with possible “hallmarks of genocide”.

The military justifies its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks against police posts in August.

The civilian government is in a transitional power-sharing arrangement with the army which still retains huge political and economic power.

The army controls three key ministries, home affairs, borders and defence, effectively giving the army a carte blanche to conduct any security operations it chooses.

It also has a quarter of legislative seats reserved for officers, giving the military a de facto veto over any constitutional change.

Defenders of Suu Kyi say her government’s hands are tied by the military but critics maintain it could and should have done more to speak up against alleged army atrocities, particularly in Rakhine State.

Mr Htin Kyaw is the son of a revered poet and helped run Suu Kyi’s charitable foundation before taking over the presidency.

According to an official biography, Mr Htin Kyaw studied at the University of London’s Institute of Computer Science from 1971 to 1972.

In a varied career he worked as a university teacher and also held positions in the finance and national planning and foreign affairs ministries in the late 1970s and 80s before retiring from government service as the military tightened its grip.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/myanmar-president-htin-kyaw-resigns/article23309010.ece

BBC News – Myanmar ‘militarising’ Rohingya villages in Rakhine, says Amnesty

Myanmar – Rakhine State, 12 March 2018. Myanmar is conducting a “military land grab” on land in Rakhine state where Rohingya once lived, a new report from Amnesty International alleges.

Citing satellite images and witnesses, the rights group says villages have been bulldozed to make way for new infrastructure since January.

An Amnesty spokesperson said this “alarming” militarisation was removing evidence of crimes against Rohingya.

The government of Myanmar has yet to respond to the report.

It has previously asked for “clear evidence” to support allegations from the UN that it may have carried out “acts of genocide” against the Rohingya.

Amnesty says that while the picture its new report presents “is only partial, the situation raises urgent concerns about its implications for the future of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya… as well as the tens of thousands who continue to live in the region”.

In August, the Myanmar military launched a military operation in Rakhine state after deadly attacks on police stations.

It said it was a crackdown on insurgents, but reports have emerged of widespread human rights violations, killings, and the burning of villages.

“New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director.

“This makes the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees an even more distant prospect.”

The group says new facilities for security forces and roads have been built around places where Rohingya villages once stood, suggesting the area could be used to accommodate more security forces.

By bulldozing entire villages the authorities are also “erasing evidence of crimes against humanity, making any future attempts to hold those responsible to account extremely difficult”, said Ms Hassan.

She said development was “sorely needed” in Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest states, but that it “must benefit everyone in the state regardless of their ethnicity, not entrench the existing system of apartheid against Rohingya people”.

Rakhine has been largely sealed off from UN investigators, rights groups and media organisations, making it impossible to independently verify such reports.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship and equal opportunities by the Myanmar government, which says they are illegal immigrants, and they are largely despised by the majority-Buddhist population.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43367720

The Statesman – Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims continue: UN

Nay Pyi Taw

New York – United Nations, 06 March 2018. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar is continuing in Rakhine state, from where at least 700,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017, the UN said Tuesday.

The UN and human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the atrocities allegedly committed by the Myanmar military in a campaign against the Rohingya that began in northern Rakhine following a coordinated assault by the Rohingya insurgent movement on August 25, 2017, reports Efe news.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that while the level of violence had been reduced, murder, rape, torture, abductions as well as forced starvation continued.

“It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists,” Gilmour said in a statement issued after his visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh,” he added.

The UN expert also questioned how the Myanmar government could say that it was ready for the return of the Rohingya refugees while atrocities committed against them continued, and argued that “safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions”.

Gilmour also praised the humanitarian response of Bangladesh and other international organizations to the Rohingya refugee crisis, but warned that the rainy season could leave “a devastating effect” on the refugee camps.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to start repatriating the Rohingya refugees at the end of January but the deal was suspended at the last minute by the Dhaka government.

The Myanmar military has denied claims of abuses, but in January recognised the extrajudicial killings of Rohingya in September 2017.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the Rohingya community as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/ethnic-cleansing-rohingya-muslims-continue-un-1502596206.html

Outlook India – Christians, Sikhs being persecuted in India, believe British MPs; to take it up with Modi during commonwealth Meet

The Ministry of External Affairs has, however, refused to comment on the issue

London – UK, 05 March 2018. Britain will raise the issue of “alleged persecution of Christians and Sikhs in India” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in April, reported Hindustan Times.

The decision comes after last week’s debate in the House of Commons on ‘Freedom of religion or belief’, where MPs argued at length the details of “persecutions in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere”.

A Labour MP too had raised the issue in the House last week. Martin Docherty-Hughes of Scottish National Party (SNP) quoted from a few reports and said that India was one of the most dangerous countries to practise Christianity.

Sikhs came into the picture after the SNP member raised the arrest in Punjab of Scottish Sikh of Indian origin Jagtar Singh Johal, allegedly without charge. Johal has been accused of murder and conspiracy to murder, according to the paper.

The Ministry of External Affairs has, however, refused to comment on the issue saying that the ministry would need to see the debate transcripts first, added the report.

An Open Doors survey ranked India 15th on a list of countries where persecution of Christians is the highest. “India experienced an escalation of attacks on its Christian minority in 2016, usually led by Hindu nationalists acting largely with impunity.

Just over 2% of the country’s population is Christian, and nearly 80% of Indians are Hindu,” reportedThe Guardian.

A Pew Research Center analysis of 198 countries, that came out last year, ranked India as fourth worst in the world for religious violence.

Pew analyzed cases that involved hate crimes, mob violence, communal violence, religion-related terror, the use of force to prevent religious practice, the harassment of women for not conforming to religious dress codes, and violence over conversion or proselytizing.

Apart from “religious intolerance” in the country, the HT reported that bilateral meetings between PM Modi and May are also expected during his visit to London for the CHOGM from April 16 to 20. It will be Modi’s second visit to London as prime minster after November 2015.

The CWEIC is in charge of organising the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which will be held alongside CHOGM between April 16 and 20 and bring together businesses from across the 53 member-countries with government leaders for sessions on technology, innovation, financial services and sustainability.

The UK, as Chair-in-Office of the organisation for two years, will be hosting CHOGM in London and Windsor against the backdrop of negotiations with the European Union (EU) on its future as a non-member of the European economic bloc.
Lord Marland has written to British Prime Minister Theresa May to make strengthening the Commonwealth a priority.

A former British government minister and trade envoy said Britain needs to provide “subtle and discreet leadership” because most Commonwealth countries look to the UK for leadership, reported PTI.

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/christians-sikhs-being-persecuted-in-india-believe-british-mps-to-take-it-up-wit/309120

ANI News – Jinnah didn’t want a separate country: Farooq Abdullah

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 03 March 2018. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Saturday said that Muhammad Ali Jinnah didn’t want a separate country for Muslims, but happened due to the Indian leaders’ refusal to accept minority status for Muslims and Sikh in the country.

“Jinnah was not going to divide the country. The commission was delivered and the decision was taken that India would be divided. It said we will keep a special representation for Muslims. We will keep special dispensation for minorities and Sikh, but will not let the nation divide,” said Abdullah.

Abdullah further said it was political leaders’ Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel’s refusal to the commission that led to Jinaah’s demand for Pakistan.

Jinnah agreed but Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel did not agree. When this did not happen it was then that Jinnah demanded for Pakistan. Or else there would have been no separation. There would have been no Bangladesh, no Pakistan; there would have been one India,” said Abdullah.

https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/jinnah-didnt-want-a-separate-country-farooq-abdullah201803032317200003/

Gent: Bevrijdingslaan – De Centrale Rohingya Crisis

Bevrijdingslaan
18 January 2018


Turkish Supermarket

De Centrale

Rohingya Crisis
18 January 2018


Meeting with members of different Gent-based organisations about the Rohingya crises


Ghent 4 Rohingya
TVJO – SOS Kinderdorpen -VOEM


Listening with full attention


Ahmed Ziauddin from Bangladesh

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

BBC News – Rohingya crisis: Bangladesh and Myanmar agree time-frame for repatriation

London-UK, 16 January 2018. Bangladesh says it has agreed a timeframe with Myanmar for repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled an army crackdown last year.

Myanmar has agreed to accept 1,500 Rohingya every week, Bangladesh says, adding that it aims to return all of them to Myanmar within two years.

Over 650,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state in August.

Aid agencies have raised concerns about forcibly repatriating them.

A spokesperson from the UN High Commission for Refugees said Myanmar also needed to address the underlying causes of the crisis and that refugees should only return when they feel it is safe for them to back.

According to Reuters, the agreement did not specify when the process would begin but said Myanmar would provide temporary shelter to those returning and later build houses for them.

The two sides agreed on a repatriation deal last November and have now met in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw to finalise the details.

Bangladeshi foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque told BBC Bangla that the government had wanted Myanmar to accept 15,000 Rohingya each week – however, they eventually settled on 300 a day – 1,500 per week.

Both sides would review the agreement in three months, he added.

Under the current agreement, about 156,000 Rohingya would be repatriated in two years, far short of the 650,000 who have taken recently taken refuge in Bangladesh.

‘Mistrust and fear’

Jonathan Head, BBC Southeast Asia correspondent

Both countries have agreed the repatriation will be voluntary. And most refugees say they will only return if their safety can be assured, their homes rebuilt, and if they are no longer subjected to official discrimination. None of these conditions is in place.

Myanmar has started rebuilding, but mostly for non-Muslims. It is preparing two transit camps, the first able to accommodate 30,000 people. Beyond that not much has changed.

More than 350 villages, nearly all of them Rohingya, have been burned down, some recently. The military, which is accused of terrible human rights abuses, still runs northern Rakhine State. It has denied the abuses, denied access to independent investigators, and strictly limits access for aid agencies.

There is talk of closing the camps in which 130,000 Rohingyas are still confined, but not yet of ending restrictions on Rohingya movements. And nothing is yet happening to reduce the mistrust and fear of Rohingyas felt by the non-Muslim population, some of whom have vowed to fight against any large-scale refugee return.

When the initial deal was signed, Amnesty International said it doubted there could be safe or dignified returns “while a system of apartheid remains” and added that it “hoped those who do not want to go home are not forced to do so”.

The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Huge numbers have fled to Bangladesh after deadly attacks by a Rohingya group on police posts prompted a military crackdown in Rakhine state in late August.

The crisis has been described as ethnic cleansing by the UN and the US.

Despite widespread accusations of human rights violations, Myanmar has consistently denied persecuting its Rohingya minority.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42699602

The Tribune – Bangladesh Gurdwara Management Board comes of age

Shubhadeep Choudhury, Tribune News Service

Kolkata-West Bengal-India, 18 November 2017. The fledgling Kolkata-based Bangladesh Gurdwara Management Board, which made a wobbly start in 1972, has organised yet another successful pilgrimage. Pilgrims, numbering 200, reached Bangladesh on November 9. The last batch returned home recently.

Two dignitaries, including Obaidul Quader, the Bangladesh minister for roads, transport and bridges, visited the historic Nanakshahi Gurdwara at Dhaka and promised the pilgrims support for any programme organised at the shrine.

“Hands folded and eyes shut, he stood in front of Guru Granth Sahib and prayed,” said an evidently pleased Harbhajan Singh, a resident of Amritsar and follower of the Kar Sewa sect headed by Sukha Singh of Tarn Taran.

Sukhdev Singh, also from Amritsar, recalled how the “nagar kirtan” in Dhaka on November 10 had drawn an overwhelming response.

“We were looked after well. People from all religions attended the gurdwara functions. It seemed we were celebrating communal amity,” said Bhai Gurbux Singh of Takht Hazur Sahib, Nanded, Maharashtra. “Awami League MP Quazi Rosy also visited the gurdwara and interacted with the pilgrims,” he added.

The Sikh pilgrimage circuit in Bangladesh consists of five gurdwaras, two each in Dhaka and Chittagong and one in Mymensingh. As Bangladesh does not have any Sikh population, there is no Sikh on the Dhaka-based Gurdwara Management Committee.

Headed by a Hindu, Parashuram Begi, and with local Hindus, Muslims and Christians as its members, the committee looks after the gurdwaras as well as pilgrims visiting the shrines during Baisakhi and Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary.

Controlled by Kolkata panel

The Bangladesh Gurdwara Management Committee is controlled by Kolkata-based Bangladesh Gurdwara Management Board.

Members and office-bearers of the Kolkata board are chosen by the Jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib. Pilgrimage to two Dhaka shrines associated with Guru Nanak and Guru Teg Bahadur began in 2008.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/bangladesh-gurdwara-mgnt-board-comes-of-age/499922.html