President Erdoğan calls on Muslim countries’ leaders to act on Rohingya Muslims
COX’S BAZAR/ANKARATurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged the leaders of Muslim countries to address the situation of tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, making desperate attempts to flee the worst violence in Myanmar in at least five years.
Erdoğan talked on the phone with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Aug. 31, urging them to help find a solution to the violence against the Rohingya.
Wishing the leaders a happy Eid al-Adha, Erdoğan said ongoing strife in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine threw a shadow on Eid celebrations.
He stated that the violence towards Rohingya Muslims “saddens the Islamic world deeply” and vowed that his phone calls to find a solution to the crisis would continue.
Earlier in the day, Erdoğan also urged people to pray for “all Muslims and all the oppressed, particularly the Rohingya people” in a message released to mark Eid al-Adha.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also released a message on the issue.
“The ending of the suffering of Muslim countries that have to celebrate Eid under the shadow of wars is our biggest wish,” Yıldırım said on Aug. 31.
The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), a Turkish aid agency, has dispatched humanitarian aid to Rohingya Muslims. The foundation distributed food packages to among 300 families, as well as tents for 200 families and kitchen materials for another 200 families, according to a statement by the foundation.
Bangladeshi border guards have recovered two dozen bodies from the country’s shore in the last two days.
Around 27,400 Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar since Aug. 25, three United Nations sources said, after Rohingya insurgents wielding sticks, knives and crude bombs attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state, leading to clashes that have killed at least 117 people.
The Myanmar government says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations in northern Rakhine to defend the country against “extremist terrorists.” Monitors say that fleeing Rohingya are reporting that the army and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have unleashed a campaign of arson aimed at driving the Muslim population out.
The U.N. sources in Bangladesh said around 20,000 Rohingya were still stranded in no man’s land between the two countries, with one predicting the figure could jump to 30,000 later on Aug. 31.
Myanmar has evacuated thousands of Buddhists from Rakhine since the start of the fighting that has mainly killed Rohingya insurgents but also security force personnel, according to the Myanmar government.
The treatment of about 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar is the biggest challenge facing national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.
On Aug. 31, the bodies of 11 Rohingya children and nine women washed up on the Bangladesh side of the Naf after their boat overturned, said Ariful Islam, a commander with Bangladesh’s border guards.
In the Bangladeshi border district of Cox’s Bazar, makeshift camps for the displaced set up since similar violence last October were being expanded.
Myanmar has said it has the right to defend itself from attack, adding that security personnel were told to protect innocent civilians.
The Myanmar army has said it was battling insurgents who continued to ambush government forces, blaming them for setting fires to the villages. Monitors say there have been few, if any, insurgent attacks reported since the initial offensive of last week.
The violence marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October, when a similar but much smaller series of Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a brutal military response dogged by allegations of rights abuses.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries. Bangladesh is also growing increasingly hostile to Rohingya, more than 400,000 of whom live in the poor South Asian country after fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s.
The UN Security Council on Aug. 30 discussed the violence in Myanmar, but there was no formal statement from the 15-member council following the closed-door meeting.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said there were calls from council members for de-escalation.
“We all condemned the violence, we all called on all the parties to de-escalate,” Rycroft told reporters.
Also on Aug. 30, several hundred Buddhist nationalists, including monks, rallied in Myanmar’s largest city to urge stronger action against insurgents from the Muslim Rohingya minority.
Wirathu, a Buddhist monk and leader of the anti-Muslim movement who is known for virulent sermons, told the protesters in Yangon that only the military can control the situation in northern Rakhine.
He criticized the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi for not responding quickly to the army’s call for a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, which could declare a state of emergency in Rakhine and give the military absolute authority to enforce it. The military holds a majority on the council, which was created by the 2008 military-drafted constitution.
“Only the military’s commander in chief can protect the lives and the properties of the people,” Wirathu said. “The military is the only one that can give a lesson to tame the Bengali terrorists.”
Myanmar nationalists use the term Bengali for Rohingya because of a belief they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though many families have been in Myanmar for generations.
Wirathu also denounced international aid groups that the government has accused, without evidence, of giving assistance to the Rohingya insurgents. The allegations have circulated widely on social media.