Below is the text of a speech delivered by RI Senior Advisor on Human Rights Sarnata Reynolds at the Oslo Conference on Myanmar's Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas.
I have been asked today to speak about the challenges and opportunities for positive policy and political engagement on the mass atrocities & ethnic cleansing facing the Rohingya.
There are many points to make on each side, but I will limit mine to three observations in the interest of time.
Periodic violence, reprisal attacks, recent displacement – the town of Bambari, almost right in the middle of the Central African Republic (CAR), is emblematic of the continuing crisis in the country. In 2013, many areas in CAR descended into intercommunal violence following the overthrow of the government by an amalgamation of rebel groups from the north known as the Séléka. Christian militia groups, known as anti-Balaka, started fighting against the Séléka (composed primarily of Muslims).
The over 360,000 Sudanese refugees currently in Chad have been there for over a decade. They fled to Chad after violence in their towns and villages in Darfur. And that violence in Darfur unfortunately continues.
Twelve years ago, when I was a high school student living in a small New England town, I remember hearing about Darfur. I remember seeing news reports about the terrible conflict there, and about the hundreds of thousands of people whose villages had been burned or bombed, forcing them into exile.
A few days in southern Turkey, in cities which have received Syrian refugees, leaves a complex feeling of both achievements and failures.
Turkey is currently the largest refugee hosting country in the world. More than two million Syrians have arrived over the past four years, and more are arriving as the conflict back home continues unabated. Every day, living conditions inside Syria become more precarious and dangerous.
It’s one of those things you don’t think about until someone specifically brings it up. You don’t think about it partly because it doesn’t seem to be the most urgent need, and partly because you just don’t want to have such an image in your head. It’s a mental picture that’s not easy to get rid of.
“There is nowhere to bury people in Aleppo anymore. The public gardens are all full of bodies.”
The village of Pagak lies in Ethiopia’s Gambella region on the western border with South Sudan. Pagak essentially exists on both sides of the border, and in better times, people would move from one country to another primarily to meet friends and relatives, engage in trade, or transport livestock.
From the massive migration of an estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children to the U.S. border this past summer to President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform, issues facing Central America have entered the national spotlight here in the US. The underlying internal displacement trends within Central America have not received as much attention, but are perhaps even more important as they reveal a frightening relationship between gang violence and forced migration within Central America.
South Sudan is continuing to reel from internal conflict that ignited in the capital Juba a little more than a year ago and quickly spread throughout the country. On December 15th, 2013, fighting erupted in Juba between soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir. More than one year on the fighting continues, primarily in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states in the north.