It’s been three years since Myanmar’s soldiers targeted, killed, and raped Rohingya and burned villages to the ground. Nearly 800,000 Rohingya refugees fled this genocidal violence. The roughly 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar face the ongoing risk of genocide.
Leading up to the third anniversary of these gruesome events, Refugees International and other civil society groups pressed the U.S. Department of State to make a determination and publicly declare that the Rohingya have been subject to genocide. The effort included appeals from faith groups, international legal and human rights experts, congressional testimony, and other initiatives. And on August 25, 2020, Refugees International delivered a petition, with nearly 9000 signatures, urging the U.S. State Department to use the term that fits the crime: genocide. And of course, these kinds of civil society efforts will continue.
As Mohammed Rezuwan, a poet and Rohingya refugee living in Bangladesh, said, “A genocide determination by the U.S. can change our fate.”
It has been three years since Rezuwan fled his home in Myanmar and became a genocide survivor. To mark this grim anniversary, he wrote this poem. The words below are testimony not only to Rezuwan’s pain and suffering, but also to the Rohingya people and all that they have endured.
Twenty-fifth August broke into a morning of mourning
Of our village women shrouded in black and black of a weeping maria
Rifles cough out louder than thunder rumbles
Bullets strayed in the gloomy sky like clouds of hungry locusts
Voices of motor guns and AK47 chatted in laughter
Tasty fire tongues licked our village pole to pole and post to post
In tears children find shelter under the broken tents of their mothers
Husband looks for wife; wife looks for husband
Mothers with flapping breasts scream children names in a trembling squeak of hiding mice
Crippled found legs in his hands, and the blind see through the rudder of darkness
Eyes shed tears lavishly flooding every threshold of our village
Corpses of children clinging unto mamma’s back laid bare with bullets logged in heads and chests
Twenty-fifth August sold us pains branded in sweet sorrows
Children, wives, and husbands ate and purge at the graveyard latrines
Oh August twenty-fifth, how callous you are!
You stole my brother, my sweetest Bambi
You slit his throat
and sent him to be with other comrades at the belly of mother earth
hungry beast of the 8th order
You ate innocent ‘Rohingyas’ and ate all
Under the nose of the ICC* and IIFFMM** you munched with a mouthful
United Nations wags no tongue
You killed us and deleted our shadows
But by tomorrow like Lazarus we shall rise and sprout anew
and our shadows shall grow tall and dark.
No more genocide, No more pains!
*ICC: International Criminal Court
**IIFFMM: Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council