Bob Geldof returns award in protest against Suu Kyi for allowing persecution of Rohingya

Irish musician Bob Geldof, right, holds aloft his Freedom of the City of Dublin scroll as he prepares to return it at Dublin City Hall, in Dublin, on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2017

Bob Geldof returns award in protest against Suu Kyi for allowing persecution of Rohingya

LONDON: The UK government on Monday said the actions of military forces in Myanmar against the Rohingya people “looks like ethnic cleansing.”
Theresa May’s spokesman said: “We’ve been appalled by the inhumane violence that’s taking place in Rakhine state.
“It’s a major humanitarian crisis. It’s been created by the Burmese military and it looks like ethnic cleansing.”
More than 600,000 of the Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have reportedly fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh amid the military clearance operations.
The UK government’s comments came on the same day that Irish musician and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof said he would return his “Freedom of the City of Dublin” award to his hometown, saying he refused to hold the honor in conjunction with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The situation in Rakhine has prompted global calls for Suu Kyi to be stripped of all her former human rights accolades because she has not condemned the Myanmar military’s actions.
“I am a very proud Dubliner but cannot in all conscience continue to be one of the honored few to have received this great tribute whilst Aung San Suu Kyi remains among that number,” Geldof said in a statement.
“Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honored her, now she appalls and shames us,” Geldof said.
“The moment she is stripped of her Dublin Freedom perhaps the Council would see fit to restore to me that which I take such pride in. If not so be it. Please accept this small gesture and the sadness that accompanies it.”
In a statement issued on Monday the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ardmheara Micheal Mac Donncha, said: “Bob Geldof is entitled to return his award if he wishes to do so. It should be pointed out that as Ardmheara I have condemned the persecution of the Rohingya people and their expulsion from their homes by the military in Myanmar and the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, what the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.”

He added: “I have met Rohingya representatives in Ireland and I am pledged to assist them. When I raised the issue of removing the Freedom of the City from the Myanmar leader, a consensus was not reached among the groups on the city council, though all have condemned the persecution of the Rohingya people, and the matter is not closed.”
Last month Suu Kyi was stripped of a similar honor by the British university city of Oxford, where she was an undergraduate.
The University of Bristol, one of the several universities to award honorary degrees to the Burmese leader during her time in opposition, has also said it is reviewing its award in light of accusations of mistreatment of the Rohingya.
A spokesperson for the University of Bristol told Arab News: “The university shares the growing concern with the ongoing situation in Myanmar. In 1998, we awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time was leading the struggle for human rights and democracy in the then Burma. In terms of this award, it would be wrong to make any decision at this time to consider revoking such an honor but we will continue to monitor and review the situation as necessary.”
Unison, the UK’s second-largest trade union, confirmed to Arab News that it had suspended Suu Kyi’s honorary membership in September and that the situation in Burma will be “discussed” at UNISON’s next international committee meeting later this month to consider the “next steps.”
International human rights charity Amnesty International (AI) has carried out extensive research on the current Rohingya crisis, as well as the long-term pattern of discrimination against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.
An AI spokesperson told Arab News: “This is a clear case of ethnic cleansing. In legal terms, Amnesty international has consistently documented six separate types of crimes against humanity being committed against the Rohingya amid the current crisis: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions.
“Our ongoing investigation into the crisis has been informed by multiple research trips to the Myanmar/Bangladesh border since the current wave of violence began, as well as expert analysis of satellite imagery and other remote sensing technology that has revealed the devastating scale of the Myanmar military’s targeted, scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya.”
The charity said it would issue a comprehensive new report in late November, based on two years of research, “covering the pervasive and long-standing discrimination against Rohingya that is one of the root causes behind this crisis.”

Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 32 min 21 sec ago

Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”