Mohammad Khazai

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations has called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in the conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar (Burma) to end the “ethnic cleansing of minority Muslims” in that country.

Mohammad Khazai, the Islamic Republic’s permanent envoy to the UN, issued a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General on Saturday July 21, expressing grave concern for the situation of Muslims in Burma.

Khazai writes: “The recent crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces against the Muslim minority in Rohingya province has resulted in human losses and the suffering of hundreds of innocent civilians, the destruction of mosques and homes and the eviction of people from their homeland, which constitutes violations of their fundamental rights.”

Amnesty International has also confirmed the attacks and the arbitrary arrests of Muslims in Burma, reporting that government officials and Buddhist citizens have been attacking and killing Muslims in Burma.

Khazai’s letter states that: “As the result of violence perpetrated against Rohingya Muslims by radical Buddhists and police forces in Myanmar, so far more than 650 Muslims have been killed in the country and another 1,200 reported missing.”

Iran’s UN envoy indicates that Myanmar authorities have made “disturbing” remarks that suggest members of the Muslim minority are not citizens of this country, despite “the fact that Muslim people in Rohingya have been living there for centuries.”
Last Friday, Myanmarese President Thei Sein announced that Rohingya Muslims must be expelled from the country and placed in UN refugee camps.

Khazai also criticized Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, the recent recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, for keeping silent in the face of “atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims.”

Aung San Suu Kyi was recently quoted as saying that she did not know if the Rohingyas were Mynamarese.

Myanmar authorities claim a series of isolated killings in May led to bloody skirmishes spreading across the coastal Rakhine state. The government then declared a state of emergency on June 10 and deployed troops in the area.

According to the authorities, the casualties are roughly split between Buddhists and Muslims.

Amnesty International, however, reports that the violence is being mostly directed at the Rohingya population, adding that the police and the army have conducted massive sweeps and detained hundreds of Rohingyas who are being held incommunicado.

Amnesty International reported on the situation, saying: “While the restoration of order, security, and the protection of human rights is necessary, most arrests appear to have been arbitrary and discriminatory, violating the rights to liberty and freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion.”

Many people in Myanmar do not consider Rohingyas as Myanmarese citizens. Rohingyas of Bengali origin settled in Myanmar in the 19th century, when the country was under British rule and called Burma. However, those who came to Myanmar after its independence in 1948 are still considered illegal immigrants.

According to UN estimates, 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar today. Rights groups report that thousands have tried to flee to Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries in the region to escape a life of abuse, which reportedly includes forced labour, violence against women and restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.