CARBONDALE — For the past 30 years or more, a small minority in Burma has been persecuted, seen their homes and village destroyed and tortured and murdered, because their home base is land that the government deems valuable and wants.
Only recently have the atrocities against them began to be publicly disclosed: burning of villages, murders of children, rape of women, leading the United Nations official to call it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
To bring awareness to the plight of these people and to help raise funds for those who are refugees and in the process of being resettled, a local mosque is hosting a peace rally and march Saturday in Carbondale. The rally begins at 11 a.m. at the Carbondale Muslim Center (Masjid Al-nour), 530 N. Wall St., and will include a march to the Carbondale Town Square, near 120 N. Illinois Ave.
The community is invited to attend and participate.
The rally's organizer, Mohtashim Shamsi, said the event was about uncovering the "Burmese apartheid."
"(Some) 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the last three weeks," Shamsi said. "Their villages were burnt over a 100-kilometer stretch.Their nationality (was) revoked in 1982; since then, they are stateless. We want people to know the injustice going in the land where the president is a Nobel Peace prize winner."
Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's State Counsellor, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Myanmar is at the bottom edge of the continent of Asia, south of China and sandwiched between Bangladesh and India to its west and Thailand and Laos to its east. The country is also known as Burma and has a population of about 55 million, about 88 percent of whom are Buddhist; 6.2 percent of whom are Christian; and 4.3 percent Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The vast majority of the Rohingya live in Rakhine State, a sliver of land on the country's southwestern coast.
This past May, local resident Sumera Makhdoom said she, her family and others from this area visited a Rohingya cultural center in Chicago, where they met people who had fled the violence in their homeland. There, she said staff showed maps indicating how, over time, the Rohingya had been displaced from their homeland.
She said there was not any Rohingya living in the Southern Illinois area. She said those she met at the facility in Chicago have been seeking asylum for years.
The government has accused the Rohingya of working with al-Qaida or ISIS, Muslim terrorist organizations.
"It’s all political … (a) fight over resources, it come down to that," she said.