The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority group from the Rakhine State of Burma. They have a unique language and culture, and while they live in a predominantly Buddhist country, the majority of Rohingya people are Muslim.
The Rohingya people have lived in Burma for centuries, yet they are reviled as outsiders and accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In 1982, the Burmese began to strip to Rohingya residents of their citizenship. Over the years, there have been many waves of violence where the military and the government destroyed Rohingya communities and denied them freedom of movement in the country they call home.
The latest and most horrific round of violence started on August 25, 2017, when the Burmese military intensified its anti-Rohingya campaign. Soldiers have burned entire Rohingya villages to the ground, indiscriminately massacred Rohingya men, women, and children, and forced an estimated 688,000 people to flee on foot or by boat to refugee camps in Bangladesh, usually a trek of several weeks from their burned villages.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently declared that the current attacks on the Rohingya people constitute “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”
We are standing by the Rohingya people, offering immediate and long-term humanitarian aid—including food and water—to refugees who have fled across the border into Bangladesh. We are also supporting Rohingya human rights activists in Burma and around the world in their efforts to stop military violence against the Rohingya community.
Together with our friends and partners, we are pressuring the U.S. government to persuade the Burmese military to stop its attacks against the Rohingya people. We helped organize over 300 Jewish organizations and community leaders from across the Jewish community to urge Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D- MD) to advance the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017 (S. 2060). This bill would increase humanitarian aid for displaced Rohingya communities, establish targeted U.S. sanctions against those responsible for the violence, and establish a mechanism to help provide accountability for crimes committed against the Rohingya people and other minorities in Burma.
Why We Care
As an ethnic minority living among majority cultures over many centuries, Jews have experienced waves of persecution. In Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, Jews have suffered government-sanctioned hate and been stripped of their citizenship rights. They have also been violently attacked and endured threats of annihilation. Our history of oppression demands that we stand today to ensure that “never again” means “never again” for the Rohingya people and other persecuted minorities.
About American Jewish World Service’s work in Burma
For more than 15 years, AJWS has supported the human rights of ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people. AJWS provides direct financial support to more than 30 human rights organizations in Burma that have been working to advance the rights of minority ethnic groups and to create a truly pluralistic and democratic society. Please read more about our work in Burma here. We believe that only in a democratic and pluralistic Burma will the Rohingya people be able to survive and thrive.