Today, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation joins peace-loving individuals across the world to condemn the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.
I use the words ‘ethnic cleansing’ very deliberately, because the systematic attack on a group of people over decades based on their ethnicity can be termed as nothing other than ethnic cleansing.
We are horrified by the brutal killings of the innocent, the destruction of homes, reports of rape, and the displacement of thousands.
We are ashamed that over the years, we have been witnessing a slow genocide, and that it has drawn international attention and widespread condemnation only now.
As South Africans, we know first-hand what discrimination is all about. Reading accounts from the Rohingya of systematic discrimination at the hands of the state, as well as Buddhist nationalists, one is reminded of life under apartheid. We were called by the ‘k’ word. The Rohingya too, are called by a discriminatory ‘k’ word – ‘kalar’. But, as we have heard particularly over the last few weeks, and as UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay has said, the brutality meted out to the Rohingya people is worse than apartheid.
We are deeply disappointed about the response to the situation by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. We echo Archbishop Desmond Tutu by saying: “My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.”
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation calls on DIRCO to do more than issue a general statement and continue fostering trade and diplomatic ties with Myanmar as if it is ‘business as usual’. Our government must be unequivocal in its condemnation of the state of Myanmar’s role in the systematic discrimination and attacks on the Rohinya!
Lastly, we commend the Protect the Rohingya group and others who have consistently ensured that the plight of the Rohingya people remains in the public spotlight.
We continue lending our support to the calls for peace and justice for the Rohingya people.