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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Muslim leaders call for immediate aid for Rohingyas

Leaders from around the Muslim world said that not enough is being done to help the Muslim minority fleeing violence in Myanmar. 

Rohingya refugees are seen waiting for a boat to cross the border through the Naf river in Maungdaw, Myanmar. Reuters / Mohammad Ponir Hossain
Rohingya refugees are seen waiting for a boat to cross the border through the Naf river in Maungdaw, Myanmar. Reuters / Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Muslim officials around the world are calling on the international community to come to the aid of Rohingya Muslims affected by violence in Myanmar that has forced thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Dr Mishaal Al Salami, speaker of the Arab Parliament, called for immediate action to put an end to the suffering of the Muslim minority as the UN reported that the number of Rohingya who have crossed into Bangladesh in the past two weeks reached 164,000.

The violence began when the Myanmar military said it was carrying out "clearance operations" in northern Rakhine state to flush out Rohingya insurgents who attacked police posts on August 25. It blamed the insurgents for setting villages on fire.

However, the Associated Press reported new fires burning on Thursday in a Myanmar village that had been abandoned by Rohingya, and pages ripped from Islamic texts scattered on the ground. The report increases doubts about government claims that members of the Muslim community have been destroying their own homes.

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Expressing regret over the continued killing of innocent civilians, Mr Al Salami said the Rohingya were being made victims of systematic ethnic and religious cleansing, especially women and children, while the world watched.

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Emirati chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation, also called on international aid organisations to commit to help the quickly devolving situation.

"The screaming of the children, the wailing of the injured and the weeping of those who are running for their lives should be a clarion call for us all to act now," Sheikha Jawaher said. "Our fundamental human values should compel us to do what we can to help refugee families and to provide them with as much financial and emotional support as possible."

Turkey's first lady and foreign minister arrived in Bangladesh on Thursday to see first-hand the plight of Rohingya who had been forced to flee Myanmar.

First lady Emine Erdogan and foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited a refugee camp housing more than 50,000 people and talked to residents, including a young person with a bullet injury, about the violence in Rakhine state.

Bangladeshi officials also briefed them on how they are attempting to provide shelter, food and health care to the huge numbers of refugees.

The first lady said Turkey would do everything possible to help the Rohingya, and that her husband, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would raise the issue at the UN General Assembly later this month.

Many of the Rohingya said they are fleeing violence by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs in Rakhine.

The escalation in attacks came two days after the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan handed over to the government of Myanmar a final fact-finding report on the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan.

Iran's Red Crescent said on Thursday it had prepared an aid package for Rohingya, the Iranian Student News Agency reported.

The Red Crescent chief Morteza Salimi said the "food, life support and hygiene package" would be sent immediately once clearance was granted by Myanmar.

The planeload of aid weighed 40 tonnes and was worth $100,000 (Dh367,300), he said.

The Myanmar military has said nearly 400 people, mostly Rohingya, have died in clashes. Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, however, have described large-scale violence perpetrated by Myanmar troops and Buddhist mobs — setting fire to their homes, indiscriminate shooting, stabbing of civilians and ordering them to abandon their homes or be killed.

Scores of Rohingya have drowned while trying to cross the Naf river that runs along the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh police on Thursday found the bodies were 17 people, many of them children, who drowned when at least three boats packed with Rohingya refugees sank at the mouth of the river.

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