Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
October 13, 2017 (posted October 18, 2017)
Mr. President: Despite claims by Myanmar this week of efforts to improve relations
between Buddhists and Muslims, the facts prove otherwise. Another 11,000
Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh just this week in the latest paroxysm of
Burmese Buddhist hatred.
Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi have become pariahs in the
The Oxford City Council has followed the example of Oxford University which revoked
the honorary doctorate awarded to Ms. Aung San, and her college St. Hugh's
removed her portrait displayed prominently in the foyer. On Tuesday, October 3rd,
the vote at the City Council meeting was, unanimous. It will hold a special meeting on
November 27 later this year to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the Freedom of the City of
Oxford, an award bestowed on her in 1997. The City of London is to debate a similar
Honorary Freedom she received there.
A new U.N. report based on 65 interviews with Rohingya who have arrived in
Bangladesh finds repeated evidence of torture, killings and rape -- even of children.
"Credible information indicates the government security forces purposely destroyed
the property of the Rohingya, scorched their dwellings and entire villages in northern
Rakhine State, not only to drive the population out in droves but also to prevent the
fleeing Rohingya victims from returning to their homes," the UN report charges.
Called "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" by the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the campaign has been "well-organized,
coordinated and systematic" starting with "creating a climate of fear and intimidation."
Thus a month ago Rohingya men under 40 were arrested and jailed.
The report quotes a 12-year old girl from Rathedaung Township who said that
security forces surrounded her house and started shooting. "It was panic. They shot
my sister in front of me. She was only seven years old. She cried and told me to
run. I tried to protect her and care for her, but we had no medical help and she was
bleeding so much she died after one day. I buried her myself."
The girl's father was jailed a month earlier and she doesn't know what happened to
him ... or her mother and four brothers after they scattered.
Jyoti Sanghera is the head of the Asia and Pacific region of the UN human rights
office. She is afraid if the Rohingya refugees return, they will be interned: "If villages
have been completely destroyed and livelihood possibilities have been destroyed,
what we fear is that they may be incarcerated or detained in camps." She, too, has
called on Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains deaf to all voices of reason, to stop the
Sir Bob Geldof, the singer and peace activist, has now branded Aung San Suu Kyi
"one of the great ethnic cleansers of our planet," adding, "This is a disgrace." He was
addressing the "One Young World" development summit in Bogota, Columbia, where
he shared the podium with four Nobel Peace Laureates. She "insults them all" he
said, referring to the Laureates.
The question hanging in the air is who will pay for the crimes inflicted on the
Rohingya. Myanmar is guilty of four out of five counts each of which amount to
genocide as listed in the UN Convention on Genocide in force as international law
since January, 1951. Why is the International Criminal Court silent on the issue?
Note: This piece first appeared on BuzzFlash at Truth-out.org.