A military crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from their homes. United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the expulsion a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” For decades, the Rohingya have faced violence and discrimination in the majority-Buddhist country. The New York Times provides background on the situation and how we got here:
— The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group that practices a form of Sunni Islam and have lived in Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest states, for generations. Before the latest exodus, an estimated one million Rohingya lived there, but even then they were a minority in the state. The group has its own language and cultural practices.
— Since a 1962 coup in Myanmar, the country’s successive governments have significantly limited the rights of the Rohingya.
— A law passed in 1982 denied them citizenship, leaving them off a list of 135 ethnic groups formally recognized by the government. This limited the Rohingyas’ access to schools and health care and their ability to move in and out of the country. The government in Rakhine at times has also enforced a two-child limit on Rohingya families and has restricted interfaith marriage.
— Tensions in Rakhine have often erupted into violence, prompting hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in Bangladesh and Pakistan in different waves over the decades.
— In May 2012, the rape and murder of a Buddhist prompted a series of revenge attacks against Muslims. In October 2013, thousands of Buddhist men carried out coordinated attacks on Muslim villages throughout Rakhine.
— A 2013 Human Rights Watch report said violence in Rakhine was a “coordinated campaign to forcibly relocate or remove the state’s Muslims.” The response from world leaders, however, has been limited.
— Last October, an armed Rohingya insurgency came to light when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, then known as Harakah al-Yaqin, attacked three border guard posts. Over the four months that followed, Myanmar’s army, known as the Tatmadaw, and the police killed hundreds, gang-raped women and girls, and forced as many as 90,000 Rohingya from their homes.
— On Aug. 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked again, targeting police posts and an army base. Security forces cracked down on the wider population, and rights groups accused them of killing, raping, burning villages and shooting civilians from helicopters. The exodus into Bangladesh began: More than 370,000 Rohingya fled.