Burmese junta protests to UN Migration Agency over Rohingya Cultural Memory Center – Radio Free Asia

The Burmese junta has protested to the International Organization for Migration against a website set up by the United Nations agency to preserve the history of Myanmar’s marginalized Rohingya community, saying the site contains false statements.

The site of the Rohingya Cultural Memory Center is an initiative of IOM. The foreign ministry appointed by the military regime, in a statement released Friday, criticized the IOM for the creation of this website.

“The creation of such a website is beyond the scope of IOM’s competence and expertise, and the Office of the Permanent Representative of Myanmar in Geneva sent a letter of protest to IOM on December 23, 2021 against IOM’s inability to endorse the false allegations of some groups. “, Said the ministry in a press release published on its website and dated January 7, 2022.

“The term ‘Rohingya’ has always been rejected by the Burmese people and is not recognized by the Burmese people. Myanmar has also rejected the false and misleading statements and information contained on the website, ”the statement said.

For decades, Burmese administrations have refused to call the stateless minority “Rohingya”. Even today Myanmar insists on calling them “Bengalis”.

BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA, tried to contact the ministry and IOM for more details, but did not receive a response immediately on Friday.

Myanmar, a country of 54 million people the size of France, recognizes 135 official ethnic groups, with the Burmese majority making up around 68 percent of the population. The Rohingya ethnicity is not recognized. And both civilian and military governments have maintained this status quo.

Rohingya Muslims have centuries of history in Myanmar, a former British colony that became independent in 1948. But they are denied citizenship and the right to vote, cannot obtain employment and formal education, and cannot travel freely.

In August 2017, the Burmese army launched a brutal offensive – unleashing a multitude of atrocities – against the minority community in their home state of Rakhine. As many as 740,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh and now live in camps in and around Cox’s Bazar district in the southeast.

A year later, IOM conducted a mental health assessment of Rohingya refugees and the results are what inspired the establishment of the Rohingya Cultural Center.

The assessment found that 45% of those polled were living with symptoms of distress, such as nightmares, panic attacks or suicidal thoughts, according to an IOM fact sheet about the cultural center that IOM shared with BenarNews last August.

“The Rohingya community is particularly prone to mental health problems due to a number of factors, including a history of systematic dehumanization, persecution and witnessing or direct experience of extreme violence,” says the file. information.

The survey also showed that 50 percent of Rohingya shelters surveyed were experiencing an ‘identity crisis’ and 73 percent of those interviewed identified a loss of cultural identity following their forced exodus from Myanmar in 2017.

“It was in light of the findings of Cox’s Bazar, [that] IOM has considered the concept of a Rohingya Cultural Remembrance Center (RCMC), ”the fact sheet says.

“One of the main objectives of the RCMC project is to provide Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar camps with a creative and safe space to share their knowledge, preserve their cultural heritage and reconnect with their individual and collective memory, as a community and as an ethnic group of Myanmar.

Dildar Begum, a Rohingya chief, holds up rice cakes she learned to make from her mother and grandmother before they died. [Photo courtesy of the Rohingya Cultural Memory Center]

The center started as a website and now has a physical location, said Shamsuddoza Noyon, an additional commissioner for refugee assistance and repatriation in Bangladesh on Friday.

“The Rohingya Cultural Memory Center was established at Camp 18 in Ukhia to store the culture and traditions of the Rohingya. It would help the Rohingya to remember their old memories, ”he told BenarNews, referring to a refugee camp in a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar.

The website features the community’s art, architecture, food, music, memorabilia, stories, and more. For example, there is an article about the love songs of the Rohingya.

He says: “For this courageous community, which has stood up to generations of discrimination and displacement, love is the architecture that unites them, that strengthens their bonds and creates windows and doors for more connection and meaning. . Better than most, the Rohingya know that love is what makes life liveable. “

According to the Burmese junta’s foreign ministry, IOM and the Bangladeshi Embassy in The Hague also jointly organized an online exhibition titled “Art, Life, Rohingya”. The website says the exhibition ran from December 10 to 31.

Visitors could click on a virtual 3D gallery, move around different rooms to see collections such as Rohingya architecture and model ships, needlework, pottery, basketry, musical instruments, etc. ., the cultural center’s website said.

IOM notes in its fact sheet that many experts around the world assert that a person’s cultural and ethnic identity is central to a person’s identity, how they see themselves and how they see themselves. its relationship with the world.

“This is especially true for the Rohingya, as their identity has always been questioned by the Burmese authorities,” the fact sheet said.

Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya leader who lives in no man’s land in Bandarban district, on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, welcomed the idea of ​​the center.

“This center was created to remind and tell the Rohingya community of its history, culture, traditions and memories while preserving these elements,” he told BenarNews on Friday.

“It’s a great initiative. “

Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.

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