Myanmar junta protests to UN Migration Agency against Rohingya cultural memory center — BenarNews


Myanmar’s junta has protested to the International Organization for Migration against a website the UN agency created to preserve the history of Myanmar’s marginalized Rohingya community, saying the site contains false claims.

The site for the Rohingya Cultural Memory Center is an initiative of IOM. The military regime’s foreign ministry, in a statement on Friday, criticized the IOM for creating the website.

“The establishment 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 23 December 2021 against IOM’s inability to endorse the false claims of certain groups,” the ministry said in the statement posted 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 also rejected the false and misleading statements and information contained on the website,” the statement said.

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

BenarNews attempted to contact the ministry and IOM for more details, but did not immediately receive a response 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% of the population. The Rohingya ethnic group is not recognized. And civilian and military governments have maintained this status quo.

The Muslim Rohingya 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, are prevented from getting jobs and formal education and cannot travel freely .

In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a brutal offensive – unleashing a host of atrocities – against the minority community in its home state of Rakhine. As many as 740,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh and are now living in camps in and around the southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar.

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

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

“The Rohingya community is at particular risk of mental health problems due to a number of factors, including a history of systematic dehumanization, persecution and having witnessed or experienced extreme violence,” the fact sheet states. ‘information.

The survey also showed that 50% of Rohingya refugees surveyed had an “identity crisis” and 73% of respondents 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 Memory Center (RCMC),” the factsheet states.

“One of the main objectives of the RCMC project is to provide Rohingya refugees in the 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 a as an ethnic group of Myanmar.”

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

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

“The Rohingya Cultural Memory Center was established at Camp-18 in Ukhia to store Rohingya culture and traditions. 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 community art, architecture, food, music, memories, stories and more. For example, one article talks about Rohingya love songs.

He says: “For this courageous community, which has resisted generations of discrimination and displacement, love is the architecture that unites them, that strengthens their bonds and creates windows and doors for greater connection and unity. sense. Better than most, the Rohingya know that love is what makes life livable.

According to the Myanmar Junta’s Foreign Ministry, IOM and the Bangladesh Embassy in The Hague have also jointly organized an online exhibition titled “Art, Life, Rohingya”. The website says the expo ran from December 10 to December 31.

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

IOM notes in its fact sheet that many experts around the world claim that a person’s cultural and ethnic identity is at the heart of a person’s identity, the way they see themselves and his relationship to the world.

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

Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya leader who lives in the no man’s land of 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 their history, culture, traditions and memories by preserving these elements,” he told BenarNews on Friday.

“It’s a great initiative.”

Sunil Barua from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh contributed to this report.

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