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Action Ale: 3 things you can do on Human Rights Day

Today is the day that the world will comemmorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considered as one of the first major achievements of the United Nations. Yet today, we live in a world where some groups of people have to question their very right to exist…Let us take this opportunity of Human Rights Day to speak of one such group of people, of whom the UN itself has referred to as “the most persecuted” and “the most unwanted”. The very fact that they are unwanted is evident in the latest pact between the two countries that have juggled hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from a massacre zone to a refugee camp, and no back to a massacre zone. Such juggling exercises have taken place in the past, with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya  ending up in concentration camps in Myanmar where they are slave traded, starved, injected with diseases, and butchered without the need for gunpowder when they become so feeble…Here are 3 things that you can do to call out for the Rohingya:

1. Write letters to the Prime Minister’s office and the foreign affairs office. Even a 2-seconds single-sentenced letter will suffice to express your concern. A sample letter is below for you to copy paste and send, should you prefer to do so.

2. Print the petition attached within, and collect only 25 signatures, which is the minimum number required to present a hard-copy petition at the House of Commons. Take the signed petition papers to the office of your member of Parliament asking him/her to bring this matter at the Question Period, or to a  caucus meeting, or to the meeting of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee onForeign Affairs & International Development.

3. Speak to your local news/radio station, or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, expressing your concern of the denial of existence of the Rohingya, the fact that they will be sent back to Myanmar where the massacre still continues, where they will be held in concentration camps, as they have been in the previous repatriations. Let them know that you are part of the Rohingya human rights network, or any other human rights group for that matter, so as to highlight the collectiveness of your message.On this 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I encourage you to speak on behalf of all who are persecuted. And if you would do the above action items for the Rohingya, your voices at the Parliament of Canada will perhaps help save some souls from being sent to concentration camps, souls that simply do not have the right to exist…

Sincerely,

Sample letter (feel free to modify/copy-paste) and send to Justin Trudeau at pm@pm.gc.ca and to foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland at Chrystia.Freeland@international.gc.ca

Subject: Warn about the Bangladesh-Myanmar Rohingya repatriation deal

Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mme. Freeland:

While Canadians celebrate the International Human Rights Day today, the 625,000+ Rohingya in Bangladesh waiting to be pushed back to Myanmar, from where they fled a massacre that still continues to date, will find the very thought of human rights as “far from even being a dream”. Seen historically, the repatriations of the 90s and the 70s placed the Rohingyas in “Internally Displaced Person camps” in Myanmar, which were qualified by numerous human rights observers as modern day concentration camps. The Rohingya refugees in the squalid camps of Bangladesh are now awaiting the repatriation of 2010s, to end up in similar concentration camps, seen that most of their villages have been burned to the ground, and their lands confiscated by the government, as observed by Interpares and the Human Rights Watch.At the National Press Theater last week, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Alex Neve, along with the Executive Director of the Montreal Institute of Genocide Studies, Kyle Matthews, and the Program Manager for Burma of Interpares, Samantha McGavin, expressed grave concerns about the Myanmar-Bangladesh repatriation deal that will push back the Rohingya to Myanmar. Here is the clip to the press conference:http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/headline-politics/episodes/56353587Of note are the following statements that were made:”As a former official of the UNHCR, I urge all states to refuse to enforce this agreement (between Bangladesh and Myanmar). There is no safety for the Rohingya to return… Their homes have been destroyed, set on fire, their crops have been stolen by Myanmar military, and there is no independent verification of the security there. It is a dangerous principle, going against international law. We cannot send the Rohingya back.” Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of the Montreal Institute of Genocide Studies.”(During my travels to the Rohingya camps…) I comforted a Rohingya colleague who was reeling after she had heard graphic accounts of gang rape leading to death… We don’t yet know the staggering scope of all the scars that survivors would bear. But everyone I spoke with in the refugee camps said “at least here we can sleep at night without the fear of being shot”. The thought that the women, men and children that I met, and hundreds of thousands like them, could soon be forced back to Burma without a safe zone, without international protection, without livelihoods or freedom of movement, seems inconcievable… Make no mistakes, the Rohingya ciris is a signal flare that Burma’s democratic transition is in a U turn. In Canada we hear “Aung San Suu Kyi has no power to act, that she has been silent”, but she hasn’t been silent, she has been vocal and complicit. She has threatened anyone including journalist to be arrested if they expressed any sympathy towards the Rohingya, while labeling reports of human rights abuses as fake news and fake rape. Her top aide uses Burmese language on social media to spread hate speech and refers to Rohingyas as “fleas”. While Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t control the military, she has an ultra hierarchichal political party that has majority in both Houses of Parliament, and an alliance with the military that seemingly grows stronger by the day… We see a clear and worrying sign of a slide towards dictatorship. Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer Asia’s Nelson Mandela, she’s becoming its Robert Mugabe.” Samantha McGavin, Program Manager for Burma, Interpares (a Canadian human rights organization that has been on the grounds in Myanmar for over 25 years).”Bangladesh, while it has not closed its border, is pursuing very troubling options including the news of a repatriation deal now with Myanmar, under which Rohingya refugees are eventually slated to be returned back to Myanmar, despite being obvious that there is nothing close to safety awaiting them; and exploring options now for sending 100,000 Rohingya refugees to an uninhabitable island at a cost of $280 million” Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty  International.As the International Human Rights Day happens this weekend, I believe we should ask ourselves the question: are we really acting upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we have ratified? Will Canada allow several hundred thousand people to go into concentration camps without doing anything? Will Canada accept the fact that these refugees fleeing a massacre are sent to a place where the massacre still continues, where no journalist or human rights organizations are permitted, no aid organization is permitted, not even our very own special envoy, Mr. Bob Rae, was permitted? Will Canada turn a blind eye to the fact that those being pushed back are 60% women and children, to be surrounded by the very same Myanmar’s military that committed gang rapes, extrajudicial killings and scorched-earth campaigns as confirmed by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch? I invite you to ponder on these questions in anticipation of this Human  Rights Day.

Sincerely,

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