OTTAWA — Razia Sultana has hope for her people, despite the fact tens of thousands have been tortured and raped in what the United Nations has deemed a genocide.
Sultana is Rohingya. She works as a lawyer and human rights activist in the refugee camps of Bangladesh, where over 725,000 Rohingya Muslims are now staying after fleeing extreme violence from the Myanmar militia.
The vast majority of those in the camps are women and children, many of whom were gang raped and tortured and lost family members in brutal mass slaughters.
But many of them still want to go home to Myanmar.
“They want to go back, because that is their life, their ancestral land. But they need a safe zone,” Sultana said.
“Canada is a most powerful country now in the world. They have authority. They can push the Myanmar government (through) international lobbying.”
She wants Canada to use its influence to advocate for the creation of a safe zone within Myanmar to allow the women in refugee camps to return without fear of further violence. In the meantime, proper education should be established within the refugee camps to allow children an opportunity for a better future.
Sultana plans to take this message to a meeting of women foreign ministers being held in Montreal on Friday and Saturday.
The meeting will draw together not only 19 female ministers, but also a group of 10 women who have been internationally recognized for their work in furthering human rights causes — including Sultana. Together, they will discuss international security, feminist foreign policy and aid as well as combating sexual and gender-based violence.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union, are co-hosting the meeting.