The ICJ’s order that Myanmar does all it can to prevent genocide offers the Rohingya hope for the future.
On January 23, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague imposed emergency “provisional measures” on Myanmar regarding its actions against and treatment of the Rohingya minority – my people. To the average person, this may sound like incomprehensible legalese. But for many Rohingya, who had long been waiting for the international community to take meaningful action to end their suffering, this was some of the best news they had ever received.
With this decision, the United Nations’ “World Court” effectively instructed the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to respect the requirements of the 1948 genocide convention and bring an end to its military’s attacks on the Rohingya. This decision marked the first time that a credible international body said “enough” to the government that for so many decades has abused and oppressed us.
My people’s plight captured global headlines in August 2017, when the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) launched a vicious “clearance operation” in the Rakhine State, which was home to more than a million Rohingya. Over the course of a few weeks, soldiers rampaged through the region, killing thousands, committing mass rapes, burning villages to the ground, and driving more than 700,000 people to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.
As shocking as the violence was, it was only the tip of the iceberg. For decades, the Myanmar authorities have confined the Rohingya to a virtual open-air prison in the Rakhine state. It denied us citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering us stateless. Our freedom of movement even within Myanmar is extremely limited. We are expected to acquire official permission, and often pay bribes, to leave our home villages. Healthcare and education are off-limits to most Rohingya. This is all part of a deliberate effort by Myanmar not only to dehumanize us but also to make our lives so miserable that we have no option but to leave.