Throughout history there have always been people who look, think, or act differently than the majority of others. When people feel threatened by the group of people who are different than them they become hateful and associate them as being “others” who do not deserve to be held up to the same standard as everyone else because they are different. The most well known example of this is anti-semitism that led to the killing of millions of Jewish people in our history. We like to think that things have changed since then and that we have learned from history, but this type of hate and genocide still happens to certain groups of people today. There are a few examples of current mistreatment of certain groups of people, but after research The Rohingya people of Myanmar really stood out. They are the perfect example of the genocide and mistreatment that is still happening even in 2018. In this essay we will look into the history of anti-semitism which lead to the mass killing of millions of Jews and how it relates to the genocide of the Rohingya people that has happened more recently.
Anti-Semitism has been an issue for a very long time. Looking throughout Jewish history there have always been people who have been against them. The popularity of anti-semitism really started to happen when the Jews would not convert to Christianity like everyone else was doing during the middle ages. Because of this the Christians believed that the Jews were evil, worshiped the devil, and were overall just up to no good. Anti-semites began spreading rumors that the Jews would kidnap children and use their blood for satanic rituals known as blood libels. When these lies were spread everyone believed that they were true and developed hate for the Jewish community, even though none of it was true. From there things just got more difficult for the Jewish people. From the 19th century to the early 1900’s, Jews were no longer seen as people who deserved rights and were treated terribly. They were no longer allowed to own homes or land, they were limited to where they could work, and had all of their basic rights taken away from them.
Around this time is when pogroms, which involved killing and the destruction of the Jewish communities, was occuring as well. This forced them out of where they were living and into terrible living conditions instead. Anti-semites blamed the Jews for every single problem that they had faced even though they had nothing to do with it. At this time anti-semitism had become a worldwide issue and no countries wanted to take in Jewish refugees. After World War II is when anti-semitism was at its worst and the Holocaust had begun. The Nazis had enough of the Jews at this point and put even more restrictions on Jews and eventually believed that they were just too much of a problem so they needed to all be killed. This lead to concentration camps opening across Europe that tortured and killed millions of Jews. Although anti-semitism is not as common today as it was in the past, and there are no longer mass killings of the Jews, there are still those who have hatred towards the Jewish community. Now that we have went over the history of anti-semitism a bit, we move on to a current example of othering a group of people.
The Rohingya people of Myanmar are those that follow Islam and are Muslims that were mostly located in Burma or the Rakhine State. They were able to live peacefully with the rest of the people in Myanmar until 1978 when the government was switching from a military ran government into a democracy. The Myanmar military, known as the Tatamadaw, feared of losing all of their power and wanted to fight back (Bi). Because the military craved power they needed to attack the weakest people of Myanmar which included: the Rohingya, Kokang, and Kachin people. However, the Tatamadaw did not have much success with getting rid of the Kokang or Kachin people because they had the support of other countries that the military did not want to upset. The Kachins are Christians so the Tatamadaw didn’t want to mess with them and get hate from the western world and both the Kokang and Kachins share a border with China, so China supported them to avoid conflict moving into their side of the border (Bi). That leaves the Rohingya people. The Rohingya are muslim, they don’t share a border with China, and didn’t have the support of other countries like the Kokang and Kachins do. They became the perfect targets for the Tatamadaw to go after. “In 1978, General Ne Win’s socialist military dictatorship launched the first large-scale campaign against the Rohingya in Rakhine State with the intent first of expelling them en masse from Western Burma and subsequently legalizing the systematic erasure of Rohingya group identity and legitimizing their physical destruction.”(Zarni). The military did not like people that were different so they decided to spread lies about them to get the rest of the country on board with getting rid of this group of people because they are just too different. The military started pogroms which destroyed the Rohingya homes and communities and started murdering them, which is still happening. Rohingya started to escape and became refugees in their neighboring country, Bangladesh (Einbinder). The Rohingya people are not from Bangladesh so the people there were upset and did not like that the Rohingya were now living in their country, because of this they are forced to live in terrible refugee camps and are still terribly mistreated today.
When we look back on the history of the mistreatment of Jews and the genocide that they faced, it is very similar to what has, and is still happening to the Rohingya people. According to Gregory H. Stanton, there are 10 stages of genocide that happen, so we will look into how some of these stages relate to both the Jewish and Rohingya people. The first stage is classification. At first, both Jews and the Rohingya were accepted or did not have any issues with the other people in their countries. It wasn’t until changes started happening, mostly with religion, and neither group was willing to convert. This is when people started seeing them as different or others. The Jews and the Rohingya are very religious people. Jews were first seen as others when they would not convert to Christianity like most were doing at the time. Religion was very important to them and they would rather be treated differently than switching to a religion they didn’t believe in.
The Rohingya people also would not convert to Christianity or other religions because they are proud muslims. “Rohingyas are very religious, that’s one thing I can tell you….after so much destruction of houses and homes, being kicked out of the country, of poverty, no education, no living standards, no hospitals, no school, nothing – I still can proudly say, not a single Rohingya has actually converted to Christianity or Hinduism. That is how strong we are.” (Wong). This shows that they believe so much in their religion that they would rather be mistreated and killed rather than convert. This now leads us into the second stage, symbolization. This step was used as a way to further separate and show how different a group of people is from everyone else. The Jews were forced to carry around IDs to show that they were Jewish and also have to wear a Star of David at all times. They also had to deal with many untrue stereotypes. It seems that the Rohingya people did not have as much symbols as the Jews had, but other people in the country did refer to them as racist terms, such as Bengalis (Zarni). The third step is discrimination.
This is when a group of people no longer deserves having the same rights as everyone else and makes them a weaker target. Both groups of people had laws made against them and even lost their citizenships. The Rohingya people no longer have citizenship in Myanmar and are now the largest stateless population (United Nations). The fourth step is dehumanization. Dehumanization was a big issue for the Jewish community. They were always being compared to animals in the media to make them seem like these people were not human and didn’t deserve to be treated as such. That takes us into the next step, organization. For the mass killing of people you need to execute a plan to accomplish that. The pogroms that occurred to both the Jews and Rohingya are a great example. Anti-semites would ruin everything the Jews had and would kill them because they wanted them gone. The same thing has happened to the Rohingya. “The State and the predominantly Buddhist society have collaborated with the intent to deindigenize, illegalize, dehumanize, and destroy a people whose ancestral home is in Myanmar. The evidence of the intent to destroy the Rohingya people over the past thirty-five years through assaults on their identity, killings during multiple pogroms, physical and mental harm, deliberate infliction of conditions of life designed to bring about the group’s destruction, and measures to prevent births, lead the authors to conclude that Myanmar’s Rohingya are the victims of genocide carried out jointly by the central political state and anti-Muslim ultra-nationalists among the Buddhist Rakhine peoples.” (Zarni). Eventually it became completely legal to torture and kill both groups of people. A big step is number nine, which is extermination.
The Nazis were able to start the Holocaust which was the mass killing and genocide of the Jewish people. The Jews that the Nazis could find were sent to concentration camps, which were terrible living conditions and were eventually killed in large numbers. The Rohingya had the same fate. If they were able to escape into Bangladesh they are now living in terrible conditions and treated terribly from the people of Myanmar, and also the people in Bangladesh because they did not want them there. If they couldn’t escape those people were then killed. “They survived what the United Nations and the United States have called ethnic cleansing. Now, the nearly 700,000 Rohingya people who have fled the military-led violence in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh face an uncertain future. In Myanmar, the government continues to deny the mass killings, and is building what human rights groups describe as prisons for Rohingya who return.” (Einbinder). This now leads us into the final step, denial. This is a step that will almost always happen after a genocide has occurred. It happened after the Holocaust and it is happening now to the Rohingya people.
In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the othering that is happening around us. This terrible separation that so many people like to do between them others continues to lead to genocide. As humans we need to accept and acknowledge the differences of the people around us in a positive way. We also need to all be aware of the steps of genocide so that it can be prevented in the future.