Protestors holding signs

Hundreds in Toronto protest violence against Rohingya

Calls for Canada to help stop persecution of Rohingya minority

Hundreds of supporters rallied at Toronto’s Queen’s Park on Saturday, to protest the reported killings and forced removal of over 400,000 of Myanmar’s (formerly called Burma) Rohingya Muslim minority.

Updates

  • Myanmar’s military is said to have attacked and burned over 200 Rohingya villages, causing over 400,000 people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to Human Rights Watch

  • Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, calls for “an end to the horrific ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.”  

  • According to Vox news, accusations of militant Rohingya attacks on Myanmar police outposts leaving twelve officers dead in late August, are seen as having sparked the government attacks on the Rohingya minority.  

  • Government discrimination towards the Rohingya is not new. According to the New York Times, Myanmar took away citizenship of the Rohingya in 1982.  

  • The Rohingya are described as “the world’s most persecuted people.” Many people in Myanmar see the Rohingya as living in the country illegally, believing they’re outsiders whose roots are in Bangladesh, according to The Guardian.

“I’m here to show my support for the people of Rohingya….we (the Canadian government) need to do more, there,” said Khurshid Chishti.

The Toronto man wondered how Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, could allow the violence to continue.

“It is very strange. I think she has her own political reasons,” he said. “She should come up and support humanity.”

He called for Canada to withdraw her honourary citizenship, awarded in 2007.

He also called on Toronto-area residents to inform themselves about the Rohingya’s situation in Myanmar and at their refugee camps across the border inside Bangladesh. Canada, he suggested, should help put a peacekeeping force in Myanmar.

Stop Killing Muslims sign
Sarfaz Ahmad of Mississaugam with sign “Stop Killing Muslims”, to bring attention to the massacres of Myanmar’s Rohingya people. (Neil Powers//Toronto Observer)

About 500 people protested at the rally, organized by Huwaida Pervez-Khan.

“We are here to show solidarity with the (Rohingya) Muslims,” said Sarfraz Ahmad, from Mississauga. “They (the government) are doing genocide of Muslims in Burma so we are here to stop that.”

He described the Muslim minority as not being recognized as citizens, even though the Rohingya have been living for centuries in the country. Ahmad feels a sense of urgency.

“For the last one month the army is killing innocent people…they are burning their villages, they are burning their houses.”

He, too, wants the Canadian government to assist.

“They can ask to stop the genocide. They can give the people whatever (help) they can do to help people who are right now in miserable situations.”

Ahmed Ramadan, the Toronto region-based outreach coordinator for Burma Task Force-Canada, credits Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for sending a strong letter to Aung San Suu Kyi on last Monday that her government has “a moral and political obligation..to do whatever is in your power to stop it.”

Ramadan points to an action-plan on their website on what Canadians can do to help.

Ramadan says Canada should be part of a peacekeeping force to protect Rohingya villages that have not been burned (down)…before we can get people back to villages (that are still intact).”

“The Rohingya are indigenous to that land,” contrary to claims they are not, said Ramadan.

There are reports of insurgent Rohingya people attacking and killing 12 Myanmar border police in August, although Ramadan describes the Rohingya leadership as having “condemned any forms of violence.”

The Bangladesh-based Daily Star quoted the Myanmar army calling the attack on police posts as “extremist Bengali insurgents.”

Hundreds of people in Toronto march to call attention to violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. (Neil Powers//Toronto Observer)

Urging Canadians to help stop the violence in Myanmar, Chishti sums up the protest at Queen’s Park, “Human is human, doesn’t matter….you need to support the humanity.”