Arakan Rohingya Union bitterly divided

No group of human beings on this planet has suffered more persecution than the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. The UN called them one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.403587_m

Violence toward Rohingyas in Myanmar sparked by the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman in June 2012, has continued steadily over the last year. This is a very bad time for the main group that represents the Rohingya people, the ARU (Arakan Rohingya Union), to find itself bitterly, even irreversibly divided, but that is what is taking place.

Now as they battle for the cause of their people still in Myanmar, those leading this fight in the ARU have reached an impasse over the actions of the group’s leader, Dr. Wakar Uddin.

The Rohingya people have lived in Myanmar for hundreds of years, yet the Rakhine Buddhists who seek to eliminate the Rohingya call them “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. They have been specifically targeted by a Buddhist terrorist organization called the “969 movement”. Rohingya villages are burned, mosques are destroyed, women and girls are raped and many Muslims fall victim to arbitrary arrest and torture. In at least one case, a Rohingya man in government custody was tortured to death.

Many Rohingya refugees live in IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps in squalid and dangerous conditions. According to people on the ground in Myanmar, the Rohingyas in IDP camps are denied approximately 90% of the aid sent to them by groups like the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). This is what activists and politicians and writers need to be addressing, along with the ongoing genocide against Rohingya people inside Myanmar. The OIC has been a very important source of support for the Rohingya cause, yet now the ARU is divided and the contacts we have been working with the longest in this ongoing story, are unhappy with the new DG (Director General) of the ARU, Dr. Wakar Uddin.

I’m told by senior Rohingya political leaders that this man is not filling the role he is called to fill, and that he was originally approached for the DG position over his credentials and degrees. They say Uddin mishandled money and they fault his decision to create his office in his basement rather than in an accessible public location, which is what ARU members expected.

But Uddin’s apparent decision to invite only members of the ARU who support him to the OIC Supervised 2nd ARU Congress on 7th-8th July, 2013 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the straw that broke the camel’s back and created the current row, explains Mohiuddin Mohamad Yusof (aka) Maung Sein.

Both Maung Sein in New York, and Mohamed Ibrahim in Berlin told me over the phone this week, that the decision to not invite 14 key ARU members, half of the signatories of ARU declaration, is damaging to all progress. Maung Sein said it is, “…unjustifiable, unacceptable to the world Rohingyas in which Mr. Wakar Uddin invited only those people who supports him and ready to make him legitimate DG for future term.”

Maung Sein says Dr. Uddin had two years after becoming DG-ARU to complete the objectives. Sein says, “…he betrayed the trust and confidence of ARU office bearers, created disunity and division among the 25 ARU organizations, misused the power of DG and became a power monger and greedy dictator in the ARU.”

He says two years passed and Uddin never called a meeting of ARU council members and coordinators, nor did Uddin consult with ARU members who challenged him or were not supportive.

Sein says Uddin brought new people of his choosing into ARU without any consultation. “He lied repeatedly to ARU members when he attended HD Center (Malaysia) Meeting with false representatives of ARU. There are many more harmful things he did as DG which is beyond explanation, even, he attempted to imprison and send to jail by police threatening one of ARU founders and members.”

In an effort to smooth things over, Noor Kamal of the ARU, who holds several titles such as President CRCS (Chittagong Research and Cultural Society), and Executive Director, Institute of Rohingya Studies IRS Rajshahi University, Bangladesh, wrote, “Come what may, the long-awaited episode of 2nd biggest ever Rohingya Congress is over – It has been approved — institutionalized before the world biggest ever Islamic Forum OIC at it’s headquarter Jeddah on 7-8th July 2013.”

But it was this statement that caught many by surprise:

“We pay heartiest congratulation to Dr. Waker assuming the highest public rank as DG and other elected members of the ARU of the world’s most persecuted / oppressed Muslims of Arakan. Discontent peoples are in rampant move and showing dissatisfaction over the convention of congress as it did not meet true sense of hopes and aspiration of the peoples by participation of core activists around the world. Causes of absence of the main founding members also did not properly explain by the DG as why they couldn’t present. Minds of general community peoples are divided and fractured with doubts and ambiguity over the act of convention.”

After reading Noor Kamal’s statement, a longtime Rohingya ARU media contact, Nurul Islam, responded to Noor Kamal with an email titled “People from every corner condemning you for expressing Congratulation to a Dictator”:

“I think you did a great mistake to expressing heartiest congratulation to a newly born Rohingya Dictator. People from every corner [are] condemning you for it. I myself denounce you for this. In fact, you did a great blunder… Why did you do it? People are seeking clarification from you… Hope you will rectify your expression.”

The spirit of the already demoralized Rohingya people is suffering, and it seems clear that the decisions by the DG and his handling of the matter are at the core of the problem. The question is, should the ARU pursue the process of replacing Uddin, or will they simply allow this internal issue to unravel the unity of this important organization?

Dr. Wakar Uddin wrote to me several days ago and stated:

“…the ARU Congress have been in the planning for the past three months, and every step of the process have been taken appropriately. All the 25 current member organizations have been invited, and we have the documentation. Of the 25 organization 21 have responded, and sent us the necessary visa documents to attend the Congress meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However, 4 organizations of the 25 did not respond to our email, apparently because they earlier called on to have the convention in Bangkok, Thailand.”

Maung Sein says the members who are in conflict with Uddin were invited to Jeddah at the “last possible second;” he called it both cunning and calculating, and believes the orchestrating of the event with real political impact without their representation makes it impossible to continue under the leadership of Wakar Uddin. It seems the ARU may have been dazzled by the prominence of Dr. Uddin, but also that his choices have fractured progress. It is a terrible time for the ARU to have this massive conflict on its hands. The only people who benefit from this problem are the oppressors.



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