This post was written by STAND’s Policy Intern, Rosie Berman. Rosie is a rising junior at Clark University where she studies Political Science and Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
A UN envoy to Burma has reported appalling conditions in displacement camps which hold around 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims. According to the envoy, the displaced Rohingya had wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation. In March, extremist Buddhists who accused international aid groups of bias towards Muslims, raided warehouses and destroyed property causing most of the humanitarian organisations which provided vital assistance to the displaced Rohingya to pull out their staff. The UN says only 60% of the workers have been able to return.
Burma’s minister of religious affairs was fired by President Thein Sein last week. The dismissal of Minister of Religious Affairs Hsan Hsint came in the wake of a high-profile police raid on a Buddhist monastery which angered many Buddhist monks, including the popular Ashin Wirathu. Wirathu is known to give impassioned speeches which contain anti-Muslim rhetoric. Additionally, the chief minister of the Rakhine state (where conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority is rife), Hla Maung Tin, has been ‘allowed to retire.’ The phrase is often used as a euphemism meaning a minister was asked to leave. Win Myaing, spokesperson of the Rakhine state government, declined to comment on the chief minister’s retirement.
Central African Republic
A Christian militia has attacked a Muslim village near Bambari, killing 18 residents. This attack comes just two weeks after fighting between Christian militias and Muslim gunmen based in the area killed 21. The International Federation for Human Rights reports that the tit-for-tat violence evidenced by this attack threaten to create the conditions for a genocide reminiscent of Bosnia in the 1990s.
The United States pledged an additional $51 million in humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic (CAR). This new assistance brings the total U.S. humanitarian funding for the crisis to nearly $118 million in Fiscal Year 2014, helping people inside CAR as well as refugees in neighboring countries. The aid will provide clean water, food, emergency health services and relief supplies. It will also support programs that identify lost children and reunite them with surviving caregivers, create safe spaces for displaced children, and fund psychological services.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
World Refugee Day was June 20. This week’s section on the Democratic Republic of the Congo will highlight the DRC’s refugee population. Since 2000, around 500,000 people have fled from violence and instability in the DRC. Most live in neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda.
All statistics come from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
South Sudan’s rebels have boycotted the peace talks between them and the government in protest against what they consider unfair processes in the selection of other stakeholders in the negotiations. Rebel spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, argued that the selection process of the civil society organizations and faith-based groups included in the talks as stakeholders was biased, as groups who fled the country and now live abroad were excluded from participation, and that the groups picked are dominated by the pro-government societies from Juba.
Doctors Without Borders reports ‘catastrophic’ conditions at the United Nations base in Beitnu, South Sudan, where more than 40,000 people have taken refuge from rampant violence. The group says three children under five are dying each day, with most deaths linked to acute diarrhea, pneumonia, or malnutrition. Clean drinking water is also hard to come by at the base, as flooding and violence have made it difficult for water trucks to reach the area, forcing people to drink from puddles contaminated with human waste.
Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to abandon her Christian faith and then released on Monday, was rearrested with her husband and two children at the Khartoum airport on Tuesday while trying to leave the country. Ms. Ibrahim’s father was Muslim but she had been raised a Christian by her mother after her father abandoned her family when she was six.
The Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) launched a Justice Committee, and a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Monday. DRA chairman Dr Tijani Sese cited the successes of past Justice and Truth and Reconciliation Committees in South Africa, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Morocco, and Argentina, and called upon the committees to assume their full responsibilities towards achieving justice, and assessing the root causes of the conflict in Darfur. However, Darfuris living in displacement camps have expressed no confidence in the new committees, citing that the committees cannot achieve their goals while militias supported by the Sudanese government continue to systematically burn villages and displace people.
After surrounding the South Kordofan village of Lagori for many hours, a joint force of Sudanese Army soldiers and Police raided the village, searched it, and kidnapped ten villagers, including the mayor. The Nuba Mountains-based Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO) reports that the villagers were taken into military custody and tortured. HUDO also believes that the raid was linked with the government forces’ defeat in nearby Daldako, a stronghold of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), last month.
The Sudanese government has reconstituted the janajweed, militias known for destroying villages and murdering civilians belonging to ethnic groups the government considers ‘enemies.’ In the past, the government has denied their links with the janjaweed, but this time has provided the militias with uniforms, weapons, and other equipment.
Syria and Iraq
The last of Syria’s declared chemical weapons have been shipped out of the country for destruction, says the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, it appears that President Assad may not have revealed the full extent of his chemical capabilities. A joint OPCW-UN operation is currently investigating Assad’s use of chlorine gas in systematic attacks.
Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Syrian rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have used child soldiers in roles including soldiers, stretcher bearers, and suicide bombers. Some children followed family members or friends into armed groups, while others were already in conflict zones and had no other options. Nusra and ISIS both targeted children through education programs containing military training. Commanders of these two groups also encouraged children to volunteer for suicide missions. Though not included in the report, pro-government forces have also been alleged to have used child fighters.
The Syrian government, rebel groups based in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, and many Palestinian factions have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire there. The ceasefire will both open the main entrances to the camp and restore basic services. About 18,000 people have lived under siege since last July, with food and medicine scarce, and parts of the camp lying in complete ruin.
The Syrian government warned the UN Security Council that delivering humanitarian aid across its borders into rebel-held areas without the government’s consent would amount to an attack, suggesting it would have the right to retaliate against UN convoys. Russia has made it clear that it was against allowing cross-border access without the consent of the Syrian government and opposed a Chapter 7 resolution, which would make the resolution allowing the UN to deliver humanitarian aid across Syria’s borders into rebel held areas legally binding and enforceable with military action or other coercive measures such as sanctions.