Montrealers march to condemn persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar

Protesters call for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of Nobel Peace Prize

Montrealers came out in full force to condemn the persecution of Myanmar’s mainly Muslim Rohingya people on Saturday, Sept. 16.

At half past noon, roughly 150 people––many of them from Montreal’s Muslim community—  marched from Concordia’s Hall building to Place Ville Marie, chanting slogans criticizing Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government. The event was organized by former Concordia student Majed Jam, who said his primary goals were to inspire action and raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya.

An estimated 400,000 Rohingya have left the eastern state of Rakhine to seek refuge in Bangladesh after clashes with Burmese security forces. Although the predominantly Muslim Rohingya have long been a persecuted minority in Myanmar, state violence against them increased in August after 12 Burmese security officers were killed by Rohingya militants, according to the BBC.

The Burmese government claims that military action has been carried out only against insurgents, but many Rohingya have reported Burmese security forces burning down entire villages, reports said.

A woman holds a picture of Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, at a protest condemning the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

Since the Burmese government has refused to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, most of the members of the group have been stateless since the signing of the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, according to Human Rights Watch.

Montreal protesters called, among other things, for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize. Demonstrator Aisha Mirza bore a sign, made by her cousin, which read “Aung San Suu Kyi = Hitler rising.” She said she had no personal connection to the events in Myanmar, but that “we should stick up for [the Rohingya] because there’s no one there for them in Burma.”

Demonstrator Romean Alam also has no personal connection to the situation, but he said that whenever such atrocities occur around the world, “we should stand up and be there and help those people [in need].”

Upon arrival at Place Ville Marie, demonstrator Raees Ahmed unveiled a list of demands for the Canadian government. He asked for a parliamentary motion officially condemning the Burmese government for its inaction and for Canada to join other countries in putting international pressure on the Burmese government, including the use of sanctions.

Ahmed also demanded that leader Suu Kyi be stripped of her honorary Canadian citizenship. He then urged the Burmese government to allow international media and aid into the Rakhine state, where the violence is taking place.

A petition calling the Canadian government to action can be found here.

Feature photo by Kirubel Mehari

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