Maintain pressure on Myanmar
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other members of the visiting OIC team have called for united efforts for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.
For that to happen, they stressed the need for an urgent and effective action plan so the Rohingya people can return to their homeland in Myanmar.
The call came at the inauguration of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) 45th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) that began in Dhaka yesterday.
The two-day meeting is taking place at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre. The theme of this year's meet is "Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development".
The Rohingya crisis and other challenges facing the Muslim nations are getting special focus in this year's meeting.
Dhaka is hosting the CFM for the second time, 35 years after the first one in 1983.
The OIC, which was conceived in 1969 to solve problems of the member states and work as a common lobby, faces rifts within the organisation. However, there has not been any difference of opinion on the Rohingya issue.
“The OIC must keep up pressure on the Myanmar authorities and make sure that Myanmar deliver on the ground as it agreed on the safe return of the Rohingya from Bangladesh. The Rohingyas deserve the right to life, dignity and existence like us all,” said Hasina.
Some 700,000 Rohingyas fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine beginning late August. They joined some 400,000 other Rohingyas, who fled earlier waves of persecution in Myanmar where they are denied citizenship and other basic rights.
Myanmar claims the crackdown was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents, but the UN termed it ethnic cleansing with hallmarks of genocide.
Doctors without Borders said some 6,700 Rohingyas were killed in the first month of the offensive alone.
The UN Security Council has yet to take any concrete action against Myanmar.
Myanmar has not yet taken back any Rohingya though it signed a bilateral deal in November with Bangladesh that is bearing the brunt of one of the world's major refugee crises.
The UN says conditions in Myanmar are not conducive for safe return of the Rohingya.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh appealed for a strong role from the OIC to protect the Rohingya community.
"The holy prophet's (SAW) message for us was to stand beside the distressed humanity. When the Rohingya community of Myanmar is being subjected to ethnic cleansing, the OIC fraternity cannot overlook it," Hasina told some 600 delegates from 57 OIC countries and some observers as well as invited states.
She said having one-fifth of the world's population, more than a third of the world's strategic resources and a number of rising economies with immense prospects, the Muslim world has no reason to fall behind.
OIC Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen said the lamentable Rohingya crisis dominated the OIC agenda, especially after the bloody August events when Myanmar authorities executed a massive process of forcible displacement of the Muslim minority.
He thanked Bangladesh for its historic position in providing shelter to the Rohingya, who suffered over the decades from the policies of oppression, isolation and marginalisation.
“In light of the ongoing plight of the Rohingya Muslims, it is vital that the OIC members remain united in defending the rights of Muslim minorities being targeted in this manner,” Othaimeen said.
This is a constitutional obligation for all members and in this regard the OIC will continue to act with the international community to employ all available means to protect the vulnerable Rohingya community and encourage a just and peaceful resolution to the situation on the ground, he said in his report placed to the conference.
“We affirm the commitment of the OIC to continue to act at all international and regional levels in support of the cause of the Rohingya people,” the OIC Secretary General said.
Anwar Gargash, state minister for foreign affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the plight of the Rohingyas was unacceptable from humanitarian perspective. They are not alone and the UAE plus others are beside them.
“But I think beyond this, we have to resolve this politically… the essential part is that they have to go back to their country of origin,” he told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview.
He said it had to be ensured that the persecution against the Rohingya would not recur and that their identity was recognised in Myanmar because they were from that area historically.
Gargash said the OIC, through its declaration in Dhaka and subsequent political actions, will work to address the crisis.
“The ethnic cleansing that afflicts this minority [group] presents a number of urgent challenges and requires an effective plan of action, which addresses their return, identity, and safety,” he tweeted.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said the exodus of Rohingya was the world's most rapid and intense crisis of forcibly displaced people since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
“In the OIC, we should take strong actions manifesting solidarity with them and strengthen efforts in persuading Myanmar to take urgent measures for a sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine.”
In one afternoon session, the representative of the Maldives said the crime against the Rohingya is a global issue and the OIC must be united to find a meaningful solution.
Qatar's representative called for intensifying political and humanitarian efforts to ensure return of the Rohingya to Rakhine and ensure their security.
They all lauded Bangladesh for showing the example of Islam by sheltering the persecuted Rohingya people.
The member states also stressed working together to promote Islamic values of solidarity, peace, check extreme violence in various parts of the world, protect the rights of the Palestinians and Muslims around the world.
Côte d'Ivoire Foreign Minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh underscored the need to meet current challenges by adopting a strong and cohesive Islamic position in line with member states' aspirations.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir stressed that the Palestinian cause has absolute priority. He also underlined the need to support Muslim minorities across the world, particularly the Rohingya.
“We underscore the importance of supporting the Muslim minorities in the world, especially the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the great support and sacrifices that brotherly Bangladesh offers to host Rohingya refugees, on its territory,” he said.
Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Bekir Bozdag insisted on the need to root out extremism, put an end to the Syrian crisis, and eradicate all terrorist groups.
“There is a need for stronger solidarity and cooperation among members of our organisation in every aspect, from economy to prosperity, development to migration, stability to peace,” he added.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Kuwait Khaled Al-Jarallah voiced high appreciation for Bangladesh's efforts to help the Rohingya refugees.
He reaffirmed Kuwait's support to the “Rohingya brothers”.
Kuwait took the initiative and organised the Security Council's first visit to both Bangladesh and Myanmar (April 28-May 1) to inspect the conditions of the Rohingya. The recent mission was co-led by Kuwait, the UK and Peru, he said.