Nobel Laureates: End violence against ethnic minorities in Burma

Women rally to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. Photo Credit: Thorsten Strasas

Women rally to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. Photo Credit: Thorsten Strasas

Twelve Nobel Peace laureates—including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi, Muhammad Yunus, Tawakkol Karman and Jody Williams— are calling for an immediate end to the violence against Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Burma.

Nobel Laureates Mohammed Yunus and José Ramos-Horta have noted that the Muslim Rohingyas are “one of the most marginalized people in the world.” Commonly cast as “illegal Bengali immigrants,” these communities have been subject to persecution and violence. Human Rights Watch has published evidence of mass graves and campaigns of ethnic cleansing. Recently, a two-child limit has also been imposed among the Rohingya settlements along the Bangladesh border. The military has also engaged in offensive tactics against the Kachin and other ethnic minorities in the country.

These conditions have a specific impact on the lives of women. Sexual violence is widespread around Kachin and other minority communities as a “systemic and calculated war tactic.”  Moon Nay Li, a women’s rights activist in Burma, documents the escalating sexual violence towards minorities. She noted that half the victims are killed after being raped and that victims are as young as nine. Li says, “[T]he government troops will use this pretext [of violence] to continue raping, torturing and killing.”

The laureates’ statement comes in support of a call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to conduct a UN investigation into the deaths of Muslims in Burma, as well as to investigate ongoing violence against the Kachin, the Shan and other ethnic minorities. Pillay is urging the Burmese government to allow her offi ce a “full mandate” in Burma to investigate human rights abuses.

In their statement, the laureates note:

“There needs to be an international, independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence in Burma.  It is critically important that the Burmese government show leadership in implementing any recommendations from such an investigation to ensure accountability to end this cycle of violence.  We urge President Thein Sein strongly to follow through on the commitment he made to allow the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in Burma.”

Read the full statement here.



What Obama needs to tell Myanmar’s Leader, New York Times, May 20, 2013.

Suu Kyi calls for an end to fighting in Kachin region, Nobel Women’s Initiative, January 21, 2013.

“All You Can Do is Pray”: Crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State, Human Rights Watch Report, April 23, 2013.

International community must act to end atrocities by Thein Sein’s government, Women’s League of Burma, January 8, 2013.

Pushed to the Brink: Conflict and Human Trafficking on the Kachin-China Border, Women’s League of Burma, June 5, 2013.



Stand in solidarity with the Rohingya Muslims by signing a petition calling on the Burmese people and government to cease violence here.