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“They Tried to Kill Us All”: Atrocity Crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar

November 15th, 2017  •  Author:   Fortify Rights and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum  •  2 minute read
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Executive Summary

On October 9, 2016, a previously unknown Rohingya militant group calling itself Harakah al-Yaqin attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. Armed mostly with sticks, knives, and improvised explosive devices, the group killed nine state security officials. After renaming itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in March 2017, the group waged a second attack on 30 police outposts and an army base on August 25, 2017, killing 12 officials. ARSA claimed the attacks were a response to protracted discriminatory treatment and persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Immediately following both of those attacks, the Myanmar Army launched clearance operations—a term the military uses to describe ongoing multiagency efforts to combat and apprehend Rohingya militants.

In practice, the military and the Government of Myanmar used such operations as a mechanism to commit mass atrocities against Rohingya men, women, and children.

Over the past year, Fortify Rights and the Simon-Skjodt Center documented how the Myanmar Army, Air Force, Police Force, and armed civilians carried out an unprecedented, widespread, and systematic attack on Rohingya civilians throughout northern Rakhine State with brutal efficiency. Eyewitness testimony documented in this report reveals how Myanmar state security forces and civilian perpetrators committed mass killings. State security forces opened fire on Rohingya civilians from the land and sky. Soldiers and knife-wielding civilians hacked to death and slit the throats of Rohingya men, women, and children, and Rohingya civilians were burned alive. Soldiers raped and gang-raped Rohingya women and girls and arbitrarily arrested men and boys en masse.

“They tried to kill us all,” said “Mohammed Rafiq,” 25, from Min Gyi village in Maungdaw Township, recalling how soldiers corralled villagers in a group and opened fire on them on August 30, 2017. “There was nothing left. People were shot in the chest, stomach, legs, face, head, everywhere.”

Satellite imagery corroborates eyewitness testimony describing how Myanmar authorities and others razed Rohingya-owned homes and properties throughout northern Rakhine State, destroying hundreds of villages and entire village tracts.

Before August 25, the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State numbered more than one million. The Myanmar Army–led attacks on civilians resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 700,000 Rohingya since October 2016—more than half of the entire population in northern Rakhine State.

Download full report HERE.