In a video from within besieged Aleppo, US journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem said “don’t you dare fall for anybody who is telling you that what is happening here in Aleppo is that they are fighting terrorists and terrorism”. He reiterated the call on Tuesday night as he spoke live from Aleppo to a crowd of at least a thousand protesters in London. His call has highlighted a worrying trend, whereby genocide is justified under the banner of the War on Terror. The broad scope of terrorism legislation has provided governments with a carte blanche to weaponise the War on Terror against their own people.
In Myanmar, the government has attempted to exploit the rhetoric of the War on Terror to garner international support for their heinous operations against the Rohingya. The Rohingya community has been denied citizenship, stripped of their homes, and brutally raped, tortured and killed in what Human Rights Watch has declared as “ethnic cleansing” by the Buddhist nationalist-influenced security forces of the government. The Burmese leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been complicit in the suffering of the Rohingya through her willful silence. Suu Kyi has even attempted to play down the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and during an interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain she said “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim”.
The suffering of the Rohingya extends beyond the modern political context, however, in its efforts to polish its image, the Myanmar government has co-opted the manifesto of the War on Terror, to continue its acts of barbarity against the Rohingya.
US builds ties with Burmese government and military
In May this year, US officials announced they would be gradually re-engaging with the country’s military, “with the aim of broadening cooperation” including ‘counter-terrorism’. However when pressed on the Rohingya issue, Deputy Secretary of State Patrick Murphy, said it was “problematic”. “It’s a lot to ask of a new government,” he said apologetically, of the need to solve what is a catastrophic human problem.
Recently in a low key email, Obama announced the lifting of sanctions against Myanmar, saying, unbelievably, that the government there had made “substantial progress in improving human rights”.
A western precedent
Such responses in the face of impending genocide are unlikely to change under the Islamophobic administration of Donald Trump. In fact, it is likely that Burma, in its institutional racism and state sponsored hate and genocide against a persecuted minority, will enjoy even more open support, while those drawing attention to the plight of the Rohingya may be cast as “extremist” or “terrorist sympathisers”.
Killing in the name of counter-terrorism such as that which is occurring in Myanmar and Aleppo, is a stark warning that the abuses sanctioned by western nations under the War on Terror have set dangerous precedents and have enabled some of the world’s’ most reprehensible regimes to commit genocide with impunity.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)