History of the Rohingya, Muslim population of Burma

History of the Rohingya, Muslim population of Burma

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The Rohingya or rohingya, They are a Bengali Muslim ethnic group from the north of the State of Rakáin, previously called Arakán, in Myanmar (Burma) that are mainly concentrated in two municipalities of this one on the border with Bangladesh.

For many years, this group has been known to be a "stateless" and "friendless" people According to the United Nations, they are systematically persecuted by the Government of Myanmar as they are not considered citizens, but rather immigrants who arrived in the country after the Second World War.

Rohingya history

The history of this ethnic group differs depending on who narrates it. The Rohingya say their history dates back to the 8th century, being descendants of Arab, Mongolian and Bengali merchants who settled in the Arakan area.

Arakan in the 8th century

Thanks to its location in the Bay of Bengal, Arakán was a very important center in maritime trade and cultural exchange between the Indian Mauryan Empire and the outside world. Arab merchants used this bay to reach Arakan and many researchers say that Muslims used the region to reach India and China, being a southern branch of the Silk Road.

This enclave soon became a important city in the area, where Arab merchants married local women, growing the city and Muslim influence in the region. Modern Rohingya claim to be descendants of these early Muslim communities.

The Burmese conquest of Arakan (18th century)

The Konbaung dynasty it conquered Arakan in 1785, which caused that 35,000 people of the zone fled in 1799 towards the neighboring region of Chittagong, in British Bengal, escaping of the persecution of the Bamar, seeking in turn protection of the British Raj.

The Bamar executed thousands of people and deported a large part of the population to central Burma, leaving Arakan as a semi-depopulated area when the British occupied it.

Arakan British colony (XIX century)

British policy in the region encouraged Bengali inhabitants from adjacent areas to migrate to Arakan as agricultural laborers.

In turn, the East India Company extended the Bengal Presidency to Arakan, so there were no boundaries between Bengal and Arakan, nor were there migration restrictions between regions.

After four decades of British rule, the Muslim population of the area was 5%, and it is very difficult to determine if these new inhabitants of Arakan were the same ones who had been deported during the Burmese conquest of the 18th century who returned as a result of the British policy, or if they were a new migrant population, something that they claim from the Myanmar government.

The Myanmar government version

The Myanmar government assures that this group are Muslim immigrants who arrived from Bangladesh during the British occupation, and therefore do not consider them citizens.

Being considered Bengali immigrants, they are confined in large ghettos and subjected to very harsh and precarious conditions, when they are not treated with violence both by the government itself and by other neighboring Buddhist groups that do not recognize them as indigenous.

Current situation of the Rohingya

In August 2017, violence resurfaced in northern Myanmar which has led to more than half a million Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh in search of safety.

This upsurge in violence makes NGOs like UNHCR act continuously in the area, requesting humanitarian aid donations to be able to attend the emergencies that arise in the fields of Bangladesh and to try to cover the most basic needs of the refugee population.

Images: Shutterstock

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.



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