Rohingya say Myanmar targeted the educated in genocide
BALUKHALI REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh — Mohammed Hashim hid in the hills and watched as his brother begged for his life, his arms bound behind his back as soldiers marched the 35-year-old teacher away. It was the last time he saw him alive.
It was Aug. 26, the day after Rohingya Muslim separatist attacks on military outposts in the group’s homeland in western Myanmar. In their wake, Myanmar’s military and local Buddhists would respond with a campaign of rape, massacre and arson that has driven about 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
But more than a dozen teachers, elders and religious leaders told The Associated Press that educated Rohingya — already subject to systematic and widespread harassment, arrests and torture — were singled out, part of Myanmar’s operation to drive the Muslim Rohingya from majority Buddhist Myanmar.
Soldiers targeted the educated, they said, so there would be no community leaders left willing to speak up against the pervasive abuse.
It’s an old tactic, according to those who study genocide — and often a precursor to killing.
“My brother apologized and pleaded with the military not to kill him; he showed them his ID card and said, ‘I’m a teacher, I’m a teacher.’ But the government had planned to kill our educated people, including my brother,” Hashim said.
He was interviewed at one of the teeming Bangladesh refugee camps that have sprung up along the hilly border with Myanmar since the Rohingya exodus grew in August. Hashim, who is also a teacher, ran for the hills and hid after the military surrounded his hamlet in northern Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya lived. Others told similar accounts.
After the Aug. 25 attacks, soldiers in Maung Nu village, the site of a massacre, asked villagers: “Where are the teachers?”
Rahim, a 26-year old high school science and math teacher who was known to many soldiers because he taught their children at the local battalion school, saw the military coming and fled.
“I knew I was dead if I got caught. They were hunting me,” said Rahim, who, like some Rohingya, uses only one name. “They knew that I would always speak out for the people. They wanted to destroy us because they knew that without us they could do whatever they wanted to the rest of the Rohingya.”
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