Tag Archives: genocide

The Lost Genocide

A woman in Kutupalong Refugee Camp. Since August, nearly half a million Rohingya have escaped over the Myanmar border to Bangladesh. (Doug Bock Clark)

Doug Bock Clark | Longreads | November 2017 | 6,868 words

From his tent in the illegal shantytown carved out of a Bangladeshi forest, 25-year-old Abdul watched as men, women, and children limped into the refugee camp, gaunt from not eating for days. They were his people, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority that has been widely called the world’s most persecuted people. Abdul had arrived in the camps ten months earlier, when 66 thousand refugees fled the neighboring country of Myanmar in the last months of 2016. Nearly a year later, the Rohingya were once again on the run, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh through grooves worn in the swamps made by the more than 1 million refugees who had preceded them over seven decades.

The most recent violence began on August 25, 2017, when armed Rohingya groups attacked as many as 30 Burmese police and military posts near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. The army’s retaliation had been swift, with soldiers razing more than 200 villages, causing about 600 thousand Rohingya to flee. The refugees told stories of Burmese soldiers ambushing their villages, raping the women, and shooting the men or decapitating them with knives. They described landmines being laid along the well-known escape routes. Each morning, corpses of Rohingya who had drowned trying to cross the mile-wide Naf River, which divides Myanmar from Bangladesh, washed onto the shore where they had once sought safety.

Abdul called the new arrivals into his shelter, which was made of discarded plastic stretched over bamboo slats, though all he could offer them was a spot on the red-clay floor. Soon, 30 people were occupying just 80 square feet. But they counted themselves lucky: Most new arrivals slept under monsoon-season skies. Nearly a million Rohingya now crammed into a narrow peninsula on the southern tip of Bangladesh, almost all of them in squatter settlements ringing the U.N.-run camps, which have been at capacity for decades. Eventually, Abdul’s tent became so crowded that he had to bed down at a nearby mosque. But having made a similar escape with shrapnel embedded in his shoulder just 10 months earlier, Abdul felt he had to help.

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“My Father, the Good Nazi.” Philippe Sands, Financial Times

[Not single-page] Goucher, a small liberal-arts college, hired a French professor from Rwanda named Leopold Munyakazi through The Scholar Rescue Fund, an organization devoted to providing asylum to intellectuals whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. Sanford J. Ungar, the president of the college, is contacted by investigative reporters at NBC, and Goucher is subsequently accused of harboring a war criminal:

The details of the accusations were horrifying, and I sat reading the documents while my visitors watched. Between April and July 1994, Leopold had been part of a ‘joint criminal enterprise,’ the indictment alleged, and had ‘trained, indoctrinated, encouraged, provided criminal intelligence to, transported and distributed arms to members’ of the armed forces and civilian militias, who in turn ‘murdered, caused seriously [sic] bodily and mental harm, raped and pillaged Tutsi group members.’ It said he had attended meetings of Hutu in the Kayenzi commune, where he and others allegedly complained that the killing was ‘lagging behind.’ Possibly he had planned or even chaired those meetings. At one such gathering at the Kirwa primary school, Munyakazi ‘took the floor to address more than 2,000 residents,’ it claimed, ‘and publicly incited the masses to commit genocide.’ He had, according to the indictment, personally turned over to the militia a woman who had taken refuge at his home, so that she could be killed.

I was incredulous, filled with a mixture of anger and self-doubt. As their Rwandan companion nodded quietly in agreement, the producers from NBC demanded to know how Goucher could have sheltered such an evil man. They wanted to film me reacting to the indictment, but I refused. I hid behind the Scholar Rescue Fund, protesting that Leopold had been screened and certified, and that was all we knew. Later, in a New Republic story that was part of the flurry of early, short-lived interest in Leopold’s case, the producers were even quoted as describing my attitude as ‘flippant.’

“Leopold’s Ghost.” — Sanford J. Ungar, New York magazine

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