A leading Islamist political party in Afghanistan has accused the country’s Taliban insurgents for the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
An official statement by Hizb-e Islami said the destruction of two giant Buddha statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s historic Bamyan Valley hastened the suffering of Muslims in Burma. Also called Myanmar, a majority of the Southeast Asian country’s more than 50 million people are Buddhists.
“The suffering of Muslims [in Burma] has a long and bloody history, but it hastened after the Taliban destroyed the Buddha statues in Bamyan and its footage was widely circulated through media [in 2001],” the September 4 statement said.
“Our enemies took advantage of this and provoked the Burmese Buddhists against Muslims. Instead of going after the real culprits, they decided to take revenge from Muslims in their own country,” the statement added.
Since August 25, more than 120,000 Rohingya are now believed to have fled into neighboring Bangladesh from Burma’s Rakhine state. The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim stateless minority. Their members have faced discrimination and sporadic violence in Burma at the hands of security forces and Rakhine Buddhist mobs.
The Taliban have not responded to Hizb-e Islami accusations. But in a statement this week, it criticized Burma and called for more support for the Rohingya.
“We welcome the statements of support for the Muslims of Burma by those governments of the Islamic world, organizations, media, and individuals who have raised their voices,” a Taliban statement said.
Relations between the two Afghan Islamist movements deteriorated sharply after Hizb-e Islami concluded a peace agreement with the Afghan government last year, which paved the way for its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to return to Kabul in May.
– With reporting by the Los Angeles Times