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Global Outcry Grows Over Violence Against Burma's Rohingya Muslims

Muslims rally in Grozny's Akhmat Kadyrov Square in support of Rohingya Muslims in Burma on September 4.
Muslims rally in Grozny's Akhmat Kadyrov Square in support of Rohingya Muslims in Burma on September 4.

A global outcry over violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma is growing, with Muslim-ruled countries saying they will demand action at the United Nations over the reported killing of more than 400 Rohingya since last month.

Iran on September 4 called the violence, which has prompted nearly 90,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, "ethnic cleansing," while Turkey has called it "genocide."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif endorsed a call by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bring the matter before the United Nations General Assembly this month.

In a post on Twitter, Zarif decried the "global silence on continuing violence against Rohingya Muslims," and said "international action crucial to prevent further ethnic cleansing -- UN must rally."

The recent wave of violence was set off by a group of Rohingya insurgents attacking police posts in the state of Rakhine on August 25. The authorities reported at least 400 people were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Burmese officials blame Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths, but rights monitors and Rohingya say the Burmese Army is trying to force them out through a campaign of arson and killings.

A growing list of Muslim-majority countries has spoken out against the violence, while mass protests were held on September 4 in Indonesia and the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya, where thousands of people turned out to express support for the Rohingya.​

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on September 4 expressed "deep anguish" over "reports of growing number of deaths and forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims" and urged Burma, also known as Myanmar, to investigate the alleged atrocities.

"This humanitarian crisis has to stop immediately," Indonesian President Joko Widodo said as he dispatched his foreign minister to meet with the leaders of Burma.

UN workers estimate that 87,000 refugees have crossed Burma's border into Bangladesh, many of them wounded, straining aid agencies and hospitals.

The Maldives announced on September 4 that it was severing all trade ties with Burma "until the government of Myanmar takes measures to prevent the atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims," its Foreign Ministry said

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai joined the chorus on September 4, called on her fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the civil leader of Burma, to condemn the violence.

Malala, 20, came to prominence when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012 for encouraging Pakistani girls to get an education. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

"Every time I see the news, my heart breaks at the suffering," Malala said on Twitter. "I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.... The world is waiting."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman also questioned Suu Kyi's silence while some of her critics have called on the Nobel Committee to withdraw her peace prize.

Defenders of Suu Kyi, who was once a political prisoner of Burma's military junta, say she has limited ability to control the military. But her critics say she is one of the few people with the moral authority and mass appeal to influence the situation.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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