Hundreds of thousands of Burmese anti-junta protesters flooded social media with photos of them wearing black clothes to express their solidarity with the Rohingya, one of the most persecuted ethnic minorities in the country.
Since the military overthrew the power of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1, an anti-military movement demanding the restoration of democracy has developed to include a struggle for the rights of ethnic minorities.
The predominantly Muslim Rohingya-long regarded by many in Myanmar as intruders from Bangladesh-have been deprived of their citizenship, rights, access to services and freedom of movement for decades.
In 2017, a bloody military operation in western Myanmar resulted in approximately 740,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, which included rape, mass killings and arson.
The military has long claimed that the suppression was to eradicate the insurgents. Aung San Suu Kyi went to The Hague to refute the genocide accusations in the United Nations Supreme Court and defend the military’s actions.
The Burmese public has little sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya, and activists and reporters who report on these issues face harsh abuse online.
On Sunday, activists and civilians posted photos on social media of themselves wearing black clothes and flashing three fingers in tribute to resistance, and in posts tagged with “#Black4Rohingya”.
“Justice must [be] To serve each of you and each of us in Myanmar,” the famous human rights activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi said on Twitter.
Local media also showed small protests in Yangon, the business center of Myanmar. Demonstrators dressed in black held up slogans in Burmese, calling them “protesting against the oppressed Rohingya.”
In the evening, the hashtag #Black4Rohingya became popular on Twitter in Myanmar and was mentioned more than 332,000 times.
Sunday’s support from a mainly Buddhist and Bamar population is a far cry from previous years, when even the use of the term “Rohingya” was a lightning rod for controversy.
‘Unity is important’
Nei Shenglun, the co-founder of the Free Rohingya Alliance, told Al Jazeera that the #Black4Rohingya movement “has received strong support and solidarity from Myanmar compatriots this year”.
“In the past, we only had international supporters, but since the coup, we have received public apologies from Myanmar individuals and organizations,” he added.
“The unity of the Burmese compatriots is very important to us. We have no friends in our country and are seen as enemies, invaders, intruders and demihumans, but now many of them accept the Rohingya as their compatriots. Many of them realized that they had been brainwashed by the army.
“People who used to call us’Bengali’ now call us Rohingya. This means that they are now respecting very basic human rights.”
Ro Nay San Lwin, a well-known European Rohingya activist, told AFP that online events are an annual effort to raise awareness, but Sunday was the “first time” he saw it spread in Myanmar.
“I am very happy to see people in Myanmar join this movement. I hope to get stronger unity from them,” he said.
The Shadow National Unity Government (NUG)-composed of overthrown Burmese legislators dedicated to overthrowing the power of the army-also extended an olive branch to minorities, inviting them to “join hands… in this spring revolution” in a recent announcement.
NUG is called a “terrorist” by the military government, while military leader Min Aung Hlaing dismissed the term “Rohingya” as a “fictional term”.
According to local monitoring organizations, since the coup d’état earlier this year, more than 860 people have been killed in the brutal suppression by security forces-a death toll that has aroused the alarm of the international community.
On Friday, Michelle Bachelet, the head of human rights at the United Nations, stated that Myanmar has gone from a “fragile democracy into a human rights disaster”-paying particular attention to the escalating problems in areas such as Kayah, Chin State and Kachin State. Violent incident.
On Sunday evening, the official television station condemned Bachelet’s remarks, saying the international agency “should not be biased”.