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Canada A land of opportunity

By Saifullah Muhammad,

For those few lucky Rohingya, gaining resettlement in Canada has opened up a future of possibilities and excellent opportunities to start a new life. The more than 300 Rohingya refugees who call Waterloo Region home are thankful for the chance to get a good education for their kids, a better life for all of them and the opportunity to have a voice for their community facing genocide in the Arakan State of Myanmar.

The first generation of this community is learning English, finding jobs and enjoying the dividends of a peaceful and stable country. Their children are doing even better, going to universities and getting their first professional jobs. They are succeeding.

However, all of them carry horrible memories with them. One such refugee is Nurul Haque, 19, from the Maungdaw Township of the Rakhine State of Myanmar. He can finally relax now that he is in Canada, after being sponsored by Jim Estill of Guelph on Dec. 21, 2018.

Haque, 19, a handsome young man with shiny black eyes, said he didn’t know what to expect from his resettlement interview with an officer from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) office in Malaysia in May 2018.

“When I found out in Malaysia that I was accepted to come to Canada, my happiness filled my body with energy,” Haque said.

Eight weeks after arriving in Canada, in an interview at Forest Heights Collegiate Institute, the high school he attends in Kitchener, he paid tribute to the Canadian government and his sponsor Jim Estill, who sponsored more than 50 Syrian refugee families two years ago.

“It is a humanitarian crisis. I did not want to grow old and say I stood by and did nothing,” Estill said. “One of the phrases I repeat all the time is ‘Do the right thing.’

“It is actually how we try to run Danby Appliances. So, I am simply trying to ‘Do the right thing.’ I want to help bring refugees to safety in Canada faster, and settle as many people as possible with the amount of money and resources that I have available.”

Since 2015, Estill has sponsored 89 refugee families consisting of 300 people. He is the president and CEO of home appliance manufacturer Danby Protoducts Ltd.

Haque knows he is fortunate compared to the thousands of other refugees who live in Myanmar and Bangladesh refugee camps. In fact, his parents are still languishing there.

His family fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2012, shortly after sectarian violence against Rohingya by the Rakhine mob and Myanmar armed forces. Two months after his family arrived in Bangladesh, a friend of his father’s called to tell him that he could go to Malaysia and no payment should be made in advance.

“Before the violence in 2012, our life was perfect. My father was a farmer, but we had farmland to cultivate and a beautiful house to live in. I was studying. Life was flexible. Then the violence began. Within a few months, everything changed, and we had to leave the country,” Haque said.

UNHCR reported new spontaneous settlements sprouted overnight, raising concerns over the lack of adequate shelter, water and sanitation, access to basic services and general protection considerations such as safety for women and girls. The Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres, stretching infrastructure and services to their limits.

The Bangladesh government has responded generously throughout the latest crisis. Local Bangladeshi villages have also taken in new arrivals. They spared no effort to help, straining their already limited resources.

The humanitarian response in Bangladesh remains focused on meeting the massive humanitarian needs and on mitigating the impact of the seasonal monsoon rains. However, additional international support is urgently needed to step up the assistance from purely humanitarian and day-to-day support towards addressing medium-term challenges, including resilience, education, registration and programs to protect the most vulnerable refugees – including children, women and persons with special needs.

Haque arrived in Thailand at the end of January 2016 after 10 days of being squeezed into a fishing boat. Then the traffickers called his parents and demanded $2,000. His parents were refugees and didn’t have money to rescue Haque.

“My parents begged for money from many people. Fortunately, some of my relatives in Malaysia helped me, paying $2,000, and managed to rescue my life after a week.

“As soon as I arrived in Malaysia I took a job in a condo as a landscaper to help pay my living costs and debt I took from my relatives. Life was just about manageable until I was diagnosed with an unknown disease in my throat,” Haque said.

Treatment was expensive, so he applied to the UNHCR office to pay for his surgery. When it became clear that more complex surgery was going to be necessary, UNHCR added him to its resettlement process. He qualified because of his urgent medical problem and because he was particularly vulnerable as he was without family in Malaysia.

Haque misses his home in Myanmar and parents in Bangladesh. “I have many remembrances – studying at my village school, playing with friends, always with my family, the food my mom cooked. Leaving everything … it is a bad feeling when there is no family members and you don’t get anything you wish for,” Haque said.

On Dec. 21, 2018, he first tasted Canada’s extreme winter when he arrived at the Muslim Society of Guelph to pray. When Friday afternoon prayers finished, he exclaimed he felt “pleased” because he is in a safe country.

Haque was with his Pakistani friend Mohammed Faisal who helped him create a TD Bank account while they both were living in a hotel. The two men were from different countries, and they met while flying together to settle in Guelph. They didn’t know the same gentleman sponsored them through the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) program.

Under the SAH program, the Canadian government and the private sponsor cover initial costs for essentials such as food, furniture and clothing, as well as a monthly living allowance. This assistance lasts for one year after which it is expected the refugees will find a job.

Haque was happy to meet with fellow community members when the Muslim Society of Guelph introduced him to Ahmed Ullah, Farid Ullah and Mohammed Rafique.

“I was so glad to meet the first Rohingya in Canada. I didn’t know there were Rohingya living in Canada,” Haque said.

Since the conflict in Myanmar began, around 2.5 million people have been displaced by the Myanmar government because of their different religion, ethnicity and language. Bangladesh is now home to almost 1.3 million Rohingya refugees while another 1.2 million have gone to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Europe, Canada and other countries. Under a UNHCR-backed government resettlement scheme, Canada has resettled about 300 Rohingya since 2006. Most of them are in Waterloo Region.

Farid Ullah sits bound in layers of clothing under his black hoody and blue hat. A decade ago he was a small refugee boy who was sponsored by the Government of Canada along with his parents and five siblings.

Ullah’s family was among 13 Rohingya refugees – all genocide survivors from the Arakan State of Myanmar – the first batch that Canada accepted for resettlement under the UNHCR procedure from camps in Cox’s Bazar at the southern tip of Bangladesh.

“We lived in limbo for 17 years in the Kutupalong and Nayapara Refugee camps in Bangladesh. Our families struggled to survive facing limited access to food, water, shelter, health care and education.

“When we arrived in Kitchener on Dec. 14, 2006, with hope to settle into a new home, culture and environment, we didn’t believe that we were in a country where there was no more persecution and hardship in life,” Ullah said.

Ullah’s parents, along with 260,000 others, fled to Bangladesh in 1991 to escape the slow-burning genocide by Myanmar forces because of their different religious practice and ethnicity.

“I am not too worried about these new Rohingya refugees,” said Ahmed Ullah, a community activist from the Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI). “They will do very well because they are very motivated, and our community is super helpful and always ready to respond.”

CRDI is a registered not-for-profit organization established by members of the Rohingya community in Canada. CRDI works with leaders from communities both local and abroad, humanitarian organizations and governments to bring awareness of the cause and to advocate for the Rohingya people in Canada and overseas. The organization promotes education, health care and humanitarian aid alongside durable solutions for refugee crises, including a recent plan to help privately sponsor and settle hundreds of Rohingyas in Canada.

“We are thankful to Canada and we are thankful to Waterloo Region,” Ullah said. “It is a city of peace and harmony. The people here are nice and helpful. Teachers and all social workers are superb. We can help more than a few hundred or a few thousand Rohingya a year.

“We are now working closely with the government and local agencies to empower the Rohingya youth and give them a better understanding of Canada and its rule of law so they can one day contribute to the local community and stay away from any kind of crime or illegal activities,” Ullah said.

Jaivet Ealom 22, a Rohingya youth currently studying political science and economy at the University of Toronto, has been continuously supporting the organization and newcomers within his capacity.

Ealom is the only Rohingya student accepted at the Toronto university after arriving as a landed immigrant in December 2017.

He was raised in the Maungdaw Township of Rakhine State in Myanmar and partly in Yangon, the former capital city of Myanmar. He said life in Myanmar was difficult because he had to change his identity for school and lived a life always in fear because he was Rohingya.

“Being able to make it all the way to Canada is like a dream come true,” Ealom said.

“Being able to get refugee status in Canada still feels unreal. Although the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) promptly scheduled me a refugee hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) in about four months from my arrival date, IRB cancelled it along with hundreds of other applicants.

“It took me about nine months to get my hearing. However, this is an exception and not the case for others,” Ealom said.

Ealom struggled to find a job without legal documents. He had a hard time paying for accommodation and nothing was sure about his future studies.

Ealom said adjusting to life in Canada was not a comfortable experience with tons of barriers and challenges. The university didn’t accept his ID cards as legal documents even though he was accepted,

and getting medical treatment was a bigger problem without legal documents. It was especially hard for him during the first few months.

“I was lucky to have some community supports in the Kitchener area. Otherwise, it could have taken even longer for me to adjust to a new life here.

“But the best assistance I received was from people I never knew. Most of the Canadians were friendly and helpful when asked.

“There isn’t a distinct culture, at least not a visible one. It is more like a melting pot. At least that’s the case for Toronto.”

Ealom hopes his studies will give him a better understanding of the politics and economy of Myanmar and how they function and how the Myanmar government survives the heavy sanctions imposed by the international community.

“Knowing that the economy is the pillar of a country’s stability, I hope the understanding of it will assist me in the future to serve the Rohingya community and their prosperity through our organization,” Ealom said.

Mohammed Rafiq, 24, a member of CRDI and a former refugee from Myanmar, helps new arrivals. He was a genocide survivor who left his home to escape persecution of the Myanmar government.

“I have no idea how I am here today. I never dreamt I will be in a place where I can say I have a country and I am a Canadian. I understand what the differences between Myanmar and Canada is,” said Rafiq, who is from the Buthidaung Township.

He agrees his fellow Rohingya have shown a remarkable degree of adaptation, especially considering they are in a country, with a culture and a language barrier and they are from diverse backgrounds.

In a Nov. 19, 2015 article, The Globe and Mail reported Rafiq’s story, along with those of five friends who also resettled in Canada under the resettlement process.

According to the story, in 2013 129 young men including Rafiq tried their luck on a long and dangerous boat journey to Malaysia.

The men, all Rohingya fleeing state repression in Myanmar, were at the limit of their endurance. They lay listlessly in the open boat as the sun sapped their will. Some drank sea water, some chewed shards of wood from the deck to remind themselves what it was like to feel food in their mouths.

The small fishing vessel, its engine disabled, rolled aimlessly with the waves. Rafiq prayed. Maybe tomorrow they would be saved, he thought.

After 38 days at sea they were finally spotted by Sri Lankan fishermen, who radioed for help.

According to the article and an image published in the Globe and Mail after their rescue that day in February 2013, Rafiq and the other survivors lay on the deck of a Sri Lankan navy ship, their skin stretched tight across their faces, cheeks hollow, ribs sharply defined. Of the approximately 129 men who began the journey, 97 perished and only 32 remained.

A group of six Rohingya refugees including Rafiq were resettled in Canada on Nov. 21, 2014, through the government sponsorship program. Their stories of fear, escape and survival are a shocking illustration of the tyranny the Rohingya face and the risks they are prepared to take for a chance at a better life.

“I am privileged enough to be in Canada,” Rafiq said with a broad smile. “We are free here and can go anywhere we want. We can go to school and learn English.”

He also said that’s entirely different from his life growing up as a Rohingya in Myanmar. He shows a white card called a National Verification Card (NVC) with his photo on top and some text in Burmese identifying him.

The government of Myanmar’s issued ID says he is a Bangladeshi even though he was born in Myanmar. The citizenship of the Rohingya was barred by the former military government in 1982 who introduced a so-called 1982 citizenship law.

“It was a really horrific life in Myanmar and hard to survive,” Rafiq said, adding he can’t even begin to describe how bad it was. “The Myanmar government targeted young Rohingya and educated people. They wanted to make us illiterate and leave the country on our own.”

Before he fled, Rafiq ran a small grocery store in his village. However, the taxes and bribes he had to pay were burdensome, so he decided to sell the store and leave the country for a better life.

“When we were going to bed, every night we hoped to see the next morning because every night military entered the village, raped women, killed the young people and took away our belongings.

“We sometimes slept in the jungle to avoid trouble, and then we decided to leave the country with my two other friends,” Rafiq said.

He didn’t even say goodbye to his mother, who is now languishing in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

In The Globe and Mail article, Rafiq said when he was rescued in Sri Lanka, he was initially kept in jail before being moved to a United Nations-supported camp. It was there that he was selected to come to Canada, along with five other men who had made a similarly perilous journey before being plucked from the sea. However, the other five were from another boat.

Mansoor Alom was one of the six men who was fortunate enough to be selected for Canada. The Thai navy had captured Alom’s ship as it tried to enter Thailand and then dragged it back out to sea without enough oil and fuel according to The Globe and Mail.

His captain tried to navigate back into Thai waters, but the navy repelled them by firing over their heads. After two weeks of drifting, they spotted a large fishing vessel. Despite weeks of starvation, he was able to swim to the larger container and pull himself up by the anchor rope that hung from the side. The startled fishermen chased Alom away with knives, forcing him back into the water, but soon saw the condition of those aboard the migrant vessel and radioed the Sri Lankan navy for help.

Rafiq and Alom didn’t know each other before they fled Myanmar but now consider themselves brothers, living together in an apartment until the Canadian government sponsored Alom’s wife and two children from India on an emergency basis.

In a bright apartment in a modest 1950s building in a quiet corner of downtown Kitchener, Alom and his wife were teasing each other. “This is how I see Canada,” said Senewara Begum, Alom’s 25-year-old wife. “Children come from school, I cook and feed them and at last, the man who is in front of me comes and eats and sleeps!” They both laugh.

“In Myanmar our life was simple,” Alom said. “We were going to work, my wife was making dinner, and we spent time with family or friends until we noticed the horrific violence against our people in June 2012.

“I had many dreams. We were saving up to build a big house – a place to raise a child. You know, stuff that everyone wants,” Alom said.

“Our house was right in the middle of the village and very close to a military camp. One day the armed forces shot and killed one of our neighbours, just because he refused to give the military a goat.”

Alom wants his daughter, Noor Taaz, 10, to be a doctor and his son, Mohammed Omar, 8, to be an engineer.

“Now being in Canada, our dream is to educate our children and grow healthy families and maybe one day our children will contribute to Canada which has given us a new life.”

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OPINION: Is global population decline a real problem?

By Saifullah Muhammad,

For years we have been told by scientific elites and United Nations reports that a growing planetary population will soon overwhelm the earth’s resources. As the population grows, more and more lands are allocated for urbanization, taking up resources that could be used for agriculture. On top of this, the wastes and pollution resulting from human activity speed up the degradation and deterioration of resources.

The Global Footprint Network estimates that the current population requires resources equivalent to that of over 1.6 Earths. Moreover, the UN projects that our population may balloon to upwards of 8.5 billion by 2030.

However, a growing number of demographers are sounding a different kind of alarm. They argue the global population is headed for a steep decline.

Canadian social scientist Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, make the provocative argument that, in roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political, and economic landscape. Once that decline begins, it will never end.

Amidst warnings of overpopulation, such a trend might seem like a good thing, especially for the environment. However, they argue that declining population will also lead to massive economic upheaval, with fewer people available each year to buy houses and cars and baby strollers, and fewer taxpayers available to support the health-care needs of an aging population.

For most of history, population decline has been the result of catastrophe — environmental events, famine or disease. Now, however, fertility rates are falling for a different reason: people are choosing to have fewer children.

Bricker and Ibbitson argue that the planet faces not a population bomb, but a population bust.

“We polled 26 countries asking women how many kids they want and, no matter where you go, the answer tends to be around two,” Ibbitson said in a new interview with Wired. “The external forces that used to dictate people having bigger families are disappearing everywhere. Also, that is happening fastest in developing countries.”

They also address that a smaller global population will bring with it many benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages, the environment will improve, the risk of famine will wane and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women.

However, enormous disruption lies ahead, too.

“We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on health care and social security, they explained. “The United States and Canada are well-positioned to navigate these coming demographic shifts successfully – that is, unless growing isolationism leads us to close ourselves off, just as openness becomes more critical to our survival than ever,”

Bricker and Ibbitson also assert that, to combat depopulation, nations must embrace both values, though the first is difficult and the second, for some, may prove impossible.

On the other hand, Harvard University Graduate School of Design research professor Richard Forman and professor of sustainability science at Arizona State University Jianguo Wu wrote a call for global and regional urban planning approaches. They say that existing communities are built in the wrong places; that those places should have been allocated for nature and agriculture. Most settlements began on good agricultural soil near a body of fresh water and natural vegetation, they wrote in Nature.

Regardless of which side people take on the issue — whether we are headed for overpopulation of Earth or a declining population that will produce its own upheavals — more research and consultation will be needed in the years to come. The future of the planet will depend on it.

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Facebook Apologizes for Hate Speech in Burma

By Saifullah Muhammad

On Tuesday, Senator Patrick Leahy confronted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with examples of hate speech posts inciting violence against the Rohingya in Burma.

While Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to improve Facebook’s response to hate speech posts, civil society organizations in Burma have told him, in a letter shared with the New York Times, that these improvements are “nowhere near enough” to prevent “real harm.”

Hate speech on Facebook by ultranationalist groups has fueled the Burmese army’s march towards genocide of the Rohingya. Alan Davis, an analyst from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting who led a two-year study of hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), told The Guardian (UK) that, in the months before the Burmese army’s offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017, he noticed posts on Facebook becoming “more organised and odious, and more militarised”

Myanmar ultra-nationalist monks are spreading hate speech against Rohingya people in the capital city of Myanmar. Photo by Chaingrain

According to the Guardian, his research team encountered fabricated stories stating that “mosques in Yangon are stockpiling weapons in an attempt to blow up various Buddhist pagodas and Shwedagon pagoda”, the most sacred Buddhist site in Yangon in a smear campaign against Muslims. These pages also featured posts calling Rohingya the derogatory term “kalars” and “Bengali terrorists”.

In a recent report on the Rohingya crisis, Marzuki Darusman, head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said Facebook “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict” in Burma.

“Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that,” Darusman said. “As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media.”

Let us join the civil society organizations in Burma – including Phandeeyar, the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization, and the Center for Social Integrity – in pushing Facebook to demonstrate that it is taking effective and transparent action to shut down hate speech said Simon Billenness, Executive Director of The Action Network.

Thet Swe Win, a Buddhist civil rights activist, is one of the few liberal voices in the country willing to speak out about the Rohingya, yet he feels he must be guarded with his words. At a recent human rights conference he avoided confronting the issue directly because of the hostility.

“This Rohingya case, it divided the people. I have seen many of the human rights defenders supporting the killing of the Rohingya people. They wrote it on Facebook: ‘They should not be here, they’re intruders, they’re terrorists, kill them all.’ It makes me not speak out as much as I want to those people,” he said.

A letter was signed by the general public demanding that Facebook must stop ultranationalist groups in Burma from spreading anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya hate speech on its platform.

This hate speech has fueled the Burmese army’s march towards genocide of the Rohingya. And what Facebook will do to ensure that it never lets its platform to be used again for campaigns of hate speech.

Alan Davis, an analyst from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting who led a two-year study of hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), told The Guardian (UK) that, in the months before the Burmese army’s offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017, he noticed posts on Facebook becoming “more organised and odious, and more militarised” According to the Guardian, his research team encountered fabricated stories stating that “mosques in Yangon are stockpiling weapons in an attempt to blow up various Buddhist pagodas and Shwedagon pagoda”, the most sacred Buddhist site in Yangon in a smear campaign against Muslim Rohingya.

If Facebook does indeed take this seriously, tell us what Facebook will do to ensure that it never lets its platform to be used again for campaigns of hate speech, the letter included. Rohingya people are being widely abused and exploited. They are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

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Bob Rae’s final report: A glimpse of hope for Rohingya

By Saifullah Muhammad

Prime minister’s special envoy to Myanmar, Bob Rae, released a report Tuesday urging Canada to “signal a willingness” to welcome Rohingya refugees and implement sanctions against those responsible for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the southeast Asian country.

The report titled: “Tell them we’re human,” also states that there is evidence “to support the charge that crimes against humanity have been committed” in Myanmar.

The federal government says it is studying Rae’s findings and intends to do more in the “coming days and weeks” Rae’s 17 recommendations include Canada increasing its funding, and consider playing a prominent role in initiating an investigation into potential war crimes, but stops short of wading into whether or not Canada should revoke Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship.

“I’m calling the situation as I see it,” Rae said, speaking to reporters in Ottawa about his new report. “It’s a very, very troubling tragic situation. It’s going to require a change of heart inside Myanmar to really make repatriation possible. It’s going to require a willingness to accept international presence, assistance… That’s going to take a lot of effort to make that happen. The situations in the camps are terrible.”

Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau meets with the Rohingya activists in Kitchener to discuss the Rohingya project on March 20, 2018/Photo by Selina

Responding to the report, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau issued a statement saying they welcome Rae’s work, and that it “reaffirms” the urgency of the crisis. The ministers said they will soon be outlining further measures the federal government will take.

“We can and must do more,” the ministers said. “That is why we will continue to engage at home and abroad over the coming days and weeks to register our deep concern about the crisis and to seek a path forward with the international community.”

Since August 2017, roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority Rakhine state for refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh amid widespread violence that the United Nations has labelled “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

In October 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Rae, a former Toronto MP and Ontario premier, as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar to investigate the Rohingya’s plight.

Although initially barred from entering Rakhine state — the epicentre of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis — Rae travelled to the region in February where he was able “to see the extent of the destruction of the Rohingya villages.” He also visited refugee camps in Bangladesh. “Words cannot convey the extent of the humanitarian crisis people currently face in Bangladesh and Myanmar,” Rae wrote in Tuesday’s report.

“In addition to accounts of shooting and military violence, I also heard directly from women of sexual violence and abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military and of the death of children and the elderly on the way to the camps,” Rae told reporters he briefed members of Cabinet and Trudeau on his findings last week.

The Prime Minister welcomes the final report. “Today, I welcome the final report from the Special Envoy to Myanmar, Bob Rae. I appreciate Mr. Rae’s thorough work as Special Envoy and thank him for his invaluable insights, his professionalism, and his thoughtful recommendations,” Prime Minister said. “Canada is determined to help respond to this crisis. In the coming weeks, we will assess the recommendations in this report and outline further measures we intend to take.”

These are the main takeaways from Rae’s report:

Welcoming refugees

In his list of recommendations, Rae states that “Canada should signal a willingness to welcome refugees from the Rohingya community in both Bangladesh and Myanmar, and should encourage a discussion among like-minded countries to do the same.” Such resettlements, the report adds, should not be seen as a solution to the ongoing refugee crisis, nor should they diminish the Myanmar government’s duties to take responsibility for the violent exodus and aid hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in returning home.

Although Myanmar’s government has publicly expressed a willingness to resettle those who have fled the country, years of systematic violence at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces and Buddhist mobs means that such plans have been met with widespread scepticism by Rohingya refugees. Moreover, many Rohingya villages, Rae notes, have likely already been razed.

Economic sanctions

The report recommends that Canada and its allies implement “targeted economic sanctions” against individuals, organizations and companies that have broken international humanitarian laws “or other laws related to conflict, including breaches of the Rome Statute and the UN Convention on Genocide.”

“Canada should be actively working with like-minded countries to identify the individuals or parties that should be subject to such sanctions,” the report adds. “Canada should also continue its arms embargo and should seek a wider ban on the shipment of arms to Myanmar.”

Canada’s Myanmar arms embargo were first implemented in 2007. Speaking on CTV Power Play Tuesday evening, Rae also argued against broader economic sanctions. “Big-time economic sanctions only hurt the most vulnerable,” he said. “And … if you don’t have China, India, Thailand, neighbouring countries onside, you got nothing.”

Crimes against humanity

According to the report, there are “strong signals that crimes against humanity were committed in the forcible and violent displacement of more than 671,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State in Myanmar.” The alleged perpetrators, Rae’s report adds, include Myanmar’s military.

“Those who are responsible for breaches of international law, including crimes against humanity, should be brought to justice,” the report states. “This applies to all those involved, including state actors and non-state actors, armies, and individuals.” Evidence must be collected, Rae adds, though difficulties in prosecuting such crimes exist insofar as Myanmar is not a signatory to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court.

“But steps should be taken to encourage the International Criminal Court to consider an investigation on the issue of forcible deportation,” Rae writes. “The Government of Canada should be actively involved in funding these efforts and in continuing to apply targeted sanctions against those where credible evidence supports such measures.”

Increasing aid

Rae recommends that Canada “take a leadership role in responding to the current crisis by stepping up humanitarian and development efforts in Bangladesh and Myanmar.” In addition to humanitarian assistance and supporting infrastructure development, education should also be a priority, Rae states. In the report, he estimates the annual cost of such a commitment to be $150 million for the next four years.

The visiting Canadian Minister discusses with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh during her visit/Photo by the Sun

“A good chunk of it is going to go to the camp in Bangladesh,” Rae added while speaking on Power Play. Some of it, he said, should also help “people living in Myanmar in very tough and precarious situations.” “And some of it goes to us because we need to up our game in terms of our diplomatic representation,” he added. “I recommend that we should get a defence attaché there in Yangon able to engage with the government on the military side because it’s a two-headed government and right now we’re dealing only with the civilian side.”

To date, Canada has already earmarked more than $45 million in humanitarian aid to the troubled region. The need for humanitarian assistance is particularly urgent now, Rae’s report notes, as those who reside in Bangladesh’s sprawling and crowded refugee camps, are “at risk of death or serious illness as a result of flooding, landslides, and water-borne diseases expected to be brought by the upcoming monsoon season” that begins in May.

 

International advocacy

In his report, Rae states that Ottawa’s response to the crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh should be considered a “litmus test” for Canada’s foreign policy. He also suggests that the crisis is discussed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April as well as during the 2018 G7 summit that Canada will be hosting in May.

“Canada should urge like-minded countries to establish an International Working Group to ensure that, to the extent possible, policies, programs, and persuasion are exercised in a coordinated fashion,” he says in the report. “If we do things together, we can have more impact than if we do them alone,” Rae added on Power Play.

Rae said that Canada can lead by example — and that could start by earmarking more money for the Rohingya crisis. “That way you can go to… all the European countries, and go back to Indonesia, you can go to the wealthy Gulf States, who frankly haven’t done a lot in terms of money, and say, ‘This is what we’re doing and this is how we think you can help,’” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s military

Rae notes that Myanmar’s civilian leader, honorary Canadian citizen and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, wields no control over the country’s vast military, which only recently loosened its hold on Myanmar after nearly 50 years of dictatorship. Myanmar’s military has often been cited as a main aggressor in the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Ottawa during her visit to discuss democracy, human rights, and the protection of minorities in Myanmar. Photo from twitter

“(Former UN Secretary-Genera) Kofi Annan referred to there being ‘two governments’ in Myanmar—one military; one civilian,” Rae writes. “Canada needs to continue to engage with the Government of Myanmar, in both its civilian and military wings, and continue to do so in a way that expresses candidly its views about what has happened, and is still happening, and to insist that all activities of the Government of Myanmar, including military activities, must be carried out in conformity with international law.”

Speaking on Power Play, Rae declined to weigh in on the contentious issue of Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship, nor would he opine on whether or not the country’s civilian leader shares responsibility for the humanitarian crisis. “Until you have the evidence, you really don’t want to go around making political statements saying, ‘Well, we think she’s responsible,’ because we actually don’t have the evidence for that yet,” he said.

Read the full report here….

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CRDI Thanks Canada for Supporting Rohingya Human Rights

By Saifullah Muhammad

The Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI), thanks the Twenty-Ninth Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for imposing sanctions on Major-General Maung Maung Soe under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act in response to the genocidal violence committed by actors and entities associated with the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

CRDI team meets with Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, in Kitchener, Ontario on Jan 23, 2018,/ Photo by CRDI

“As Canadian Rohingya, we are proud of Canada’s stance,” said Farid Ullah, the program coordinator of CRDI.” “The Government’s decision to impose sanctions against Major-General Maung Maung Soe is a significant and positive step. We encourage the international community to follow Canada’s lead.”

He also pointed out that Major-General Maung Maung Soe is one of many figures in the apparatus of the security regime that controls Myanmar. He is not the only culprit behind the ongoing Rohingya genocide. There are two other persons of influence that Canada should, in good faith, consider for additional targeted sanctions.

“The first person of immediate importance is Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the current Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces (the Tatmadaw),” Ullah added. “With overall command responsibility, he is verifiably the main perpetrator. It has been established beyond doubt that the Tatmadaw and its affiliated paramilitary formations routinely carry out crimes against humanity under the orders and supervision of Min Aung Hlaing as a matter of Myanmar state policy. The regime’s atrocities include infants being burned alive, civilians being buried alive, mass rapes and instances of beheadings among countless other acts of state terror.”

“The second person of importance is Her Excellency Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar. The de facto head of government, her premiership is marred by an explicit withdrawal from her responsibilities vis-à-vis principles of fundamental justice and the rule of law. Her regime has consistently blocked aid to reach the persecuted Rohingya minority, she has actively encouraged local and international audiences to not refer to the Rohingya by name. She is accelerating the military regime’s policy of denying citizenship for Rohingya persons, upholding the discriminatory Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982 which stripped the Rohingya of their Myanmar nationality, Ullah further stated.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is an honorary Canadian citizen and a recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Yet her government makes no effort to stop the genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.

Canada’s response to the plight of Syrian and Kurdish Yazidi refugees was commendable. The situation faced by the Rohingya is similar if not worse.

 

“We are sincerely hoping to see Canada continue its efforts and rally the international community to do the right thing. It is unacceptable for nation-states to engage in genocidal practices with impunity in 2018, Ullah said.”

“We strongly urged the Government of Canada to continue increasing pressure and sanctions against the Myanmar regime. Canada will find allies in this endeavour through multilateral forums of cooperation such as the United Nations. It gives us, and our beleaguered loved ones fleeing violence, some hope in this dark chapter,” Ullah pointed out.

Saifullah Muhammad is a Rohingya and student of journalism at Conestoga College. He can be reached at saifulrohin@yahoo.com

Letter To FA Canada PDF by Saifullah Muhammad on Scribd

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The Black Panther: Your Reflections Matter

The Black Panther has made history at the box-office. Have you ever been so excited about a thing that in anticipation of that thing? If no, please go watch first and reflect on it how Ryan Cooglar and Joe Robert Cole introduced in a brilliant splash page that opens Black Panther. Secretary Everett K. Ross is a white CIA agent, who finds himself in over his head as liaison to Black Panther. Awkward, cowardly, and far too concerned with how others see him.

Black people have been given superheroes before.  Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Dr King, Malcolm X, Zora Neale Hurston, Muhammed Ali, Maya Angelou, Magic Johnson.  We’ve seen the strength of Black people in politics, sports, social movements, and perhaps most often in entertainment, but never like this before.

This is a story about  T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life. Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” is now playing in theatres.

I found balance. I loved T’Challa right away, but many people empathized with Ross’s struggle to navigate an entirely new world. Ross is capable but utterly unequipped for T’Challa and Wakanda.

Black Panther. (Posters: Marvel)

A white guy reflects on the Black Panther in his own way, “It is a movie about a superhero, but not just any superhero—a black superhero. And that’s what has me a bit perplexed. The movie was excellent, but it moved me emotionally in a way I wasn’t expecting. The plotline was inspiring, the acting was captivating, and the special effects were dope. But that’s not what got me.”

Different people express their own opinions but for me, the Black Panther was all it is worth. “I am learning more and more about the Black Panther Party every day, This job has really opened my eyes to the Civil Rights Movement; in school, I did not learn much about the Black Panthers,” said Raquel Booker. “I learned a little about Martin Luther King Jr., I heard about Malcolm X. This project has made me more interested in what was going on during that time and what people were going through: with fighting wars, boycotts, and sit-ins, so generations to come would not have to be put through the torment and pain they experienced.”

From the kick-butt African women guardians who led revolts and didn’t stand for an incompetent leader, to the hero that these black kids in the streets needed to look up to, to the representation of African characters, and the call in solidarity with brothers and sisters of this earth, Black Panther led the way for social reform.

It should be time for all of us to understand that there is nothing wrong with having diverse friends. Encourage each other to break social norms, show love to all your brothers and sisters, not just the ones that look like you. If you’re only looking through one lens, you are missing a lot of scenery.

Black Panther premiered in Los Angeles on January 29, 2018, and was released theatrically in the United States on February 16, 2018, in 2D, 3DIMAX and other premium large formats. It received critical acclaim, with praise directed toward its visuals, screenplay, characters, direction, costume design, action sequences, soundtrack, and performances. Critics considered it as one of the best films set in the MCU and noted its cultural significance. It has grossed over $462 million worldwide, and its four-day opening weekend gross of $242.1 million in the United States was the second-highest of all-time. Its three-day gross of $202 million was the fifth-highest of all-time and also set the record for the biggest debut by an African American director.

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Rohingya in Rathedaung need international attention

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Rathedaung is the administrative town of Rathedaung Township in the Arakan State, the westernmost part of Myanmar (Burma). It is 65 kilometres north of Sittwe, where 40 thousand Rohingyas lived in 24 villages till Aug. 25, 2017.

Since the beginning of the state-sponsored violence against the innocent,  and helpless Rohingya people in June 2012, at least 20 major casualties have been reported, while the unknown number of tragedy cases remains behind the silence.

Myanmar security force personnel stand guard while a mob (background) look on following unrest at an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp for Muslim Rohingyas on the outskirts of Sittwe town in Rakhine State on August 9, 2013. Photo by AFP

It is true that most of the Rohingya villages are located in adjacent and in between Rakhine villages and model villages ( NaTaLa). According to some recorded documentation, on June 13, 2012, at least 35 Rohingya innocent people including children, women and elderly persons were brutally killed by the extremist Rakhine hooligans in collaboration with the Government forces. Meanwhile, 120 households were burnt to ashes in Zeekun Dan village (Kudichaung) and Karu Kun Tan village (Sera-prang).

On 19th June 2012, Anauk Pyin village was attacked and about 50 houses were burnt down. The villagers wanted to avoid the clash but 2 innocent Rohingyas were slaughtered before the eyes of the other villagers. As a result, a tense situation broke out and unavoidably, Rohingyas had to confront extremist Rakhine in order to defend their safer lives.

Later on, the Rohingya approached the authority for help but they consistently refused to protect them. On 20th June 2012, Military came to the village and carried out arbitrary arrests including women and children and bitterly tortured them. Mosques were destroyed, Holy Qurans were burnt down and women were harassed in the open sky.Among the Rohingya villagers, 185 were arrested, while 14 educated people forced out of the village issuing arbitrary warrants. Rohingyas were sent to Sittwe central prison without trial and reportedly in the half-dead situation. They have repeatedly tortured again in the jail where 4 of them had to face untimely deaths. In the same way, the village headman was severally beaten and tortured while his stomach was blown on the spot.

On the other hand, the arrogant Rakhine and Burmese military authority looted all the belongings of Rohingya and did not even leave a match to put fire or a needle to sew torn cloths. Consequently, the Rohingya villagers met with severe hardship for their survival in all circumstances, even to cook food. Finally, the entire Rohingya villagers used an oven to cook foods in unavoidable circumstances. It is believed that other 24 Rohingya villages in Rathedaung would have been burnt down one after another had the villagers failed to properly defend the Rakhine extremists’ attacks.

Currently, innocent children, teenage girls, women, elderly persons and every individual Rohingyas are passing lives with fears and tears as the military personnel or other authority raid villages and simply arrest innocent people and loot their properties. Meanwhile, the aforesaid forces treat the Rohingya as animals with the open rape of teenage females in front of their beloved family members and harass the others. Thus the teenage girls need to pretend like old women putting lime on their hair as usual.

On Sept. 27, 2012, a village Pin Chaw (Fraingchong) was also attacked by Rakhine from different parts of Arakan State. All the villagers fled to a Rohingya village called Chilkhali to escape mass killings leaving behind all their properties. They dared not confront the government forces and the Rakhine terrorists seeing the situation of Anuk Pin village, Then the extremist Rakhines burnt down all the houses and uprooted everything including plants and animals were also not left.

It is unbelievable to everyone that the existence of Rohingya villages in the surrounding of Rathidaung was brutally demolished.

On 25th October 2012, the village Yung Pin Gyi (Muzair) was attacked by Rakhine with the help of Military in the second round of violence occurred in whole Arakan State. Hundreds of them were killed, tortured raped and jailed but the other remaining villagers did not leave the village. It is very pity to say that their village is situated inside most of the Rakhine villages.

“We want peace and harmony and have never tried to clash with Rakhines. We always respect the law and orders of the Government but why we have been attacked and made isolated, we do not know.” – A Rohingya elder
Currently, the Rohingya dare not come out from the village. Their livelihoods and survival have become extremely hard as they can’t go for fishing, firewood collection, farming and etc. The Rohingyas in the villages of Anauk-Pyin and Muzair have been besieged and economically crippled by the majority Rakhine extremists. As a result, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) has been extending minimum food rations to the starving people on monthly basis. Enroute to the Rohingya villages, the WFP often faces unexpected troubles and challenges in the hands of both arrogant Rakhines and the military forces. In one state, the arrogant Rakhines blocked the canal road as a whole by building unnecessary fence and bridge.

Based on the situation, the UN’s WFP is compelled to approach to the Rakhine community with a request to remove bridge blocking in order to have access. However, the Rakhines gave a cruel response to the agency that they would not do it because it cost them money. When WFP and some Rohingya elders in other regions said that they would compensate the Rakhines a triple amount, they have ignored the request.

Therefore, the WFP officials extended the same request to the Township Administrative Officials and the Border Guard Police Commander of the region to have access but they also simply ignored.

“Now, the vulnerable and besieged Rohingyas in the villages are going to face extreme poverty with constantan starvation as they have no livelihoods, no opportunity for self-employment and are rendered literally jobless,” said a village elder. “When the inquiry commission was sent, there was no one to talk to them in Anauk Pyin village as all the educated people have been either put on the wanted list or arbitrarily jailed. Leaving behind the fear of getting killed, someone from us talked to the inquiry commission and explained what was actually happened against us. Then the commission consoled us and came to know the reality observing the circumstances of the village.”

Similarly in Muzair, on 1st November 2012, the inquiry commission came together with a Military commander in chief Hla Myint and Ko Ko Naing. And on the following day (i.e. 2nd November 2012) commander in Chief Than Thet reached there by helicopter and interviewed some of the Rohingyas. They also explained the truth and the commission also reported the reality as it happened for the first time in the history.

Some Rohingya elders of Rathedaung from outside tried their best for the release of the innocent people jailed for 10 years and 15 years respectively without any guilty. After so many difficulties, 120 Rohingyas from Anauk Pyin village and 12 from Sera-prang were released and jail-terms were shortened for the remaining people with the cooperation of some lawyers.

The Common Rohingya residents of Rathedaung say “we want peace and harmony and have never tried to clash with Rakhines. We always respect the law and orders of the Government but why we have been attacked and made isolated, we do not know.”

In achieving “peace and harmonious atmosphere,” the Rohingya people of Rathedaung from exile are also trying to help those who are still languishing in the dire situation in the country as they are deprived of their basic needs, even to have grassroots development through all possible means of education. They are facing unexpected challenges in their daily lives as they don’t have little educated and wealthy people who could be able to assist them in the fields of socio-cultural activities, health and sanitation to motivate them by lobbying with the Government.

Saifullah Muhammad is a student of journalism in Canada and a Rohingya activist. He can be reached at saifulrohin@yahoo.com

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Is the world’s largest retailer underpaying its employees?

By Saifullah Muhammad,

WHEN Amazon announced in 2010 that it would build a distribution centre in Lexington County, South Carolina, the decision was hailed as a victory for the Palmetto State. Today the e-commerce giant employs thousands of workers at the centre. Just 3.5% of the local workforce is out of work. Alas, the influx of jobs has not boosted wages for the region’s forklift drivers and order-fillers. In the years since Amazon opened its doors in Lexington County, annual earnings for warehouse workers in the area have fallen from $47,000 to $32,000, a decline of over 30% (see chart 1).

An employee exits the warehouse floor of the Amazon.com warehouse in Hyderabad, India. The company is looking for a new second headquarters, and the only Canadian city on the shortlist is Toronto. (Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Lexington County is not alone. Since Amazon opened a warehouse in Chesterfield, Virginia, warehouse wages in the region have fallen by 17%. In Tracy, California, they have dropped by 16%. Flat or falling industry wages are common in the cities and towns where Amazon opens distribution centres, according to an analysis by The Economist. Government figures show that after Amazon opens a storage depot, local wages for warehouse workers fall by an average of 3%. In places where Amazon operates, such workers earn about 10% less than similar workers employed elsewhere.

About 44 cents out of every dollar spent online in America flows to Amazon, according to eMarketer, a research firm. The firm’s success can be attributed in part to speed and convenience. To get orders to customers as quickly as possible, the company relies on a vast network of warehouses the size of aircraft carriers where the company stores its products and processes orders. Amazon operates more than 75 “fulfilment centres” and 35 sorting centres in America, manned by 125,000 full-time workers.

To keep costs in check, Amazon must not only maintain dozens of warehouses but run them efficiently. Whereas traditional shop workers might remain idle for hours at a time, Amazon’s workers—the “stowers” that stock inventory, the “pickers” that pluck items from shelves and the “packers” that box them up for shipment—are constantly moving. Pickers are equipped with hand-held devices that show them what each item looks like, where it may be found, and how to get there as quickly as possible. As they navigate row after row of shelves, timers count down the seconds needed to retrieve each item. To meet performance targets, pickers must collect as many as 1,000 items and walk up to 15 miles in a single shift.

According to available data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) for 35 counties, warehouse workers in counties where Amazon operates a fulfilment centre earn about $41,000 per year, compared with $45,000 per year in the rest of the country, a difference of nearly 10% (see chart 2). The BLS data also show that in the ten quarters before the opening of a new Amazon centre, local warehouse wages increase by an average of 8%. In the ten quarters after its arrival, they fall by 3%.

Why would Amazon pay its employees less than other firms in the industry? Michael Mandel, an economist at the Progressive Policy Institute, a think-tank, says it may be because the company’s warehouses are in areas that have been “left behind”. But on most economic measures—including wages, unemployment and poverty—counties with Amazon warehouses are no different from the rest of the country. In fact, they are generally better-off. Perhaps, suggests David Autor, a labour economist at MIT, Amazon’s workers are young and inexperienced. There is some evidence for this. Amazon’s employees tend to be younger—data from the Census Bureau suggest that nearly half of its warehouse employees are under 35. Job tenure at the company is typically just one year, according to PayScale, a research firm.

Another possible explanation for Amazon’s pay is its reliance on unskilled workers with minimal qualifications. David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine, who has written about the impact of Walmart’s growth on retail wages, says Amazon’s highly automated warehouses may not require as many workers who can say, operate a pallet jack. Staff benefits may also play a role. Amazon offers its full-time employees health care, retirement savings plans and company shares. Such generous perks may explain why the company pays below-market wages.

New research offers yet another possibility. An NBER working paper by José Azar of the IESE business school, Ioana Marinescu of the University of Pennsylvania and Marshall Steinbaum of the Roosevelt Institute finds that a relatively small number of employers account for a large share of job opportunities in many American communities. In places where such labour-market concentration is highest, wages tend to be lower. These findings suggest that if Amazon is the only major employer in the cities and towns where it operates, the company can offer wages that are well below those of its competitors.

Now, Our region intends to throw its hat into the ring for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters. the e-commerce giant has opened bidding to cities across North America to be the home of its so-called “HQ2,” which will hire as many as 50,000 new employees and bring billions of dollars in investments.

According to Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation is working with the province on a sales pitch, but right now it’s early days in terms of determining how the bid will look.

“Amazon will get many proposals from many states and many provinces, and that’s why it’s really important for us to take a provincial approach,” Jaworsky says, “to look at what our strengths are here, and make sure we address those needs.”

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says it’s a coordinated bid between the entire Region.

“We made the decision well over a year ago to approach any of these kinds of economic development initiatives collaboratively through the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation,” “So I think that the fact that the bid is out there now is a great opportunity for this Region.”

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth tells our newsroom their officials are fully engaged in the process, adding that Toronto and Ottawa have also been in touch with Queen’s Park. But from the province’s perspective, they just want Amazon to put its massive complex somewhere in Ontario.

Art Sinclair with the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce thinks we have what it takes to make a competitive offer.

“We’ve established ourselves as being a global centre for technology,” Sinclair says. “I think Amazon would see a lot of positives here that would want them to seriously consider establishing a major presence in the Region.”

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A new World with digital interface

You need to know five interesting things happening right now in the world. Do you know the world’s biggest bank, with no actual currencies? Have you ever noticed the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content? Have you ever heard of the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles? Did you ever see the world’s most valuable retailer, has no inventory? And do you believe the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is the first decentralized digital currency, as the system works without a central bank or single administrator. The network is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes through the use of cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person or group of people under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009.

Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. As of February 2015, over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepted bitcoin as payment. Research produced by the University of Cambridge estimates that in 2017, there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin.

Because of bitcoin’s decentralized nature, nation-states cannot shut down the network or alter its technical rules. However, the use of bitcoin can be criminalized and be shutting down exchanges and the peer-to-peer economy in a given country would constitute a “de facto ban”. The legal status of bitcoin varies substantially from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them. While some countries have explicitly allowed its use and trade, others have banned or restricted it. Regulations and bans that apply to bitcoin probably extend to similar cryptocurrency systems.

Bitcoin. Photo by financialtribune

The word bitcoin first occurred and was defined in the white paper that was published on 31 October 2008. It is a compound of the words bit and coin. The white paper frequently uses the shorter coinThere is no uniform convention for bitcoin capitalization. Some sources use Bitcoin, capitalized, to refer to the technology and network and bitcoin, lowercase, to refer to the unit of account. The Wall Street JournalThe Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Oxford English Dictionary advocate use of lowercase bitcoin in all cases, a convention followed throughout this article.

The use of bitcoin by criminals has attracted the attention of financial regulators, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and the media. The FBI prepared an intelligence assessment, the SEC has issued a pointed warning about investment schemes using virtual currencies, and the US Senate held a hearing on virtual currencies in November 2013.

Several news outlets have asserted that the popularity of bitcoins hinges on the ability to use them to purchase illegal goods. In 2014, researchers at the University of Kentucky found “robust evidence that computer programming enthusiasts and illegal activity drive interest in bitcoin, and find limited or no support for political and investment motives.

Facebook

The world’s most popular media company, Facebook, creates no content. So Facebook goes into news, Twitter into television and so on. And because they can be so profitable we will see more and more challenger interfaces, each trying to find some way to get their icon on to your mobile phone or iPad.

Facebook has more than 2 billion monthly active users as of June 2017. Its popularity has led to prominent media coverage for the company, including significant scrutiny over privacy and the psychological effects it has on users. In recent years, the company has faced intense pressure over the amount of fake newshate speech and violence prevalent on its services, all of which it is attempting to counteract.

In February 2015, Facebook announced that it had reached two million active advertisers with most of the gain coming from small businesses. An active advertiser is an advertiser that has advertised on the Facebook platform in the last 28 days. In March 2016, Facebook announced that it reached three million active advertisers with more than 70% from outside the US. 

Uber

The world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars. It is a global taxi technology company headquartered in San FranciscoCalifornia, United States, operating in 633 cities worldwide. It develops, markets and operates the Uber car transportation and food delivery mobile apps. Uber drivers use their own cars although drivers can rent a car to drive with Uber.

Uber offers various service levels. Not all service levels are available in every city. UberPOOL is the least expensive level of service, in which the customer may share the ride with another passenger going in the same general direction. UberX (marketed as UberPOP in some European cities) is a level of service in which the rider will get a private ride. Other levels of service provide for a black luxury car, larger car, car with a car seat, SUV, wheelchair accessible transport, and pet transport.

Alibaba

The world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock. Alibaba is a Chinese multinational e-commerceretailInternetAI and technology conglomerate founded in 1999 that provides consumer-to-consumerbusiness-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals, as well as electronic payment services, shopping search engines and data-centric cloud computing services. It owns and operates a diverse array of businesses around the world in numerous sectors, and is named as one of the world’s most admired companies by Fortune.

In December 1999, Jack Ma and 17 other founders released their first online marketplace, named “Alibaba Online”. From 1999 to 2000, Alibaba Group raised a total of US$25 Million from SoftBank, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and some other institutions. In December 2001, Alibaba.com achieved profitability. In May 2003, Taobao was founded as a consumer e-commerce platform. In December 2004, Alipay, which started as a service on the Taobao platform, became a separate business. In October 2005, Alibaba Group took over the operation of China Yahoo! as part of its strategic partnership with Yahoo! Inc.

Airbnb

Finally, the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no property. Something big is going on. Airbnb is an American company which hosts an online marketplace and hospitality service, for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentalsapartment rentals, homestayshostel beds, or hotel rooms. The company does not own any lodging; it is a broker which receives percentage service fees from both guests and hosts in conjunction with every booking. In January 2018 the company had over 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries.

Shortly after moving to San Francisco in October 2007, roommates and former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft apartment. Chesky and Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast. The goal at first was just “to make a few bucks”.[53][54] In February 2008, Nathan Blecharczyk, Chesky’s former roommate, joined as the Chief Technology Officer and the third co-founder of the new venture, called AirBed & Breakfast. This is also where the name “Airbnb” originates from. They put together a website which offered short-term living quarters, breakfast, and a unique business networking opportunity for those who were unable to book a hotel in the saturated market.[56] The site Airbedandbreakfast.com officially launched on August 11, 2008. The founders had their first customers in town in the summer of 2008, during the Industrial Design Conference held by Industrial Designers Society of America, where travelers had a hard time finding lodging in the city.

To help fund the site, the founders created special edition breakfast cereals, with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain as the inspiration for “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCains”. In two months, 800 boxes of cereal were sold at $40 each, which generated more than $30,000 for the company’s incubation. It also got the company noticed by computer programmer Paul Graham, who invited the founders to the January 2009 winter training session of his startup incubator, Y Combinator, which provided them with training and $20,000 in funding in exchange for a small interest in the company. With the website already built, they used the $20,000 Y-Combinator investment to fly to New York City to meet users and promote the site. They returned to San Francisco with a profitable business model to present to West Coast investors. By March 2009, the site had 10,000 users and 2,500 listings.

In March 2017, Airbnb raised US$1 billion in additional funding, bringing their total funding raised to date to more than US$3 billion and valuing the company at US$31 billion.

The World economy are within the reach of a global mind, that understand strategic virtual operations. Mastering the revolution can only be built by innovative digital operators.

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Rohingyas: The victims of ‘hidden genocide’

Naureen Rahim

With an aim to collect the narratives of atrocity that the Rohingya people started facing after the 25th of August, 2017 in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, a team of young researchers from the Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice (CSGJ) of Liberation War Museum visited Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar on 13-14 October 2017. After visiting a total of eight camp sites, the team collected testimonies of discriminations and atrocities from the Rohingya survivors, victims and eyewitnesses who recently fled violence to Bangladesh.

Based on the field visits to refugee camps, the CSGJ in November published ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis of the Rohingyas in Myanmar’ as a sequel to Oxfam’s 1971 publication titled ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis in Bengal’. In the context of humanitarian crisis and genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Oxfam published ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis in Bengal’ in order to draw the attention of the global community and gather public opinion in favour of Bangladesh’s cause of independence.

The atrocities against Rohingyas is nothing new. Historically, they have been targeted, persecuted and forced to flee genocidal violence. But the authoritarian regime including the present one of Suu Kyi time and again denies the fact of Rohingya genocide. In the words of survivors, witnesses, aid-workers and journalists, the present Testimony of Sixty intends to give a message to the world community that the ‘hidden genocide’ in Rakhine should widely be investigated into and immediately be stopped, and the world community specially the United Nations and neighbouring countries have significant and crucial roles to work together towards ending the ongoing genocide in Rakhine. All the testimonies, both in the form of statement and photography, give the glimpses about the extent of the Rohingya genocide and great human suffering of present time. It is a unique contribution from a research institution to give voices to the voiceless Rohingya population.

One of the objectives of CSGJ’s research has been to find out the elements of international crimes if committed and genocidal element if any from the testimonies of Rohingya survivors and victims. It also focuses on legal analysis of those testimonies as per international legal framework on the crime of genocide.

Major findings of this research suggest that Rohingyas are historically and systematically deprived of fundamental human rights under the legal framework of Myanmar. Discrimination and deprivation includes, among others, the denial of citizenship/national identity, limited access to education and public heath service, controlled access to market, limited right to land/property, controlled freedom of religion and association, restriction upon marriage and family, less support from police during and post violence. The differential treatment of Rohingyas as against Burmese populations is well reflected in one testimony of Hamid Hossain who is from Chakaiya, Mundumoron, Myanmar: “Most of the Chairmen (local representatives) were Maghs, hardly any Chairman was from Muslim community. They would meet the government officials every month and receive leaflets stating ‘new’ rules for the Rohingya Muslims to follow. It was their duty to make sure all Rohingyas were following the rules. The leaflets were also distributed in the locality sometimes. The leaflets were in Burmese language and stated rules about banning them from talking in groups of more than two, restricted movement after 8 PM and banned religious practices like ‘namaz’ and ‘tabliq’.”

The research also finds that Myanmar’s Military Force, in collaboration with local ultra-nationalists and extremists (specially the Maghs), has been committing international crime of genocide such as: (a) mass killing in the way of gunning, slaughtering and burning alive; (b) arbitrary arrest and detention in concentration camps; (c) torture and rape and other forms of sexual violence; (d) killing and burning children; (f) forced displacement of Rohingya population; (g) enforced disappearances of right-conscious Rohingyas; and (h) arson, plundering and destruction of villages as well as religiously significant places.

The following testimony of Rafiq from Charukomba, Rakhine, shows as to how the present atrocities is rendering the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future almost impossible: “We have been forcibly displaced and we are being asked if we burnt our own house down. They threatened to kill us if we didn’t put our own house on fire. They even took picture of it. After we did so, we are asked to run, and then they fired bullets at us. Fearing for our lives we fled from our homeland and crossed the Teknaf Border.”

The important elements of genocide under the UN Genocide Convention are present here. The ongoing atrocities are taking place as a systematic attack on Rohingya people, not because they have been targeted as an individual, but because they are members of a particular group. The group identity is dual here, namely ethnic identity as Rohingya and religious identity as Muslim, and it is sufficient to establish that the Rohingyas are targeted and persecuted because of their group identity. Further, the intent of the perpetrators is to wholly and permanently erase the name ‘Rohingya’ from the social, cultural and political landscape of Burma’s history. All these prove that the atrocities in Rakhine are as brutal as a clear case of genocide under the legal framework of international criminal law.

The writer is a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice, Liberation War Museum.

 

The Daily Star