Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
CWI Rohingya Solidarity
On Monday February 11th 2019 Galway City Council voted to rescind the Freedom of the City awarded in 2005 to Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto leader of the Myanmar government. She was then under house arrest from which she was released only in 2010, and was being hailed globally as a hero and future democratic leader of her country (previously known as Burma) Since then after long negotiations with the military she has assumed the position of State Councillor and in effect head of state.
The Rohingya are a mainly Muslim minority’s ethnic group living mostly in the northern region of Rakhine State Myanmar. They have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities and were denied citizenship by the govt of Myanmar in 1982. Since then they have regularly been the target of persecution by the govt and nationalist Buddhists.
Over 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh-joining the approx 300,000 already in Cox’s Bazaar- from the ethnic and religious persecution of Myanmar’s security forces in their “clearance operations” against insurgents. The well documented persecution included related acts of
humiliation, violence, torture, mass rapes, killings and incitement of hatred including through the use of Facebook and other social-media
Aung San Sun Kyi’s silence regarding these atrocities, her ongoing refusal to grant citizenship to the Rohingya or even to call them by that name
(which they are forbidden to use in Myanmar) have been reinforced by her recent agreement to a further crackdown by the military or Tatmadaw as they are known. Her actions have been condemned by world human rights leaders including Archbishop Tutu who said that if the price of political power is her silence then that price is too steep. The then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also likened the ethnic cleansing in Rakhine to genocide (May 2017) and the report of the Independent UN Human Rights Council Investigation called for charges of genocide to be investigated against named generals (August 2018)
CWI supported our member group Rohingya Action Ireland, the Carlow based group of Rohingya refugees and their supporters, in their efforts to get expression of Galway City solidarity with their plight. CWI wrote to all Galway City councillors ahead of the Feb 11th vote and were in direct communication with Mayor Neil Mc Neilis regarding the vote. The action taken in 2005 was acknowledged. The removal of the Freedom of the City was now explained as being required to express again solidarity with all concerned with promoting peace with justice and minority recognition in Myanmar. Last year, as outlined previously, CWI supported the involvement of the Rohingya in the World Community Development Conference at Maynooth University in June 2018 in particular through facilitating the showing of their powerful
photographic exhibition visited at the conference by Mary Robinson, Minister Seán Kyne and many others.
These actions are a clear and ongoing expression of the global solidarity which has always been a feature of CWI’s work and was particularly visible in our solidarity global struggles through the decades. Such direct solidarity is an increasingly important feature of current community work and fundamentally required to make thinking globally and acting locally other than a good slogan.
Solidarity may not solve the problems but the global publicity for the Galway vote sent yet again a message to Aung San Sun Kyi about her responsibility to create conditions for a just way forward. Another clear message of global concern was sent to the Rohingya in both Rakhine and the refugee camps, they are not forgotten.
Well done to Galway City Council - a fitting reflection of the recently adopted Galway Council Statement on Equality and Human Rights