OIC To Assume ‘Stronger Role’ In Rohingya Crisis

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed regret for not “responding immediately” to the Rohingya Crisis, along with vowing to take a “strong” role in dealing with the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. The OIC has also said it will create a committee on accountability for crimes against Rohingya.

The Rohingya Crisis is currently said to be the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. About 700,000 have fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 in the wake of a violent crackdown in the Rakhine state. This crackdown came in response to deadly attacks on military posts by members of the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA).

The United Nations has described the military offensive in Rakhine as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Myanmar’s military claims it is fighting Rohingya militants while denying targeting civilians. However, Myanmar security forces have been accused of rape, murder, torture, and setting Rohingya homes on fire.

On Sunday, Yousef bin Ahmad al-Othaimeen, OIC secretary general, urged the organization’s member states to defend the Rohingya. “We affirm the commitment of the OIC to continue to act at all international and regional levels in support of the cause of the Rohingya people,” said al-Othaimeen, speaking at the 45th Session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

“We will [now] play a strong role along with Bangladesh, the United Nations and the international community,” Hesham Youssef, assistant secretary-general for OIC’s humanitarian affairs division, said on Saturday. He added that the OIC, which bills itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world,” regretted not “responding immediately” to the situation.

Along with its newly adopted “stronger role,” the OIC has now said it will create a new committee on accountability for crimes against the Rohingya. The committee will gather evidence of crimes against the Rohingya in order to ensure those guilty of human rights violations are convicted. The OIC praised Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts in addressing the plight of the Rohingya, as he urged members to pressure Myanmar into ensuring a safe return for all Rohingya forced to flee their homes. “The Rohingyas deserve the right to life, dignity and existence like us all,” Hasina said.

The Rohingya issue will be presented at the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers with a greater focus, said Youssef. The theme of this year’s council is “Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity, and Development.”

Hallie Kielb