The Rohingya Tragedy: Sheikh Hasina’s Nobel-Worthy Humanitarian Leadership.

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Rohingya refugees and humanitarians have faced unprecedented challenges in 2023, including fires, cyclones, and ongoing threats of monsoon-related disasters, putting their resilience to the test. Photo: IOM
Rohingya refugees and humanitarians have faced unprecedented challenges in 2023, including fires, cyclones, and ongoing threats of monsoon-related disasters, putting their resilience to the test. Photo: IOM

Sheikh Hasina, the longest-serving Muslim female Prime minister, has demonstrated extraordinary compassion and courage by rescuing over 1.20 million Rohingyas from the perils of ethnic cleansing and the imminent threat of extinction. Despite myriad challenges, Sheikh Hasina has altruistically provided refuge to the persecuted community seeking safety from the Myanmar military Junta. They are being provided with food, fuel, medical facilities and various other essential amenities by the local Bangladeshi administration and the 2000-plus NGOs working on the ground. It’s a very gargantuan task for Bangladesh, a country of limited resources, to take care of this refugee population. Since 2017, the Rohingyas have found refugee in Bangladesh, with little financial aid from Western nations or wealthier Muslim countries, especially the Arabs.

The provision of shelter to over a million refugees posed significant challenges to biodiversity, environmental hazards and resources. Despite these hurdles, Sheikh Hasina exhibited remarkable resilience and determination, delivering and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya in their time of need.

The historical backdrop reveals that the first incident of displacement of the Rohingya transpired in 1785. Burmese King Bodapawpay’s conquest of Arakan compelled the mass migration of the Mogh and the Rohingya to Chittagong. The Muslim population of Arakan was tortured indiscriminately, and they had no choice but to flee. Subsequent to the three Anglo-Burmese wars stretching from 1824 to 1885, the British occupation of Burma allowed the Rohingyas to return to their homeland after a decade in exile.

With the emergence of ultranationalist movements throughout Burma, British India separated from Burma in 1935, at a time when the Rohingyas fought to break away from the shackles of imperialism. But, this was the time when the communal flames of the Buddhist-Muslim dichotomy started spreading throughout Arakan, now renamed Rakhine by the Mogh Buddhist. The Rohingya faced atrocities during the Japanese occupation in 1942. However, the British reoccupied Burma in 1945 and the Rohingya were again allowed to settle back in Rakhine.

In 1948, the Burma became independent and parliamentary democracy was implemented. Rohingyas were recognized as citizens of independent Burma. They were allowed to vote and enjoyed basic rights. But while General Ne Win came to power through a military coup, the systematic Rohingya genocide began in earnest from 1962. They were denied to vote and lost their status as citizens, that was when the exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh started. An estimated 207,172 refugees sought shelter in Bangladesh in 1978. Another large wave of refugees came to Bangladesh in 1992.

The Citizenship Act of Myanmar, enacted in 1982, formally stripped the Rohingya’s citizenship rights. They have been denied the right to religion freely, restricted in marriage and movement freely, even limited to having no more than two children. The persistently persecuted Rohingya in Myanmar faced violence and discrimination, culminating in a mass exodus in 2017.

Sheikh Hasina’s response to the Rohingya crisis epitomizes exemplary leadership and an unwavering commitment to humanitarian values. Bangladesh promptly mobilized her resources, ensuring shelters, healthcare, daily essentials to the Rohingya refugees. Sheikh Hasina also tirelessly advocated for international support and justice for oppressed communities. Her diplomatic efforts, engaging global leaders and seeking justice in the International Criminal Court for crimes against genocide, exhibited resilience and determination for peace anywhere in the world.

The Rohingya crisis has now evolved into a global humanitarian concern. Sheikh Hasina’s exceptional response has garnered international attention. The voices are now growing louder for her global recognition. Under her leadership, the longstanding insurgency issue in Chittagong Hill tracks in Bangladesh came to an end. Furthermore, her massive contributions to successfully resolving maritime and land border disputes with neighboring nations propelled the calls. Prominent scholars and educationalists of the world have strongly proposed Sheikh Hasina’s name for her Nobel Peace Prize. According to Dr. Liz Carmichael and Dr. Andrew Gosler of Ox Peace termed Sheikh Hasina as the “Greatest Leader of the Humanitarian World”. Academics from Peace and Research Institute under Australian National University have also emphasized on paying due honor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Sheikh Hasina is viewed as South Asia’s ‘Daughter of Peace’ for her profound dynamism to constitute peace and stability in this region. Under her leadership, all separatist, and extremist groups have eradicated from the soil of Bangladesh. She vehemently declares that her government will not allow any terrorist organizations in Bangladesh. She takes a zero tolerance policy against any religious bigotry. Now the world has acknowledged her as the ‘Mother of Humanity’.

Sheikh Hasina’s extraordinary efforts and steadfast commitment to protecting persecuted Rohingyas should be recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize legacy in honoring individuals who are working for global harmony, justice and humanitarian values. In this turbulent global scenario, exceptional humanitarianism like Sheikh Hasina should be highlighted for global solidarity and empathy in addressing the world’s pressing humanitarian crises.

M A Hossain is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh. He can be reached at :
writetomahossain@gmail.com

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