A new Associated Press report on the Rohingya refugee crisis illuminates, in excruciating detail, the methodical and nightmarish sexual violence being perpetrated against Rohingya women in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.
Labeled “ethnic cleansing” even by the notoriously human rights-wary Trump administration, the crisis in Myanmar has quickly ballooned into the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis as the state military has targeted Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority who are denied citizenship in the majority-Buddhist country. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, lacks the authority to fully address the situation—though a Human Rights Watch spokesman asserted that she has allowed herself to be misled about what’s really going on—since the country’s military operates in an entirely separate sphere. Over 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August, sharing stories of mass murder, villages burned to the ground, and rape.
In a brilliant and heartbreaking report by Kristen Gelineau, the AP interviewed 29 women and girls ages 13 to 35, who recounted their brutal rapes and the murder of family members with “a sickening sameness” that bolsters evidence that Myanmar’s security forces are employing rape as a widespread tactic. From the AP:
The women spoke of seeing their children slaughtered in front of them, their husbands beaten and shot. They spoke of burying their loved ones in the darkness and leaving the bodies of their babies behind. They spoke of the searing pain of rapes that felt as if they would never end, and of dayslong journeys on foot to Bangladesh while still bleeding and hobbled.
They spoke and they spoke, the words erupting from many of them in frantic, tortured bursts.
The excerpt below only includes part of a testimony from the AP report, but it is still extremely violent:
Her husband and three oldest children bolted out the door, fleeing for the nearby hills.
But K was nearly 9 months pregnant, with swollen feet and two terrified toddlers whose tiny legs could never outpace the soldiers’ strides. She had no place to hide, no time to think.
The door banged open. And the men charged in.
There were four of them, she thinks, maybe five, all in camouflage uniforms. Her young son and daughter began to wail and then, mercifully, scampered out the front door.
There was no mercy for her. The men grabbed her and threw her on the bed. They yanked off her earrings, nose ring and necklace. They found the money she had hidden in her blouse from the recent sale of her family’s cow. They ripped off her clothes, and tied down her hands and legs with rope. When she resisted, they choked her.
And then, she says, they began to rape her.
She was too terrified to move. One man held a knife to her eyeball, one more a gun to her chest. Another forced himself inside her.
The testimonies Gelineau collected are incredibly disturbing. They are, however, vital to understanding the severity of this crisis. If you would like to read the full report, click here.