မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဤနေရာတွင် ဖတ်ရှုနိုင်ပါသည်။
This post is written to mark Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day on 25th of August, to honour the resilience of the Rohingya community, and to remember the ongoing Rohingya Genocide.
TW: Violence; Genocide
Six years have passed since the mass exodus of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, fleeing brutal military crackdowns and genocide. Since 25th August 2017, approximately 600,000 Rohingya people residing in Rakhine State have fled their homes. They continue to be subjected to horrendous acts of genocide perpetrated by officials of Myanmar’s ruling military junta. It is urgent to heed the perspectives and narratives of those who have endured and survived this event.
Amidst the exacerbation of dire living circumstances in the camps caused by incidents such as fires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rohingya community have begun expressing their perspectives on comprehensive solutions. The international community has made significant contributions in the pursuit of international justice through different instruments such as the International Court of Justice. However, in collaboration with the communities facing direct crises, there is a need to deepen efforts towards formulating and implementing solutions advocated by individuals who have experienced traumas first-hand.
Document and Sustain Community Truths
One step towards justice and healing can include community-led efforts to preserve the truth of what happened, and to make those accounts available in appropriate ways for accountability in the near-term, and for Rohingya collective memory and historical record in the longer-term.
Archiving helps to ensure valuable information is not lost and is well preserved. It also enables this information to be accessible in the future. The Rohingya Genocide Archive (RGA) focuses on memorialising as well as collecting evidentiary documentation of the terrible atrocities perpetrated on the Rohingya people for justice and accountability. It was established in 2018 through a partnership between Rohingya Vision and WITNESS, and launched publicly in August 2022.
RGA is a Rohingya-led initiative that systematically collects and preserves audio-visual documentation of genocidal crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya via a transparent, replicable, and collaborative methodology that harnesses Rohingya expertise and community networks. Currently, RGA has hand-selected, collected, catalogued, and preserved over 600 evidentiary videos from vetted sources on various social media platforms and private channels.
Initially, first-hand videos and photos of genocide started surfacing on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The atrocities depicted ranged from brutal murders to explicit acts of sexual violence committed by the junta against the Rohingya. Videos of burning villages and mass looting were also documented. But due to online content moderation restrictions by Facebook and YouTube, the largest offenders, and weak legal frameworks that govern online expression, some of these evidentiary videos were removed on account of violating content guidelines regarding the depiction of explicit violence and/or sexual violence.
The overarching aim of RGA is to use the collected documentation to demand for investigations and accountability. It also functions to preserve the community’s lived experiences, and to counter the Myanmar regime’s narrative that seeks to conceal the ongoing human rights crimes in Rakhine state. More importantly, it serves to make sure that the trauma caused by the genocide committed by the junta is unforgotten.
Video for Justice and Accountability
Videos posted online are significant, as they can be used to understand patterns, methods, and manifestations of violence, along with the locations where such violations occurred, apart from identifying the perpetrators.
The removal of many of these videos not only reduced international exposure to the Rohingya genocide but also resulted in increasing the prevalence of misinformation and disinformation, and amplified hate against this predominantly Muslim minority.
Despite challenges, RGA hopes to serve as a virtual space to unite displaced Rohingyas communities, to acknowledge their shared painful memories, to seek justice as well as to access and immortalise their hidden histories. The archive is envisioned as a collective, concerted effort to become a solidarity beacon, to unite all displaced Rohingya communities in their shared hope for justice as a sovereign people.
Democratised Collective Knowledges
Across the world, displaced Rohingya communities are facing different challenges in their respective host countries. In Bangladesh, where the largest diaspora of expelled Rohingya people find refuge, the community finds it difficult to improve their living conditions and social wellbeing. They are also continuously subjected to police violence. Rohingya refugees continue to face socioeconomic discrimination, are still viewed as “undocumented immigrants”, and struggle to adapt in many other countries.
To achieve the collective vision effectively, it is imperative that RGA is Rohingya-owned and led. Their direct and inclusive participation also ensures a more accurate and meaningful collecting of audio-visual documentation of the genocide, as they understand the context and nuances in the videos based on their own personal, lived experiences. It is their shared reality that provides credibility to this archive.
“It is extremely hard for Rohingyas to share their painful experiences in Rakhine State, especially those who had to endure sexual violence and extreme brutality. These videos serve as evidentiary documentation, for them to highlight their plight to the world while seeking justice.”
– M D Noor, founder of Rohingya Vision, at the public launch of the Rohingya Genocide Archive
WITNESS acknowledges that justice is a precondition, and its value unequivocal. Accountability will purge and deter those who commit mass atrocities, and delegitimise the institutions that support those heinous crimes. In the long run, the videos in RGA act as a historical reminder for generations of Rohingyas to continue to seek justice and pathways of reparation for themselves as well as for those who came before them.
Wider access to the memories and experiences of the Rohingya people could advance the implementation of human rights norms, including the prevention and eradication of genocide from our world.
- For more information about WITNESS’ Archives Program, visit here.
- To access the Rohingya Genocide Archive, click here.
- For updates on WITNESS Asia-Pacific’s collaborations with Rohingya communities, follow us via our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels.
Huey Shin Choo is the Programme Assistant at WITNESS Asia-Pacific. Prior to joining WITNESS, she worked at Freedom Film Network, a non-profit organisation that supports and promotes human rights filmmaking in Malaysia.
Published on 4th September 2023.