They cannot stop us: Fighting the Rohingya genocide and the state of our world

September 3, 2017

The ongoing genocide in Burma (Myanmar) against the Rohingya people is horrifying.[1] And this isn’t just about the Rohingya people or the thuggish violence against and ethnic cleansing of these human beings.

This is the same state violence and murder seen in the US in the flooded and drowning city of Houston,[2] the same as the US government’s centuries-long genocide of people of color. It is the same state violence and murder seen in the US drone strikes[3] [4] and the US-backed starvation of Yemeni people,[5] in the US occupations in Afghanistan[6] [7] [8] and Iraq,[9] [10] [11] and in the US-created drug wars in Central America.[12]

It is the same state violence and murder seen in the at least 80 people killed in the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June, where poor and working class residents were hidden behind flammable cladding that later became their executioner.[13] [14]

It is the same state violence and murder seen in the Philippines’ genocide of so-called drug addicts and drug dealers,[15] in Chechnya’s genocide of LGBTQ+ people.[16] [17] [18]

It is the same state violence and murder seen in counterrevolutionary Syria, in what Syrian dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh has called a political genocide.[19]

It is the same state violence and murder seen in Iran and Pakistan against Afghan refugees.[20] [21] [22]

And it is the same state violence and murder seen in the Mediterranean and on European soil, where European states and the European Union drown refugees at sea and herd the survivors into refugee camps, detention centers, and concentration camps on islands in Greece,[23] blocked from their international right to claim asylum,[24] left in squalor and deadly conditions in camps on the mainland,[25] deported because they are Moroccan[26] [27] [28] or Nigerian[29] [30] or not considered a “vulnerable” Syrian[31] or, of course, because Afghanistan is a “safe” country.[32] [33] [34]

The Guardian recently reported that at least 8,500 people have disappeared in crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in the two years since the now-famous photograph of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, face-down and lifeless on a Turkish beach, appeared on front pages worldwide.[35] The Evros fence at the border of Greece and Turkey,[36] European states’ complicity in the murderous crossing from Libya to Italy,[37] [38] [39] [40] NATO[41] [42] [43] [44] and Frontex[45] [46] [47] and the Greek[48] [49] and Italian[50] [51] and Turkish coastguards[52] [53] [54] [55]–they have all worked together with traffickers and smugglers and neo-Nazi gangs[56] [57] [58] to drown 8,500 desperate human beings in the last two years alone, in waters that would take only a few hours to cross in a ferry or airplane, to get to land that could be reached on foot were it not for the border fence.

Like all racism, whether the genocide of indigenous peoples in the Americas[59] and Australia,[60] the state-imposed displacement and Japanese Americans who were carted off to internment camps in the desert while the state and investors captured their homes,[61] [62] the disaster capitalism built on top of the deaths and displacement of mostly Black Americans in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina,[63] the genocide of the Rohingya has a material basis.

The parallels to the slaughter[64] [65] [66] and forced displacement,[67] to the rape,[68] immolation,[69] [70] and torture[71] [72] [73] [74] of Syrians who dared to demand freedom–only to be called terrorists[75]–are evident. The parallels to the dozens killed in the US and Mexico,[76] [77] to the 1,200 killed in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal,[78] [79] in recent hurricanes and flooding–the direct result of capitalism and climate change–are obvious.[80]

And the parallels to the racist European Union’s treatment of refugees, devoid of humanity, leaving people stateless and living in squalid camps, labeling fellow human beings illegal and infiltrators to justify this dehumanization and oppression, are laid bare. The European Union, where a seven-year-old Kurdish Syrian boy, Nuryian Mohammed, drowned on the outskirts of Athens in July when he fell into the sea bordering the camp his family is forced to live in,[81] where the Greek state arrested his grieving parents for so-called neglect,[82] where both NGOs and the state have refused for more than a year to erect a safety barricade because it would cost them something more dear to them than a child’s life: money. This in a country where the 10.5-kilometer fence with Turkey, which directly contributed to the Mediterranean gaining its infamous position as the deadliest migration crossing in the world, cost the state at least three million euros.[83]

Yes, this is about the Rohingya people. Yes, this is about genocide. But this is, unfortunately, so much more. This is our current world. It is our fight for our lives, our fight against a global capitalist and imperialist system that sees human beings as expendable in the pursuit of profit, land, and power. It is our fight against a system and a ruling class that sees our lives as cheap.

You have murdered us, imprisoned us, displaced us, tortured us, raped us, starved us, flooded our communities with drugs, burned our homes and killed our families. And still the majority of human beings on this earth refuse to turn to nihilistic violence or disillusioned defeat. We continue to mobilize on the streets of Chicago, Berkeley, in Laguna Beach, California, in Fort Worth, Texas,[84] in Buenos Aires, Argentina,[85] in Melbourne, Australia.[86] We continue to march from Charlottesville to Washington,[87] from Moria to Mytilene,[88] through heat and rain, at times exhausted, at times broken, but not defeated.[89] We are not defeated because this is more than our individual struggles. This is a revolution.

In a gruesome and symbolic retaliatory murder in July 2011, Syrian revolutionary Ibrahim Qashoush’s throat was cut out[90] for daring to sing that the Syrian people would bring down the regime with their strength alone.[91] In August 2016, the self-governing Daraya fell after four years of siege and military attacks by the Assad regime and its international backers.[92] And still, Syrian refugees mobilized on the streets of Frankfurt on Saturday, demanding an end to the Assad regime and the release of the Syrian regime’s prisoners.[93]

In late August, Italian police used water cannons and other violent tactics against 100 refugees occupying a square in Rome,[94] [95] mostly people from Eritrea and Ethiopia who had been forcibly evicted from a nearby building in which they had been living for years in as squatters, and still, days later, Eritreans, Ethiopians, refugees of other nationalities, and Italians in solidarity marched in Rome, demanding an end to the evictions and for humane housing.[96]

Early last month, Greek police violently attacked the mostly sub-Saharan African refugees who organized in protest against their indefinite detention and inhumane conditions in Moria, Lesvos,[97] and still, refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, marched from Moria camp in the mountains to the port town of Mytilene last week and occupied Sappho Square, demanding freedom of movement, demanding their right to declare asylum, demanding an end to deportations.[98]

The Israeli state spent the last few years building its apartheid separation fence on three sides of Walajeh, continuing the 60-year ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, and still, dozens of Palestinians in Walajeh protested the planned demolition of their homes last month.[99]

On August 12, a white nationalist killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he deliberately drove a car into a crowd of people who mobilized in counter-protest to a far-right rally,[100] in an attack the US state, led by President Donald Trump, not only failed to condemn, but condoned with statements like, “You had some very fine people on both sides.”[101] And still, days later, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Boston to crush a rally of dozens of white supremacists.[102] Still, dozens of people began a ten-day march from Charlottesville to Washington, DC, on Monday, against white supremacy and the US state’s failure to condemn the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville.[103]

And when the ongoing state violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma escalated two weeks ago, killing over 100 people and forcibly displacing tens of thousands within days,[104] [105] 4,000 Rohingya people assembled in nonviolent protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lampur in Malaysia.[106]

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” civil rights activist and political refugee Assata Shakur famously said. “It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”[107] [108]

To hell with your racist borders. To hell with your exploitation for profit. You can kill us, yes, but you cannot kill the revolution or our humanity. We will not give up.

The words of executed Palestinian-Syrian revolutionary Bassel Khartabil live on: “They cannot stop us.”[109]

We will bring you down with our strength alone.


From “Who are the Rohingya Muslims?” by Al Jazeera staff (accessed 3 Sep 2017):

“The government has often restricted access to northern Rakhine States for journalists and aid workers. Aung San Suu Kyi’s office has also accused aid groups of helping those it considers to be ‘terrorists.’ …

“There are nearly half a million Rohingya refugees living in mostly makeshift camps in Bangladesh. The majority remain unregistered.

“Bangladesh considers most of those who have crossed its borders and are living outside of camps as having ‘illegally infiltrated’ the country. Bangladesh has often tried to prevent Rohingya refugees from crossing its border.

“In late January, the country resurrected a plan to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to a remote island that is prone to flooding and has also been called ‘uninhabitable’ by rights groups. Under the plan, which was originally introduced in 2015, authorities would move undocumented Myanmar nationals to Thengar Char in the Bay of Bengal.

“Rights groups have decried the proposal, saying the island completely floods during monsoon season. The UN also called the forced relocation ‘very complex and controversial.’

“Most recently, the government in Bangladesh has reportedly proposed a joint military operation in Rakhine to aid Myanmar’s battle against armed fighters in the area. The foreign ministry has also expressed fear that the renewed violence will cause a new influx of refugees to cross its border.”













































































































[108] (Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan, Issue 2, edited by William L. Van Deburg, Google Books)