In their final meeting with journalists in the capital yesterday, Nobel Peace laureates Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire urged Aung San Suu Kyi to remember the times they stood by her during the years of her house-arrest.
Their fellow Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Tawakkol Karman, who accompanied them on this trip to Bangladesh, was absent, having already left the country.
“When she called for Burma, we responded. We thought she meant all Burmese, but now we know she does not acknowledge the Rohingya,” Maguire said at the event held in Dhaka Club.
Ebadi added how they had all staged protests when Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. “She appears to have forgotten how she suffered under house arrest– the Rohingyas are suffering ten times more,” Ebadi said.
“Nobel laureates have tried to go to Myanmar but have not been granted visas,” claimed Maguire. “Myanmar is not letting [those] people who speak out about the Rohingya crisis [to] enter the country.”
Ebadi described how she wrote several open letters to Suu Kyi but received no response.
The duo also called out countries for not taking a stronger stance in tackling the Rohingya crisis.
“The British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson flew over the camps and saw the destruction happening. We want the British government to take Burma to the International Crimes Court (ICC) instead of sending money,” said Maguire. Boris Johnson came to Bangladesh on a two-day trip earlier last month to see the plight of the Rohingyas for himself. Following the trip, he went to Myanmar and met Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We are asking individual governments to take action. We want states with a passion for human rights to take Myanmar to the ICC,” she added. The three laureates had made a similar demand at a press conference held the previous day.
Ebadi also criticised Islamic countries for not holding Myanmar accountable.
“Where are the Islamic countries? Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait?” she asked, referring to the fact that the persecuted Rohingya minority are also largely Muslims.
“The Iranian media stays completely quiet about the Rohingya crisis because the state has no economic interest in Bangladesh,” added Ebadiat.
According to media reports, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait had directed aid to the Rohingya camps during different points last year.
Meanwhile, the Nobel laureates stated that the Rohingyas should be able to choose when to go back.
“When we visited the camps, I asked the women there whether they want to go back. They are so traumatised that one actually said that she would much rather drink poison,” said Maguire.
Many of the Rohingyas do want to go back but need conditions to change drastically, she stated.
“Unless they are assured that conditions in Myanmar will improve, that they will get all their rights and citizenship, the Rohingya women will not leave Bangladesh and we cannot let them go back when there is still danger of genocide.”
The week-long trip to Bangladesh of the three Nobel laureates, organised by Nobel Women’s Initiative and Naripokkho, concluded yesterday.
(This article originally appeared in the Daily Star Newspaper)