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Museum Calls Attention to Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya in Burma at Special Event at US Senate

In an effort to highlight the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya community by the Burmese government, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) hosted a photo exhibition, Exiled to Nowhere: Burma’s Rohingya, which was on display in the Senate Russell Rotunda from February 12 to 16, 2018. The exhibition, created by photographer Greg Constantine, captures portraits and stories from the Rohingya community, a Muslim minority group in Burma who have endured mass atrocities and state-led persecution in their home country. The photography exhibit sheds light on the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who have been forced to flee violence in Burma.

The Simon-Skjodt Center and AJWS held an event on Tuesday, February 13, to bring together experts and Congressional leaders to examine the current situation for the Rohingya and explore next steps to stem the atrocities and prevent future attacks.

The panel discussion featured photographer Greg Constantine, Rohingya advocate Tun Khin, former Ambassador for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, and Andrea Gittleman of the Simon-Skjodt Center. The discussion drew on the Museum's recently released report with Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights, “They Tried to Kill Us All: Atrocity Crimes Against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar.” The report documents crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and mounting evidence of genocide against the Rohingya community.

Tun Khin, arriving in DC for the event just hours after speaking with recent refugee arrivals on the Bangladesh/Burma border, shared harrowing testimony from those who fled their homes in recent days. Ambassador Saperstein described the devastation facing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and the need for Burma’s democratically-elected leadership to do more to face military crimes. Greg Constantine reflected upon his decade-long experience photographing Rohingya community members, stating that those he met in recent months had a “sense of loss and desperation” that was deeper, and more permanent, than the Rohingya he had photographed years earlier.

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined the event to deliver remarks. The Senators praised the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act, which recently passed unanimously through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and called upon their colleagues to do more to promote accountability for mass atrocities in Burma. Senator Cardin also referenced the need to prioritize atrocity prevention efforts so that more can be done to respond quickly to early warning signs of atrocities.

To learn more about atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya and future risks see the Simon-Skjodt Center’s latest report.