March 21, 2022
US Government Declares Burmese Military Committed Genocide
Against the Rohingya
Secretary of State Blinken Delivers Remarks at Museum
WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of State Blinken’s formal recognition that the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya is critically important to the victims and survivors, an ethnic and Muslim minority that has been systematically persecuted for decades. The State Department’s finding is a strong rebuke to genocide deniers and an important step in advancing efforts to seek justice for the victims. Most importantly, it should spark swift action to protect those who remain under grave threat.
“Today’s welcome announcement by Secretary of State Blinken cannot repair the harm the Rohingya have endured, but it can reinvigorate efforts to save the Rohingya who remain at risk in Burma and the approximately one million living in precarious conditions as refugees,” said Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. “Rohingya leaders and survivors have been calling for this genocide determination for a long time. Holocaust survivor and Museum Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel hoped the world would do for victims today what was not done for the Jews of Europe. This finding must catalyze action. We cannot allow the Rohingya to become forgotten victims of genocide.”
Genocide is always preceded by warning signs. In March 2015, the Museum issued a report warning that preconditions of genocide were clearly evident. The 2017 Museum and Fortify Rights report, “They Tried to Kill Us All,” documented the Burmese military’s atrocities against the Rohingya including mass killing, rape, torture, and forced displacement of more than 700,000 people. And, in December 2018, the Museum, after carefully analyzing the crimes, found that there was “compelling evidence that the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya.” The Museum opened in December 2021 an in-person and online exhibition “Burma's Path to Genocide” to give voice to the victims as the Burmese government has sought to erase the Rohingya people.
“For decades the Rohingya have been persecuted, stripped of their citizenship and subjected to mass violence. Those who perpetrated these crimes have evaded criminal accountability and the Burmese military continues to deny the crimes. The most common refrain we hear from most Rohingya is ‘we want justice.’ Over eighty years after the end of the Holocaust we still continue to see some Nazi perpetrators held accountable, a reminder that impunity will not prevail and we remain committed to supporting the Rohingya community in their long path to justice,” said Naomi Kikoler, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
Today’s announcement comes when civilians across Burma remain at extreme risk of mass atrocities. Since Burma’s military launched a coup in February 2021, the military has attacked civilians across the country and members of ethnic minority groups are at particular risk of mass atrocities. Furthermore, the systems of persecution and violence that targeted the Rohingya community for decades persist today.
To learn more about how the Rohingya went from citizens to outsiders to victims of genocide, see our exhibition, “Burma's Path to Genocide.” Secretary Blinken visited the exhibition in the Museum prior to his remarks.
About the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
A nonpartisan, federal educational institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance. Through the power of Holocaust history, the Museum challenges leaders and individuals worldwide to think critically about their role in society and to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. For more information, visit ushmm.org.
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