Early History of 2015 Rohingya Refugee Crisis

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority living in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, situated on the Western coast of the country. The government of the predominantly Buddhist nation claims that the Rohingya are not entitled to citizenship under the country’s military-drafted 1982 Citizenship Law, which states that only ethnic groups that had permanently settled within the modern-day boundaries of the country prior to 1823 are eligible for full citizenship. The dominant narrative in the country is that the term “Rohingya” is a recent invention, and that the people are descendants of colonial-era immigrants from Bangladesh. However, there is historical proof that the ethnic group has existed in the Rakhine State for centuries, with Muslim populations recorded to have resided in the modern-day Rakhine State back in the 15th and 16th centuries. This unjustified denial of citizenship by the government is the root cause of issues facing the ethnic minority today. A new movement in support of the group’s identity has emerged since the 1990’s, with Rohingya scholars establishing indigenous claims and Rohingya politicians publicizing the term “Rohingya” and denying their assumed Bengali origins. However, the group has continued to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, denied citizenship and deprived of basic human rights by the Myanmar government.