Press Releases

CAIR Letter to U.N. Ambassador Haley: Decisive Action Needed in Response to Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/12/17) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization, today sent a letter to United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to request that the U.S. take immediate and decisive action in response to the government of Burma’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya Muslim population.

SEE: Burma treatment of Rohingya looks like ‘textbook ethnic cleansing’, says UN

In the letter to Ambassador Haley, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in part:

“On behalf of the American Muslim community and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, we write to request that the United States take immediate and decisive action in response to the government of Burma’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya Muslim population.

“Over the past several weeks, Burmese soldiers, militants, and mobs have traveled from village to village in Rahkine State, engaging in mass murder, rape, torture, and arson along the way.

“Survivors, bystanders, and even perpetrators have posted video footage showing Rohingya men, women and children being beaten to death, dismembered, and burned alive, among other acts of brutality.

“These attacks have in the past weeks sent over 370,000 survivors fleeing for Burma’s closed border with Bangladesh, thereby sparking a humanitarian crisis and once again staining the reputation of the international community.

“This violence has gone too far, and gone on for far too long. If the international community fails to stop the first genocide of the twenty-first century, Burma may soon become synonymous with Rwanda and Bosnia.

“Already, the United Nations’ top human rights official Zeid Ra”˜ad al-Hussein has said that the Government of Burma was conducting a ”˜cruel military operation’ against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine state, labeling it ”˜a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.’

“Although the United States cannot intervene in every global humanitarian crisis, our nation has a unique obligation and opportunity to intervene in this crisis. As you know, the Obama Administration lifted many sanctions on Burma’s military dictatorship as the regime took small steps towards becoming a democratic government.

“Unfortunately, the Burmese government simultaneously took even longer steps towards becoming a genocidal government. The United Nations issued a report in February 2017 alleging that Burma’s government has spent years engaging in behavior that ”˜very likely’ constitutes crimes against humanity and ethnic cleaning. Burma refused to grant entry visas to United Nations investigators charged with examining these allegations. In doing so, Burma violated its obligations as a member of the international community as well its promises to the United States.

“In response, the United States should consider taking four different steps.

“First, the United States should publicly announce that it will re-impose upon Burma all the economic and diplomatic sanctions that the Obama Administration previously lifted. Although doing so would take time, the mere threat to reestablish those costly financial sanctions could spur Burma’s military-dominated leadership to quell the violence. The U.S. military should also not provide any military-to-military assistance to the Government of Burma.

“Secondly, the United States, working with the U.N. Security Council, should ensure that the emergency meeting it plans to hold tomorrow about the violence Rohingya Muslims face is a public meeting. The Security Council should communicate to the government of Burma that it will face severe sanctions unless they immediately put an end to the brutal campaign against the Rohingya Muslim community. The government of Burma recently said it was negotiating with China and Russia to block any Security Council censure over the violence being committed against Rohingya Muslims.

“Third, the U.S. State Department should launch an investigation into extremist Burmese monk Ashin Wirathu. Mr. Wirathu, who has reportedly described himself as the “Buddhist Bin Laden,” fans the flames of public hysteria against Rohingya Muslims, encouraging and fomenting recent outbursts of violence. If sufficient evidence exists, both the United States and the U.N. Security Council should designate Mr. Wirathu a foreign terrorist and impose sanctions accordingly.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States should publicly and forcefully call upon Myanmar’s de facto leader, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, to live up to her democratic ideals. So far, Ms. Kyi has ignored, downplayed, and sometimes exacerbated the violence against Rohingya Muslims. This is unacceptable for any leader, and especially unacceptable for a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States should publicly call on Ms. Kyi to acknowledge, condemn, and stop the violence””or face the same sanctions imposed on Myanmar’s military leaders.

“The mere prospect of America pursuing one or more of these four steps could lead Myanmar to stop its ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing.

“Whatever ultimately happens, and whatever we ultimately do, we must do something. The United States cannot allow Myanmar to use American diplomatic and economic cover to commit the first true genocide of the 21st century. The world failed to intervene in Srebrenica. The world failed to intervene in Rwanda. The world still has a chance to intervene in Myanmar.

“For the sake of the victims, for the sake of our values, for the sake of humanity, we implore you to act with decisive moral clarity. We stand ready to vocally support your efforts if you do.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

La misión de CAIR es mejorar la comprensión del Islam, fomentar el diálogo, proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

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CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,


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