Since the late 1970s, the world has seen the rise of international extremist movements that arose in countries where sectarian warfare has plagued their homes for the last sixty years or more. In 1980, we saw the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, after the United States CIA funded and trained thousands of Afghan civilians to fight against the Russian KGB invasion. In the early 2000s, we watched war-torn Iraq fall under power of the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, after the NATO Coalition bombed and destroyed Saddam Hussein's militaristic regime in 2003. From 2000 to 2011, al-Qaeda’s influence branched off from Afghanistan into Iraq, with a headquarter in Fallujah, Iraq, a city about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad. Their new branches would be placed in the countries with large Muslim populations, including Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, Indonesia, and southeast Asia.
If the Burmese government wants to fix anything, instead of killing and imprisoning the minority groups, they should work to improve the rights and economic situation of minorities.
In 2011, after the United States had re-organized Iraq’s government into a Shiite based ideology, it was widely believed that al-Qaeda had been taken care of the U.S. military would exit the Middle East. From the time NATO mostly left Iraq, however, a new power vacuum led to further problems. Muslim extremists, seizing the opportunity, secretly assembled in a surge to create a new Caliphate, in place of al-Qaeda. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 14 disbanded generals from Hussein’s regime, and hundreds of former al-Qaeda members were freed. They immediately turned their attention to gaining support from oppressed groups, specifically the Sunni tribes, in Iraq, telling those groups that they were there to help them stop the “dictatorship”, which we all know to be the Iraqi government.
The group that al-Baghdadi successfully created is today referred to as the Islamic State or ISIL, the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant. Although the group was not originally called any of these names, they’ve always been considered Jihadists, extremist who kill in the name of Allah and believe Western Civilization is an entire evil hemisphere of war. This particular group of Jihadists became the Islamic State when they formed hundreds of militarized sectors in Syria, mainly Raqqah, and took control of the entire northeast region of Syria. Since then, ISIS has pushed on to Libya, a recently fallen state, as well as large parts of Iraq. Although they have lost ground in Iraq recently, they continue to cause problems in Yemen, and most recently northeastern Nigeria. The influx of islamic extremism has caused almost all of the known al-Qaeda branches to pledge allegiance to ISIS, including those in southeast Asia.
Time Magazine has just released a new article in regards to the Burmese government setting their northwestern region of Maungdaw ablaze. Since Myanmar won their independence from Britain, their problems with border security have led them to stay as a militaristic regime since 1962, killing who they consider to be inferior, in this case, the Burmese Muslims. Since Myanmar’s creation, Maungdaw has been heavily populated with Burmese Muslims, whom the government says have been immigrating from the bordering country, Bangladesh. It is not a new sight to see the Burmese government conducting airstrikes on a minority in the Buddhist majority country.
On October 9th, Myanmar saw the first of many on-going riots in Maungdaw, which since then, have only gotten worse. The casualty count, after a month of terror, has reached a few dozen. The riots began after Rohingya Muslims in Maungdaw started petitioning for more humane rights from the government; instead they were immediately silenced and executed. It was after the executions that fellow Rohingya Muslims began to violently protest against their government. On November 10, the Burmese Air Force was ordered to initiate daily airstrikes on the region, which have been the main contributor of casualties.
Since 1980, the same sectarian warfare that Myanmar is now embroiled within has caused the same outcome: An extremely decentralized nation, where different social, political, and religious groups have killed each other in order to gain or maintain power. Because most radical groups have a financial foundation, and because they follow a religious extremity that allows them to kill, they are usually the victors of a power vacuum.
Significant parts of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya have all been controlled by jihadists for at least 3 years and will continue to be so for as long as there is no social harmony in their governments. Myanmar today, looks a lot like Iraq 30 years ago: a strong militarized government that continues to suppress the uprisings that should not be ignored. Suppression of its minorities will lead to civil war.
Another problem that the Burmese government faces is their national sovereignty. If other nations, like those in NATO, get involved, the problems they potentially face, will only intensify tenfold. Most NATO countries would try the same approach they always have, to replace the current government with a more democratic one. If the Burmese government is replaced, however, it will be an extremist battleground for years to come, much like Iraq and Syria. If the Burmese government wants to fix anything, instead of killing and imprisoning the minority groups, they should work to improve the rights and economic situation of minorities. Then Muslims could potentially become an entirely new economic and social outlet, rather than the biggest perceived threat to Myanmar’s security.
News Editor: Elizabeth Needham, Emanuel Abebe
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