Obama urged to #justsaytheirname by pro-Rohingya activists on Twitter

Alia Soliman , Friday 5 Jun 2015

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar wave as they are transported by a wooden boat to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar, in this file picture taken April 8, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from Burma, have been described as “the most oppressed people on earth.”

Over the years, the group, who number around 1.3 million, have faced persecution from Burma’s government and from Buddhists in Burma, who make up the majority of the population there.

The UN has reported evidence of direct state complicity in ethnic cleansing and severe human rights abuses against the Rohingya, including blocking off humanitarian aid and incitement of anti-Muslim violence.

According to Al Jazeera, the Rohingya are viewed by the Burmese government as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as a single recognised ethnic group.

Burmese President Thein Sein has himself said that there are "no Rohingya” in Burma.

The Burmese government have been pressuring foreign officials not to speak the group’s name, according to reports.

A visit from Barrack Obama to the country in November encouraged activists to call on the US President to say the name of the minority group.

At the time of the visit, the hashtag #justsaytheirname began trending on Twitter, along with the hash tag #Rohingya and #TheMostOpressedPeopleOnEarth.

In late May, the hashtags began trending again in anticipation of a meeting on Monday between Obama and a group of young Asians. 

"I think one of the most important things is to put an end to discrimination against people because of what they look like or what their faith is. And the Rohingya have been discriminated against. And that’s part of the reason they’re fleeing," said Obama during the meeting.

Denied citizenship, the group cannot travel, work or even marry without permission from Burmese officials, according to the website United to End Genocide.

Although the US and the UN have called for the protection of the group, both avoid using the term Rohingya. UN officials say they avoid the term in public to avoid stirring tensions between the country’s Buddhists and Muslims, while a senior US State Department official told reporters that the naming issue should be "set aside." 

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