Mindy Kaling And Aziz Ansari: When We Say 'Never Again,' We Must Mean It

"We cannot be bystanders."

Seeking an end to the silence around the brutality in Myanmar, a group of celebrities is raising their voices together. Since August, almost half the Rohingya Muslim population have fled their homes in northern Myanmar amidst what the United Nations has described as looking like a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." Coverage of the issue has waned from the media spotlight, despite the life-threatening situation the population is facing.



In an open letter published in The Guardian Friday, dozens of writers, actors and comedians including Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, Kumail Nanjiani, Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minhaj and Frieda Pinto called for action to be taken to end the violence. As leaders of southeast Asian countries are set to meet with the U.N. this weekend at the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines, the group is asking that a discussion about the Rohingya crisis be added to the agenda. 

"The Rohingya are often described as among the most persecuted people on earth," the letter reads. "They are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, and despite having lived in Myanmar's Rakhine state for centuries, they're refused citizenship. For years, their movement has been restricted, and they have been denied access to education, health care, and other basic services...The international response to the Rohingya crisis has fallen far short of what's needed."

The letter continues:

"We must not be bystanders to this genocide. We cannot allow people to be slaughtered and burnt out of their homes, while the world watches. After every atrocity, we say: 'Never again.' We must mean it."
Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait to receive free food during distribution by Turkish Embassy, Balukhali camp.
Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait to receive free food during distribution by Turkish Embassy, Balukhali camp. Sk Hasan Ali / Shutterstock

Since August, an estimated 600,000 Rohingya have been displaced by violence, almost all of whom are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. While the country has opened its borders to all Rohingya Muslims, the letter notes that Bangladesh, the most densely populated country on the earth, was already ill-equipped to fight the poverty and effects of climate change before the population influx. A report from Save the Children, IRC partner Action Against Hunger and Unicef published this week found that one in four Rohingya children who relocated to Bangladesh is now suffering from life-threatening malnutrition. Of the population in the refugee camp, three in four do not have enough food, and 95 percent is drinking contaminated water. 

In addition to the open letter, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the organization is asking for "unhindered humanitarian access" to the area in northern Myanmar where the Rohingya lived before fleeing. Per The Washington Post, the U.N. is calling for the Rohingya to be allowed to return home and for Myanmar to facilitate discussions on solving the issues that have left the population virtually stateless. 

"What has happened is an immense tragedy," Guterres said. "The levels of violence and the atrocities committed are something that we cannot be silent about."

Cover image REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo / Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com.

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