The high-profile Rohingya activist and leader, Mohibullah (Featured picture), was assassinated days ago by unknown assailants in one of the refugee camps located in Cox Bazaar (Pic 2), Bangladesh. Five men have been captured by the Bangladesh police, who are thought to have links with an armed group. Family and close aides have accused Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of carrying out the attack. Mohibullah was a school teacher by profession and was actively involved in fighting for the rights of the Rohingya people. Through his organization, Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), he made significant efforts to ensure proper provision of basic necessities like housing, food, water, clothing, schools, etc., in the settlement camps of Rohingya. He was also involved in direct negotiations with the Bangladesh government on the return of Rohingya back to Myanmar once the hostile situation turns aback. ARSA has threatened him on previous occasions since he was against them using Rohingya’s pleas as a political front to push Islamic insurgency into Myanmar. 


Who are the ARSA

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is an Islamic insurgent group originating from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. They have been declared as a terrorist group by Myanmar and the Malaysian government. However, the ARSA leadership rejects the claims of it being a terrorist group and identifies itself as a group that fights for the rights of the Rohingya community. ARSA is being led by Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi, born in Karachi, Pakistan, and establishes his Islamic philosophy out of his time spent in Saudi Arabia. ARSA has previously been involved in terrorist attacks on Myanmar military posts and mass violence against Hindus in Myanmar.


   Pic 2: Cox Bazaar Refugee camp, location of the assassination. Source: The Lancet


Internal Power Struggle

Several Islamic factions have been using the Rohingya crisis as an opportune moment to pursue their regressive political goals. Numerous members from the Rohingya camps were caught in Malaysia and were on their way to join ISIS camps in the middle east. The Indian government has also been apprehensive of the Rohingya refugees on its soil and has deported them significantly. Insurgent movements as such have diluted the original objectives of the Rohingya people. Mohibullah and his organization were defiant against such political groups and were the voice of the repressed Rohingyas in mainstream politics. Mohibullah even went to see former US President Donald Trump in the White House to make a case for his people. ARSA, on previous occasions, has threatened him and members of his organization directly over his political influence over the refugees and his open defiance against any violent insurgency. Mohibullah even predicted his death by political assassination during an interview with Reuters in 2019.

Situation in Myanmar

Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar has been under direct military rule, which by all means does not want Rohingyas to return out of fear of political violence and terrorist attacks on them. Myanmar is also a part of the notorious drug network, aka Golden Triangle, bordering adjacent to Laos and Thailand, and is a significant source of drug trafficking in the region. Unemployed and poverty-stricken Rohingyas are often employed as drug mules to carry illicit substances across national boundaries. This has led to violent clashes among several criminal networks in the region. Mohibullah and his organization were involved in helping authorities crack down on drug mulling of Rohingya refugees. His defiant stance must have irked the power players of the drug empire. Organizations like ARSA and other terror organizations have long been known to be financed by such drug empires, just like the Taliban. 


By early 2021, Bangladesh is reportedly being hosting close to about a million Rohingya refugees. The killing of Mohibullah reminds the world of the grim fact that the Rohingya crisis is a multivariate struggle. On the one hand, it is fighting for its rights with the Myanmar government. On the other hand, it is trying to prevent the birthing of any insurgency that could sway away from its predetermined political ambitions. There is enough evidence that suggests that political factions who wrongly take advantage of repressed communities tend to take the attention away of the power players from the fundamental humanitarian objectives. Palestine is also under a similar predicament where factions like Hamas have diluted the original agendas of Palestinian people. Palestinian movement is presently being seen in the light of Islamic insurgency, especially since the 9/11 attacks. 

The mainstream discourse has altered its path of identifying the needs of the ordinary people of fighting for equalitarian rights in their respective communities. Mohibullah understood the consequences of Islamic factions using the Rohingya crisis to push their political agendas. With such events happening, the repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar will remain a distant dream. Without any proactive participation from the powerful states, Bangladesh will continue to carry the burden of responsibility of the Rohingya people. It will be the Rohingyas who will bear the brunt of suffering due to Islamic insurgency in the region. Without the leadership of visionary figureheads like Mohibullah, the Rohingya crisis can deepen its roots with extensive repercussions in the region and the world. 


Featured Pic Source: Reuters via Dhaka Tribune

By Jacques Joseph

Jacques is a recent graduate in Masters of International Relations who contributes independently on geopolitical events. His interests include Counter-terrorism, Nuclear Deterrence, Psychology of war, and South Asian politics.

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