Harakat al-Yaqeen, a Muslim Rohingya insurgency group in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has claimed responsibility for the October 9th attack that killed 9 police officers by Myanmar’s borders. Atah Ullah, the group’s leader, announced in a video interview with CNN: “We, the vulnerable and persecuted people, have asked the international community for protection against the atrocities by the government of Myanmar, but the international community turned its back on us.”
In response to the October attack, the military initiated “Clearance Operation” deploying soldiers and helicopters to find the attackers. Armed clashes ensued resulting in at least 100 Rohingyas dead and 500 arrested. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), more than 69,000 people have left to Bangladesh to avoid the violence. Aye Aye Soe, Burma’s spokesperson, denies allegations of violence commenting that the operation is conducted “within rules and regulations against armed perpetrators.”
For over 70 years, the ethnic minority, Muslims Rohingyas, have faced persecution in Myanmar where the majority of Burmese are Buddhist. The government of Myanmar has not recognized the Rohingyas as legal citizens but considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Their refugee status makes the Rohingyas easy targets; refugees from Bangladesh reported instances of killing and rape.
Al-Yaqeen claims that they are not “terrorists” and have no intentions of hurting innocent Burmese, only directing their aggression towards the oppressive government. Even though some Rohingya refugees support the violent militant resistance, others fear aggression from the resistance if they are suspected of backing the government.
Al-Yaqeen does not represent a military threat in the traditional sense, for the weapons they used consist of machetes and knives. However, they represent a movement – Harakat al-Yaqeen translates to the “Faith Movement”—against the failure of government policies. Since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party victory in 2015, many Rohingyas trusted Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counselor, to protect and stand up for the Rohingya people. Many Rohingyas voice disappointment and believe that the military has influence over Aung San Suu Kyi. Still, despite Naypyidaw’s military interference, the State Counselor has established the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Commission to process citizenship rights for the Rohingya people.