The U.N. now says Myanmar's brutal campaign against the Rohingya last year was genocide. Will those responsible be brought to justice?
WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of abuse.
The village in western Myanmar where Zahidullah Rahim lived until last year is gone. The road is now lined with charred palm trees and the burnt remains of mosques. Tropical vines grow over what is left of the scorched foundations where homes once stood.
Rahim, a member of the oppressed Rohingya minority, once hoped to become a lawyer and represent his people. Now he lives in a refugee camp in neighboring Bangladesh.
"Everything has disappeared," Rahim says, "even my dreams."
Rahim is one of more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar in 2017 amid a frenzy of killing, rape, and arson by soldiers and Buddhist mobs. More than a year later, no one has been held accountable for the violence.
The Rohingya are a minority Muslim group from Myanmar that have long been persecuted by the majority population, which is Buddhist. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar's Rakhine State for centuries, long before the country gained independence from the British in 1948.
Myanmar's military leaders deny responsibility for the 2017 violence, but the international community is trying to hold them to account. In August, the United Nations released a report calling the campaign against the Rohingya a genocide and saying Myanmar's top military leaders should be tried for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"The report is an enormous deal," says Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, a human rights group. "It's the only official U.N. account of what happened, and all U.N. member states have to take note of it."
Mass Killings & Destroyed Villages
The U.N. report estimates that at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed in the violence and cites harrowing eyewitness accounts of mass killings, gang rapes of women and young girls, and the wholesale destruction of villages by the military. The findings are based on 875 interviews, along with documents compiled in field missions to Bangladesh and neighboring countries.
"Only verified and corroborated information was relied upon," the report states.
Survivors now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh describe similar horrors. "They slaughtered my husband in front of me and my kids," says Mostafa Khatun, 25, who fled Myanmar last August after she herself was bound with rope and raped as her children watched.
The hatred in Myanmar between the Rohingya and the majority Buddhist population goes back to World War II (1939-45). The Rohingya fought with the Allies, while the Buddhists sided with the occupying Japanese. After the...