Looking back at my review from earlier this summer of Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, I was ashamed to see I didn’t even mention the Rohingya. Maybe I felt the name would be meaningless to most Westerners, or perhaps I decided it was the basics of the situation for the refugees in the book which mattered.
I can’t even remember. But I did remember the name Rohingya, so when it turned up in the news more recently, I realised it was more active as a problem again.
The young boy in Zana’s book is Rohingya, and as Zana describes it, they ‘are an ethnic Muslim minority living in a predominantly Buddhist majority in Myanmar.’ The United Nations and Amnesty International say the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted people on earth.
Did any of us know that?
The government of Myanmar is committing genocide, with the Rohingya being hunted into extinction. And governments all over the world know this. The Rohingya have been known to be forced onto boats, or killed if they refused.
That’s why Subhi and his family in The Bone Sparrow are in a refugee camp. As Zana says in her afterword, she wishes her ‘book had never needed to be written.’ How I wish that too.
And reading about how this is a known situation to people in power, it’s not surprising that no one much raised a finger when Hitler did what he did to the Jews 70 years ago. It might seem easier not to interfere. We used to blame this kind of thing on people not knowing. Now we have to look on as a formerly admired Nobel peace prize winner does nothing for the persecuted people in her own country. But she does know.