Rape being used as part of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, rights group says

Human Rights Watch says all but one of the rapes reported to them were gang rapes

Rape being used as part of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, rights group says

One girl claims she and her sister were raped by soldiers | Image: YouTube/HumanRightsWatch

Burmese security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, Human Rights Watch has said.

The 37-page report documents claims of the Burmese military's gang rape of Rohingya women and girls and further acts of violence, cruelty and humiliation.

Many women described witnessing the murders of their young children, spouses, and parents.

Rape survivors reported days of agony walking while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 52 Rohingya women and girls who had fled to Bangladesh - including 29 rape survivors, three of them girls under 18.

They also spoke with 19 representatives of humanitarian organisations, United Nations agencies and the Bangladeshi government.

The rape survivors came from 19 villages in Rakhine State.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch says all but one of the rapes reported were gang rapes.

In six reported cases, survivors said the soldiers gathered Rohingya women and girls into groups and then gang raped or raped them.

Many of those interviewed also said that witnessing soldiers killing their family members was the most traumatic part of the attacks.

In every case described to Human Rights Watch, the rapists were uniformed members of Burmese security forces, almost all military personnel.

Skye Wheeler is women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

"Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

"The Burmese military’s barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatised."

Rohingya women refugees who crossed the Naf River from Burma into Bangladesh continue inland toward refugee camps | Image: Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Human Rights Watch says since August 25th, the Burmese military has committed "killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and mass arson of homes in hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State", forcing more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The group says these abuses amount to crimes against humanity under international law.

The military operations were sparked by attacks by the armed group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 security force outposts and an army base that killed 11 Burmese security personnel.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has faced international criticism for failing to directly condemn the violence by the country's security forces.