The #MeToo hashtag is still racing along like a runaway train threatening to expose men who need to subjugate women in order to feel any personal self worth. In the media and the blogosphere, feminists have written articles upon articles arguing/discussing/explaining how rape is not about sexual desire. It is simply about power and has nothing to do with a woman’s burkha or short skirt.
There are women today who have been and are being raped in conflict zones that need to be included in the #MeToo campaign. Their under-privileged lives marked by ethnic cleansing do not make their experiences less valid.
Patriarchy dictates that men ‘own’ the women of their tribe, race or faith. To subjugate the women is to humiliate the enemy. The United Nations Security Council states that “women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”.
It is what the Serb forces inflicted upon an estimated 50,000 Bosnian Muslim women in the 1990s as part of their ethnic cleansing campaign. The effects which are still being felt today.
It is what the Burmese military has and is inflicting upon the Rohingya women as you read this. Skye Wheeler, emergencies researcher for the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch has been documenting rape survivors’ stories in the Rohingya refugee camps. She said: ‘The Burmese military has clearly used rape as one of a range of horrific methods of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. Rape and other forms of sexual violence has been widespread and systematic as well as brutal, humiliating and traumatic”.
UN doctors have seen high numbers of women with injuries consistent with violent sexual attacks arriving at refugee camps. One said she had seen bite marks and signs that seemed to show a firearm was used to penetrate women.
Sometimes the human stories disappear within the figures as the general public cannot relate to an atrocity. But sometimes a single story will emerge to captures the hearts of people globally. A couple of years ago at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, hundreds of children drowned whilst crossing the sea from the Turkish coast to Lesvos Island with their parents. These little lives always failed to make the headlines, occupying some corner of a news website and never the front page. It was the case of Aylan Kurdi, the little boy with the red T-shirt and blue shorts lying face down on a beach that bought the world’s sympathy to the plight of innocent people fleeing death. For a while anyway.
In the case of the Rohingya, Rajuma’s story is the one that the world has noticed. She is the woman whose baby boy, Sadiq, was snatched from her arms and thrown into a fire, whilst she was gang raped. The baby who screamed for her as he burned to death.
I wonder if Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has read Rajuma’s testimony, or paid attention to the statistics the United Nations has compiled, or the witness accounts that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented about Myanmar’s systematic state terror to ‘cleanse’ the Rohingya from their own land. If so, did she remember her own words from only a few years ago when she discussed how rape is used a tool of war in a video promoted by Nobel Women’s Initiative? Her own words: “The worst form of violence is rape… when it is used as a weapon by armed forces.”
Once lauded as a human rights champion, does she feel any shame that the systematic rape of poor, under-privileged Rohingya women is being allowed to happen by her military, under her watch?
Aung San Suu Kyi may very well dismiss the humanity of the Rohingya women, but we can include them in the #MeToo hashtag, along with the Bosnian, Rwandan and all other nationalities of women whose rape was a tool of ethnic cleansing.