The Dhaka Lit Fest has backed the Rohingyas, urging the global community to support these refugees from Myanmar and “to hold accountable those who have orchestrated the violence leading to this catastrophe”. Since August 26, over 600,000 Rohingyas have been forced to take exile in neighbouring Bangladesh, a statement said at the recently-concluded festival here. The signatories include celebrated Syrian poet Adonis, Academy award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, Booker prize winning novelist Ben Okri, playwright David Hare, historian William Dalrymple, writer Lionel Shriver, and Bangladeshi literary icons Syed Manzoorul Islam and Kaiser Haq, among over 40 other participants. “This is one of the largest forced migrations in recent times, and puts the Rohingya as a community at risk of extinction from their native Arakan province,” it said.
“The participants in the Dhaka Lit Fest express sympathy for the refugees, and wish to keep the news of this unfolding situation at the forefront of global consciousness, as the situation in the refugee camps precipitates what could be an even larger humanitarian crisis due to disease and malnutrition…,” it added. The Rohingya crisis also figured prominently at the festival. There was two separate sessions on the Rohingya issue titled “Rohingya: Humanity in Despair” and “Rohingyas: Landless Future”. The participants called upon the international community to put pressure on the Myanmar government to end the crisis. Ameerah Haq, under-secretary general at the UN Department of Field Support, was of the view a huge international outrage like the one over the Darfur crisis in 2004 was needed to show support to the Rohingya community.
Such a protest should involve renowned global personalities, including Hollywood celebrities, she suggested. According to BBC South Asia Correspondent Justin Rowlatt, who has been covering the issue, it was hard to imagine the movement of such a huge number of people, while Michael Vatikiotis, Asia regional director of Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, this crisis has led to a rift across South East Asia. Myanmar does not recognise Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country. Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of spearheading a violent depopulation campaign to eliminate Rohingya by branding them as so-called “Islamist terrorists”.