Lily Croskey-Englert / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell Welcomes Refugee put up an exhibition on the Arts Quad to raise awareness for the plight of the Rohingya.

November 15, 2017

25 Student Organizations Participate in Awareness Week to Support Rohingyas

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Over the course of this week, Cornell student organizations are holding events and displays to call attention to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, where government security forces have attacked the minority Rohingya Muslim population and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

The idea of organizing events to show solidarity with the Rohingya first came from Professor John Weiss, history, and since then a coalition of 25 student organizations have co-sponsored the event, Christopher Hanna ’18 told The Sun.

“It’s one thing to hear about the Rohingya crisis on the news, but it’s another thing to engage with the crisis and its multiple dimensions in a critical way,” Hanna said. “We hope to elucidate the complex causes and consequences surrounding the persecution of the Rohingya people, who face a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing.”

Highlights of the week have so far included a #RiseForRohingya tabling and photo campaign, an exhibition on the Arts Quad and a write-a-thon, according to the event’s Facebook page.

The Arts Quad exhibition, created by Cornell Welcomes Refugees, contains wooden stakes that each represent 10,333 Rohingyas, the average number of Rohingya refugees entering neighboring Bangladesh each day since Aug. 25, said Tarannum Sahar ’19, president of Cornell Welcomes Refugees.

Sahar stressed that it is essential to recognize the “inconceivable magnitude” of the crisis given that more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in less than three months.

“They are living in dire conditions in the temporary settlements and camps, and without a significant increase in assistance, the refugees could face another catastrophe on top of the tragedies that caused them to flee their homes,” she told The Sun.

The week’s keynote event, “Perspectives on Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide,” will take place on Thursday evening. This symposium will feature speakers and student art exhibits displaying the plight of Rohingya evacuees on the Naf River, the ways in which social media has been used against the Rohingya and a Guardian photo essay, Hanna said in an email.

“We hope that by zeroing in on specific aspects of the crisis such as the role of viral memes in spreading anti-Rohingya propaganda, participants gain a deep understanding of what’s going on,” he said.

Additionally, Cornell University’s South Asian Council’s Bollywood Night at The Nines and Cornell University Hindu Student Council’s Diwali Dhamaka will be raising funds for Islamic Relief USA, a humanitarian aid organization, according to the Facebook page. A few hundred dollars have already been donated, Hanna said.

Grace Bogdanove ’18, co-facilitator of Amnesty International at Cornell University, emphasized that helping to solve the crisis requires understanding all of the complex factors that contribute to it.

“Without a deep understanding of the ways in which this genocide has come about, and the reasons for its persistence, we cannot properly address the Rohingya crisis,” she said. “We hope that by the end of this week members of this community are educated and equipped to take concrete steps within this movement to fight against the slow-burning genocide of the Rohingya.”