Silence Surrounding the Rohingya

The lifeless body of a 16-month old Rohingya boy, Mohammed Shohayet, was found laying face down on the bank of River Naf at the Bangladesh-Burma border. Although reminiscent of the photograph of Kurdish-Syrian Alan Kurdi, neither this photograph nor the conflict in Burma have received nearly as much attention as the crisis in Syria. Of course, although coverage is important, it has not necessitated action in either conflict.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Burma (also known as Myanmar), mainly residing in the Rakhina State. While the conflict in Burma has not yet been declared a genocide, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) compiled a report last May on the early warning signs of genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide found evidence of a variety of key warning signs, including physical segregation of the population, restrictions on both marriages and births, constraints on movement, and physical violence. And since the release of this report, additional and increasing troubling information has continued to flow from the nation, with the most recent report by the United Nations documenting crimes against humanity. Media organizations have had limited access to the Rakhine state as the government continues its propaganda campaign, but recently leaked footage captured police officers attacking a group of Rohingya men. The government later arrested the officers and stated that the beating was an isolated incident, while claiming similar footage from the previous month was faked. As a result of the conflict, tens of thousands of Rohingya are displaced and have tried fleeing to neighboring countries on boats, only to be rejected.

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Remembering the Maspero Massacre Five Years Later

Last month marked the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Maspero Massacre. During the first Egyptian revolution, almost 10,000 Copts and allies gathered in Cairo to peacefully protest the demolition of a Coptic Church in Upper Egypt. The army responded to these protests and initial clashes resulted in the death of three soldiers. TV show host, Rasha Magdy, reported that Copts were attacking the army, and that “patriotic people” should take to the streets to protect the military from the “violent crowd of Copts”. Eyewitness accounts claim that alongside mobs, the Egyptian army and security forces used riot gear, batons, live ammunition and armored vehicles to attack the protesters. However, the extent of the involvement of the Egyptian army is still contested. These clashes resulted in nearly 30 deaths, mostly Copts, and almost 300 injuries, marking this incident as the Maspero Massacre. Five years later, only three soldiers were punished with a maximum sentence of three years, and the massacre is not even recognized as one, let alone commemorated.

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Rami Malek: Coptic-Egyptian? Arab? White?

Rami Malek recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama series for his role in Mr. Robot, designating him as the first “non-white” actor to win this award in 18 years. Malek was born in the US to Coptic Christian-Egyptian parents, meaning that his win is widely celebrated amongst Arab, Egyptian, Coptic, and American communities. This win highlights the fluidity and complexity of identity, and particularly sheds light on debates about Copts as Egyptians, Copts as Arabs, and Middle Easterners and North Africans as non-white.

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Student Spotlight: Miray Philips

This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the work of University of Minnesota students associated with the Center. Our first student Miray Philips, was recently awarded Bernard and Fern Badzin Fellow in Genocide and Holocaust Studies for the 2016-2017 Academic Year.

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Miray and Fern Badzin

Miray was born in Egypt, raised in Kuwait, and moved to Michigan to pursue a college education. She graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a BS in Psychology and Sociology. She then moved to Minnesota to begin her PhD in Sociology, with a focus on violence, collective memory, and the Middle East and North Africa. She
is broadly interested in the experiences of ethnic and religious minority groups within the Middle East and North Africa, specifically as it pertains to persecution, discrimination and violence.

Miray Philips’s current research is focused on understanding how the Coptic Christian community in Egypt and the diaspora makes sense of their present day experiences in light of a long history of suffering and persecution, and in turn how that history informs their present-day experiences. While Copts in Egypt face persecution and discrimination at the hands of the state and civil society, Copts in Kuwait are at the difficult intersection of being a religious minority and also expats. Copts in the US, however, experience relative
privilege in a predominantly Christian country. During the fellowship year she will be completing course work and interviewing Copts in Egypt, Kuwait and the US.