The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: A Brief History – Muntaqa Zaman

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority of Muslims native to Myanmar, originally from the northwestern region known as the Rakhine state. The crisis refers to the persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar government and their forced mass exodus to the neighboring country of Bangladesh since 2015. This conflict is not recent, however, and here we examine a brief historical account of tensions between the Rohingya and the Myanmar government.

Religious and cultural tension traces back to colonial times during the British rule of Myanmar (Myanmar was formerly known as Burma) through the second world war. During World War II, the Muslim minority supported the British while the Buddhist majority initially supported Japan, leading the Rakhine region to be at the forefront of conflict between Japanese troops and the allied forces (Hunt). Conflict continued after Myanmar’s independence in 1948 from Britain in a post-colonial world. As land was distributed back to it’s people, the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state demanded “equal rights and an autonomous area” (Hunt). The “rebellion” as the Myanmar government framed it was dealt with, but the persecution did not end. The government does not recognize the nativity and rights of the Rohingya in their homeland of Myanmar and “claims they were brought to Rakhine from Bangladesh during the time when Myanmar was a British colony, and they are living in Myanmar illegally” (Gibbens). The Rohingya people, however, have been in the region for over a century.

The crisis continues to be one of the worst in modern history, and the Roningya have been dubbed the “world’s most persecuted minority” (Rohingya Refugee Crisis). As we continue throughout the semester, I hope to analyze the variety of factors contributing to and exacerbating the crisis, as well as what humanitarian action has been taken in the region and what more can be done.


Gibbens, Sarah. “Myanmar’s Rohingya Are in Crisis-What You Need to Know.” Myanmar’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained, 29 Sept. 2017,

Hays, Jeffrey. “BRITISH RULE OF BURMA.” Facts and Details,

Hunt, Katie. “Rohingya Crisis: How We Got Here.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 Nov. 2017,

“Rohingya Refugee Crisis.” OCHA, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 18 Apr. 2019,

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