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Conflicts in the Middle and Far East

Kurdistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, & Palestine

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There are three, long-term conflicts in this area of the world. The first two, Kirdistan and Kashmir, could be settled very quickly by plebiscites of the people involved. Unfortunately, the political will does not exist in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and India to take this path. The third clash, involving the future of Palestine, is much more intractable. There appear to be no feasible solutions possible at this time that are acceptable to more than a minority of Palestinians and Israelis.

In recent years, conflicts and violence in Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) has been escalating between Buddhists and Muslims.

Sources of instability in the Middle East and Far East:

bulletKurdistan: This is a non-existent country which would be the homeland of the Kurds. They are a fiercely independent people who occupy what is now parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. At this time, none of these three countries appear willing to grant the Kurds their own homeland. There is no real provision in international law by which a people can obtain autonomy or independence. If there were, then the Kurds could create a new country of Kurdistan and live in peace. There is a significant religious component to this conflict. Even though the vast majority of Kurds, Turks, Iraquis and Iranians are Muslims, they come from two traditions within Islam: Shiite and Sunni. Currently, a low-level conflict continues and will probably continue indefinitely into the future.
bulletKashmir: This is an area claimed by both Pakistan and India. Several wars have been fought over this land since India was divided along religious lines (Hindu and Muslim) shortly after World War II. Three UN resolutions have called for a plebiscite to decide whether Kashmir should join India or Pakistan. Although this solution was originally agreed to by both countries, India has since reneged on the arrangement. Kashmir is currently divided by a line of control into a southern region controlled by India and a northern area under the rule of Pakistan. Any next war may well involve massive loss of life, as both countries have densely populated urban areas and each now has a few dozen nuclear bombs with crude delivery mechanisms. A new complexity has emerged recently: there is a substantial interest by the people of Kashmir for independence from both India and Pakistan. Again, no possibility of a resolution to this problem appears possible.

Myanmar: This country, often referred to by its earlier name, Burma, is located to the East of India and is west of Indonesia. Until recently it was a dictatorship ruled by an oppressive military junta. President Thein Sein has been widely praised for recently introducing major democratic reforms in the country. It remains one of the most ethnically divided countries in Asia.

Violence broke out during mid-2012 in Rakhine state in the western part of Myanmar between ethnic Rakhine, who are primarly Buddhist, and the Rohingya who are primarily Muslim. The United Nations consisders the Rohingya to be one of the most persecuted minorities on Earth.

In late 2012-OCT, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "The vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric must be stopped.If this is not done .. the reform and opening up process being currently pursued by the government is likely to be jeopardised. "

The estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country are stateless. The Myanmar goverment regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh; they are denied citizenship.

Since the violence began, hundreds have died, and many tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled their homes and taken up residents in camps. The Free Rohingya Campaign (FRC) reported on 2012-OCT-28 that:

"... 50-100 boats full of Muslims escaping mid-Rakhine State violence remain afloat at sea, some for 4 days and with women and infant passengers that have already died. These boats have been denied awaiting UN and INGO relief and refuge and pushed out to sea by national military and border security, despite President Thein Sein’s assurances otherwise. Other Muslim boats have been attacked with no reported survivors when attempting to come ashore in near Taung bro, Northern Maungdaw Township." 5

We are unable to verify the accuracy of this statement.

bulletPalestine: In 1948, the UN created the state of Israel. 1 Surrounding Arab countries were furious, as were the Muslim inhabitants of what is now Israel. Fighting broke out, and some 750,000 Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes by the ongoing hostilities, some leaving before war had even been officially declared.

Governments of the surrounding countries, and the rest of the world were unwilling to take in the resultant refugees, forcing them to occupy what have become long-term camps. Two major wars later, Israel had expanded its borders to include Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. the West Bank). This incorporates much of the ancient country of Canaan, which religious Jews believe that God gave to them. Meanwhile, most fundamentalist Muslims believe that Allah intends the entire Middle East to be Muslim. Thus began a decades-long presence in Palestinian lands by the Israeli army. The Palestinians call it an occupation; the Israelis call it a disputed territory and occasionally occupied lands. Although a trading of land for peace has worked successfully in other cases -- notably Egypt -- it has proven to be an elusive goal between the Palestinians and Israelis. 

The Palestine National Authority -- a quasi-governmental agency in the West Bank and Gaza 2 --  planned Infitada II, a popular uprising, to start in the fall of 2000. A visit by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was considered a provocative act by the Palestinians and used to trigger their uprising. Infitada II is often portrayed in the media as a two-sided conflict between Palestinians and Israelis; between Muslims and Jews. That may be overly simplistic. On the Palestinian side, there are many groups, each with a different agenda. Their goals range from exterminating every Jew in Israel, to coexisting with Israel. On the Israeli side, there are at least three politically powerful groups: the settlers who are illegally living in Palestinian land, small religious political parties which have traditionally held the balance of power in the government, and secular Israelis who are in the majority. With perhaps a half dozen different groups involved in the conflict, resolution has proven impossible.

Almost a decade later, not much has changed. The actors have changed. Some Palestinians have launched rockets into Israeli villages, the Israeli army invaded the Gaza Strip. Both Palestinians and Israelis have been accused by various groups -- including the UN, of crimes against humanity.

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  1. The Israeli Government's official website, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is at: http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp
  2. The Palestinian National Authority has an official web site at: http://www.pna.gov.ps/
  3. "Over 100 died as communal violence rocks Myanmar," Bangkok Post, 2012-OCT-26, at: http://www.bangkokpost.com/
  4. Hanna Hindstrom, "Monk group calls on locals to target ‘Rohingya sympathisers’," Democrativ Voice of Burma, 2012-OCT-26, at: http://www.dvb.no/
  5. "Press Release," Free Rohingya Campaign, 2012-OCT-28, at: http://www.rohingyablogger.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Religious violence > Worldwide > here

Newsroom report copyright © 2000 by Worldwide Newsroom, Inc. Used by permission.
Other text copyright © 2000 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2000-OCT-12
Latest update: 2012-OCT-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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