Iranian cleric urges diplomatic pressure on Myanmar over Rohingya crisis

Tasnim – Top Iranian cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi called on the country’s Foreign Ministry to adopt whatever diplomatic approaches it can to force the government of Myanmar to stop the persecution of Muslim people in the Buddhist-majority country.

In a meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour in the city of Qom, 150 kilometers south of Tehran, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi was briefed on the latest situation of the Myanmarese Muslims, hundreds of thousands of whom have crossed into Bangladesh since late August to escape the ongoing violence and military crackdown.

The top cleric said the Foreign Ministry should mobilize efforts and use the international potential to mount pressure on the Myanmar government and address the critical conditions that the Southeast Asian country’s Rohingya Muslims are facing.

He also pointed to the long history of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Buddhists, and stressed the need for dialogue between the clerics of the two religions to relieve tensions.

The deputy foreign minister, for his part, said Iran is closely monitoring the situation and would employ any initiative to help establish stability in Myanmar and support the Rohingya Muslims.

Iran has so far sent more than 160 tons of humanitarian aid for the Myanmarese Muslims. Iranian officials have also voiced readiness to construct emergency camps and field hospitals for the refugees on Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar.

The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have long faced severe discrimination and were the targets of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people from their homes to camps for the internally displaced.

Since the most recent round of violence erupted in late August, rights groups have documented fires burning in at least 10 areas of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. More than 480,000 people have fled the violence, with thousands trapped in a no-man’s land between the two countries, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

The UN has also said that hundreds of civilians who have tried to enter Bangladesh have been pushed back by patrols. Many have also been detained and forcibly returned to Myanmar.