Facts About Myanmar RefugeesMyanmar was previously known as Burma until the ruling junta changed the country’s name in 1989. It is an ethnically and religiously diverse country with a history of conflict and violence. This history has resulted in thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing and/or settling in Myanmar’s borders. Here are 10 facts about Myanmar refugees:

  1. According to The Border Consortium, a total of 108,407 refugees fleeing political upheaval, civil strife and economic stagnation in Myanmar were living in refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border as of April 2015.
  2. In addition to refugees, the IDMC estimates that there were up to 662,400 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Myanmar as of March 2015.
  3. The Rohingya Muslims are Myanmar’s largest group of stateless people and number 1.45 million as of 2014.
  4. The government does not recognize the Rohingya as a “national race” and has stripped them of their citizenship.
  5. Under the Rakhine State Action Plan that was drafted in October 2014, the Rohingya must demonstrate their family has lived in Myanmar for least 60 years to qualify for a lesser naturalized citizenship and the classification of Bengali, or they are put in detention camps and face deportation.
  6. Bangladesh struggles to accommodate the 29,000 Rohingya Muslims living as refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
  7. None of the countries harboring large refugee populations from Myanmar have signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Several countries changed their policies in order to cultivate better relations with the Myanmar government.
  8. As a result of not signing the Geneva Convention, refugees found outside refugee camps in Thailand are treated the same as illegal immigrants.
  9. Thai authorities have not allowed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to register more than a few refugees since 2006. Without registration, refugees cannot apply for resettlement or for most university scholarships abroad.
  10. Mae La is the largest refugee camp in Thailand. Established in 1984, the camp houses 50,000 refugees. Although over 90 percent of the refugees are Karen, Mae La is the most ethnically and religiously diverse camp along the Thai-Myanmar border. The Border Consortium—a union of 11 international NGOs that provide shelter, food and non-food items to Myanmar refugees—oversees and runs the camp.

While these 10 facts about Myanmar refugees are not an exhaustive list, they provide insight into how thousands of underprivileged people live in a system that seems to work against them.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Reuters

Facts about Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most influential black leader in American history. He spearheaded a nationwide effort to end legal segregation while working to enact such laws as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  His most famous speech continues to be a staple in American culture. Discussed below are five interesting facts about Martin Luther King Jr.


Top 5 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.


  1. King’s father was born Michael King, but changed his name in 1931 in reverence to the German theologian Martin Luther.
  2. After 12-year-old Martin learned that his grandmother had died from a heart attack in May 1941, he was so distraught that he jumped from a second story window of their house.
  3. Martin was almost assassinated before many of his famous civil rights accomplishments in the early 1960s. Izola Ware Curry approach Martin at a book signing for “Stride Towards Freedom.” After receiving confirmation that he was indeed Martin Luther King Jr. she exclaimed “I’ve been looking for you for five years” and stabbed Martin in the chest with a letter opener.  The blade pressed against his aorta and took several hours of careful surgery to remove.
  4. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35.  This made him the youngest male recipient of the prestigious award.  He donated the entire prize of $54,123 (now equivalent to $400,000) to the civil rights movement. Martin won dozens more awards for his work including the Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and a Grammy.  The Grammy was for Best Spoken Word Album, awarded in 1971 for King’s “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted by the FBI for being “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.”  Records of Martin taken by the FBI are held in the National Achieve but remain sealed from public access until 2027.

These facts about Martin Luther King Jr. provide but a glimpse into the life of a man whose work is still so vital to the progress of U.S. society and democracy.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Today I Found Out, Biography
Photo: WP

Too often we forget that America has not always enjoyed its position as a human rights watchdog. Only a few generations ago, Americans were legally segregated with women and African-Americans barred from the voting booth. And looking back a few more generations, America was engaged in one of the most devastating slave trades the world has ever known.

As a nation, we have come a long way since then. But that is no excuse for forgetting our history. Remembrance for that arduous journey and reverence for the great men and women who led the way is in order.

The year 2014 gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on the long road to freedom that Americans have endured.

One hundred fifty years ago, the city of Atlanta was ravaged in one of the final battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Atlanta sealed the fate for the war-torn South, and it paved the way for the important, yet only marginally successful Civil Rights Amendments: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Combined, those amendments to the U.S. Constitution made slavery illegal, guaranteed equal rights for all and made it unconstitutional to deny a voter on the basis of color.

Sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate did not mean equal. The ruling deemed segregation of schooling facilities to be unconstitutional.

The basis for the ruling was the 14th amendment, which was added to the Constitution nearly a decade prior to the decision. Progress for the human rights movement in America was by no means swift.

This month also marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, these laws were able to finally instantiate the ideals set forth in the 14th amendment.

But that was not the end for the human rights movement in America. True equality remains an elusive dream for the two aforementioned groups: women and African-Americans.

According to a 2012 Associated Press Poll, the majority of Americans — 51 percent — “now express explicit anti-black attitudes.”

Likewise, studies show that women earn somewhere between 77 and 84 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

Despite the great strides that we have made in the human rights movement, there is still much work to be done if we are to realize the full equality guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.

Even still, the progress that has yet to be made in America pales in comparison to the dismal condition of human rights globally.

Given our relative success in realizing human rights, and given our dominance on the global scale, America stands in a unique position where we can sacrifice a portion of our time and money to rectify human rights violations around the world.

If  a superpower like the U.S. had existed in the midst of our earlier struggles, a helping hand would have dramatically expedited our social development process.

Human rights are being advanced around the world, but at a relatively sluggish rate. America stands in a position to help move that process along, both with our bountiful resources and our invaluable knowledge of how to successfully lead a human rights movement.

We learned from the American human rights movement that progress takes time. It takes a monumental struggle. It requires trial and error. And more than anything else, it takes sacrifice.

– Sam Hillestad

Sources: US Courts, Historynet, SaportaReport, Stanford, Pew Research, USA Today
Photo: Civil Rights Teaching

Since the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel, to the nation of Israel in the 1980s, racism in Israel has been a pervasive part of life for many of these refugees. Israel was founded upon the old racist practices of European nations against the Jewish peoples. Spain expelled the Jews in the 15th century, Russia issued Pogroms that killed countless Jewish citizens, and Nazi Germany exterminated over six million Jews throughout Europe. The founding of the nation in the 1950s finally gave the Jewish people a homeland where they could escape the persecution that dotted their troubled history.

Ethiopian Jews have not received the same experience as their European Jewish counterparts. The idea is not alien to the Israeli people. The Jerusalem Post released a report where over 95 % of the populace believe at least one population group in Israel is subject to some form of racism. The Ethiopian populace has been the most drastically affected, with over 79% of those surveyed replying “that Ethiopians suffered from racist attitudes.” What exactly is happening to Ethiopian-Israelis?

Jobs discrimination has become a pervasive problem. Unemployment amongst “Ethiopian men in Israel ranges from 27% to 66%.” Jobs are typically not given to Ethiopians, as many employers refuse to give them jobs. This has created a dire situation for the community as whole, with over 72% of the 100,000 Ethiopian residents living “under the poverty line.” The communities where Ethiopians live are also noted for their poor schooling, with illiteracy remaining high amongst the populace.

The Brookdale Institute of the Joint Distribution Committee released damning information about the education system that has failed many Ethiopian youths, detailing that the “school dropout rate among Ethiopian immigrants is double what it is among the general Israeli population.” This lack of educational opportunity has allowed inequalities between Ethiopians and their European Israeli counterparts to continue, and has created an economic gap that may not be easily combated. This is a sad reality, as many of these Ethiopians came to Israel to escape the hardships that plagued Ethiopia in the late 1980s, particularly poverty, famine and a politically unstable society.

Racism in itself has grown out of general unsupported fears about Africans. The Health Ministry in Israel has directives that prevent them from receiving Ethiopian blood donations out of “fear of spreading HIV.” The directive does not just prevent the common Ethiopian populace from donating blood; Knesset, or the Israeli Parliament, Member Pnina Tamano-Shata was barred from donating blood as well. The reason she was given was that she has the “special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood.” It was a stark reminder that Israel does not readily accept Ethiopians, and many of their beliefs about Ethiopians are based on racist ideologies about Africans.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: Jerusalem Post, YNET News
Photo: SodaHead

Last week a post on a National Front party candidate’s Facebook page compared France’s black justice minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey.  The post included a picture of Taubira next to a picture of a dressed-up baby monkey.  More racist posts followed, and a right-wing newspaper ran the headline “Clever as a Monkey.” All sides of the political spectrum condemned the post and the candidate who posted the photo was suspended, but it sparked a discussion over the way in which France deals with racism.

Taurbira told the Liberation newspaper that the attacks are “violent” and shocking.  Even more disturbing is the lack of response from the government or the public.  There have been no major protests or demonstrations in response to these incidents, but intellectuals are speaking out to prevent further inappropriate remarks.

Historian Pap N’Diaye told CNN racism is on the rise in France.  He says while slurs used to be uncommon they are becoming accepted in many circles.  Jeremie Mani, CEO of Netino, a company that monitors Internet forums and social media posts, says racist remarks are a common occurrence.

The National Commission for the Rights of Man was ordered by the French parliament to monitor racism in France. It puublished a report citing a 23% increase in racist incidents, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism this past year.

Some social scientists are examining the link between racism and the strict immigration laws proposed by the far-right.  Though the National Front party denies any connection between racism and anti-immigration, the party was barred from political debate in the past for being too extreme.  The National Front party insists their immigration policies are strictly economic, not racist.

France’s motto of equality is supposed to create an open and accepting environment, but in recent years it seems to have only made discourse on racism and cultural differences more difficult.  Justine Marous, a French-American of African heritage told The New Yorker, the French “have a hard time with difference, people who maintain customs, dress, or religion that makes them appear different.  And, in the case of black people, we are conspicuously different no matter how French we feel.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: CNN, NBC News, New Yorker

With the abolishment of apartheid came new possibilities: for black and white South Africans to coexist bearing the same rights and allowed the same opportunities. However, 19 years later, racism in South Africa still segregates socially and economically, hindering the opportunities for many to escape the burdening shadow of the apartheid.

During the apartheid, whites were given a systematic advantage; they were the only ones allowed to vote; allowed a higher standard of living with the segregation of schools, hospitals, housing and leisure facilities; they also benefited from having the most skilled jobs reserved for them.

This dramatic disconnect between blacks and whites created a social divide that still exists today, 19 years later. This social divide contributes to inequalities, unemployment and pockets of deep poverty suffered by many black South Africans, the majority of which reside in rural areas. Because of the strong correlations between race and rural location, and rural location and high levels of poverty, this leaves black South Africans in rural areas at a disadvantage to obtain the same education and job opportunities.

Although the income differences have narrowed in recent years, a large income disparity still exists between the two groups, with black South Africans making $65,000 less, on average, than white South Africans.

Isolation may also be a contributing factor to the racial attitudes expressed by South Africans. Socially, South Africans still harbor racial differences. An annual survey by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) revealed that 43.5% of South Africans rarely or never speak to someone of another race.

Class and racial disparities that are present today impede development efforts for the nation as a whole. South Africa isn’t able to truly escape the effects of the apartheid with the racism that lingers in the country.

– Maris Brummel

Sources: BBC, UNRISD, The Guardian
Photo: WordPress