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Interfaith organisations and youth groups in Burma have expressed sadness at the news of a violent attack in the USA on Monday when a Ohio State University student drove his car into pedestrians on the campus and stabbed 11 people with a butcher’s knife before being shot dead by police.
Ahead of the vicious attack, Abdul Razak Ali Artan allegedly wrote on his Facebook page: ““Seeing my fellow Muslims being tortured, raped and killed in Burma has led to a boiling point … I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries. . . [if] you want us Muslims to stop carrying [out] lone wolf attacks.”
The 18-year-old Somali immigrant was apparently driven to rage by reports of atrocities against Burma’s ethnic Rohingya community, accusations the Burmese government say are unfounded.
Speaking to DVB today, Tin Zar Shun Lei Ji from Burma’s Youth Coalition, said, “I’m sad and frustrated hearing the news that he did it to innocent people around him.”
She said the incident raises the issue of mental health among youths, and highlights the need for greater awareness and assistance for those suffering.
“It’s natural that youths easily get emotional when they’re frustrated, but to react in a violent way while dealing with depression is no cure,” she said, pointing to the “dramatic US political situation” as one possible influencing factor.
Ko Shine, leader of the Interfaith Youth Movement in Burma, echoed the sentiments. “I am very sad to hear this news. A violent attack like this does not solve the problem and the real issues for the Rohingyas,” he said.
He called for the government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to allow freedom of movement to ethnic Rohingyas, commonly referred to by Burmese as “Bengalis”, and to stop committing abuses and denying them humanitarian aid.
Aye Lwin, co-founder of the All Religions Friendship Group, added his voice to the public condemnation of the attacks. “We denounce all kinds of violence which target innocent people,” he said. “Even if there might be some unfair conditions, there are many legitimate and civilised ways to address the cause.”
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, stated that they have received reports of serious human rights violations during security operations in northern Arakan since the attacks by Rohingya militants on border police outposts on 9 October.
She said, “The High Commissioner is alarmed by these [Burmese army] attacks, which include allegations of extrajudicial killings, mass destruction of civilian infrastructure, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence, as well as a renewed spike in hate speech, including on social media.”