an autodidact meets a dilettante…

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

on the Rohingyas, and introducing the first of many heroes, Wai Wai Nu

leave a comment »

Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya woman, a feminist, a democrat, and a humanist, working to bring communities together in the Arakan region, Myanmar

I haven’t posted for a bit, as I was writing a lengthy piece on the Rohingyas, their history and their plight, but I’ve decided to abandon that as there are many others, investigative journalists, historians and the like, who could do a far better job. Of course the main purpose of my writing is to inform myself, but I soon found, with this Rohingya business, it’s the same old story of ‘they don’t belong here’ ultranationalists, and the political expediency of national leaders who need the support of these types, together with the carping of neighbours who have their own nationalist agendas and sordid histories.

So I want to be more brief and positive, and of course feminist (though I’ll leave references to the more interesting analyses I’ve read about the situation), and write about one heroine who has been inspired by her experiences to do something about this.

I’m thinking this could be the first of many posts about women setting great examples in the world.

Wai Wai Nu is a young Rohingya woman who, as an 18-year-old law student, was imprisoned, along with other family members, by the military dictators of Myanmar in 2005, at a time when thousands of people were locked up for opposing the junta, or indeed for any trivial reason. She was sentenced to 17 years, but was finally released in 2012. She was then able to complete her law degree, but she has described her years of incarceration in an infamous prison as her true university years, years spent among the victimised poor. Having said that, she comes from a political, pro-democratic family, her father having been elected to parliament in 1990, an odd fact considering that a citizenship law of 1982 rendered the Rohingyas officially stateless, which they’ve been ever since – and other laws enacted since have denied them every right that they might possibly be entitled to, including even the right to call themselves Rohingyas.

In recent years Wai Wai has founded two NGOs promoting peace and women’s rights, the Women’s Peace Network – Arakan, and Justice for Women, a legal aid support group for women in Myanmar. Her work is the kind of work women have done for decades at the coal-face, educating the next generation, promoting inter-faith dialogue, empowering women and the poor, and bringing disparate communities together, while being mocked or ignored by bully-boy nationalists with their generally sickening and infantile agendas (but ok, I’m beginning to sound like a bully boy myself…). I would highly recommend listening to this softly spoken but determined woman’s speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway in May this year.

Rohingyas in Arakan aren’t allowed an identity, and have no freedom of movement outside of Arakan province. They’re not even allowed to marry outside their own group, as that would obviously complicate matters re their extinction within Myanmar. The current aim of the national government appears to be to force them out of the country altogether, but this is as unlikely to be successful as the attempt to assimilate (and so dilute to the point of non-existence) Australia’s indigenous population by earlier governments here. So it will be a long struggle, but with people like Wai Wai Nu doing the kind of work she does, and the ongoing struggles and activities of those she has inspired, we have good reason to hope for a fairer future for the Rohingyas, and for women throughout Myanmar. And here’s hoping Wai Wai Nu doesn’t enter politics, where her talents are likely to be compromised… or maybe not…


Written by stewart henderson

September 17, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: