ANKARA

Turkey’s deputy foreign minister called on the international community to speed up efforts for the safe return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

“We would like to facilitate the safe and dignified return of Rohingya Muslims to their homes in Myanmar on voluntary basis. With that in mind, the international community should add momentum to their efforts,” Yavuz Selim Kiran said on Thursday.

Speaking via video link at a conference, titled Sustaining Support for the Rohingya Refugee Response, Kiran said Rohingya people need help from all over the world, who have faced “one of the greatest tragedies in our era.”

“In the face of this humanitarian tragedy, it is of critical importance for the living conditions forced on Muslims in Arakan [Myanmar’s Rakhine state] to be improved,” he added.

Noting that the total amount of aid provided by Turkey over the last 8 years has reached $65 million along with over 8,000 houses, 1,200 temporary shelters, 36 schools and five training centers, Kiran said Turkey will continue providing support in 2021 with projects worth $6 million for the region.

He also appreciated the support by Bangladesh, which has taken up the responsibility of providing aid and shelter for over a million Rohingya refugees.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.”

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

The UN also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In its report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

* Writing by Dilan Pamuk in Ankara

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