Students march to raise awareness for Rohingya refugee crisis

The Muslim Student Association organizes march from North to South Campus


UB students and the local Muslim community gathered at Flint Loop on Friday to raise awareness of the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.

UB’s Muslim Student Association organized a march from North to South Campus to spread awareness of the region’s ongoing ethnic persecution. Upon arrival at South Campus, the crowd dispersed as some performed a traditional Muslim prayer called Maghrib. The event concluded in Harriman Hall with a speech from guest speaker and UB alumnus Pasha Syed. Syed spoke about the importance of urging the local community to step in and help ethnic minorities.

The Rohingya crisis is an ongoing mass migration of refugees fleeing from the state’s military. Multiple students referred to the crisis as a “genocide.”  They referenced the hundreds of people who die while trying to escape tensions between the local Muslim minority and the Buddhist majority within the Myanmarese government.

More than a quarter of a million Rohingya refugees have moved into Bangladesh in the last two weeks to flee what the United Nations has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," according to CNN. Refugees recalled accounts of their villages being burned, women raped and civilians killed in the crossfires of ‘clearance operations’ carried out by the Myanmar army. More than 8,000 refugees from Myanmar currently live in Buffalo, according to UBNow.

Mohammed Siddiqi, a junior psychology major and president of MSA explained why UB’s Muslim community felt they needed to come together and show their support for the Myanmar refugees.

“The crisis has been happening for years, but the media has been covering it for only the past two months. We wanted to show that we feel their pain,” Siddiqi said. “What if someone were to kick you out of your house and you had to walk for miles on end to find asylum somewhere where nobody is accepting you? We just wanted to take a fraction of it through our walk.”

The local community had varied responses to the march.

“We had some people honking at us to show their support, but we also got the opposite, we had a couple people give us like the finger and stuff like that,” said Hamza Aamir, junior psychology major and vice president of the MSA.

Aamir said the crowd responded to community members with waves and smiles to keep the march peaceful.

Students from Daemen College, Buffalo State College and Niagara University participated in the march alongside UB’s community.

Zahir Lewis, an assistant president at the Islamic accredited Universal School in Buffalo, believes the MSA march is what people in America can do to show their support to the refugees.

Lewis brought his two daughters to the event to show them what it feels like to be unified with people who believe in the same cause. He hopes they can learn how to help others in the future as well.

Before the march began, Siddiqi recalled MSA’s walk a year ago for the Syrian refugee crisis, dubbing Friday’s event as a throwback to last year.

“I hate to say it but there is always going to be an issue and it happened to come up right now,” Siddiqi said. “Today we walked for the Burmese crisis, and we’re gonna pray that nothing happens next year and we won’t have to walk again.”

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