By Ayub Khan, TMO
Editorâ€™s note: The following is the beginning of a study on worldwide Muslim refugees. This is the first report, on internally displaced Muslim refugees.
When we talk about refugees we tend to focus mainly on those who have been forced out of their countries. But there is another category of refugees whose suffering is obfuscated as they are internally displaced. Their condition is similar to that of other refugees and according to latest data their numbers are increasing. A new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Centre (IDMC) found that in 2012, around 28.8 million people were internally displacement—the highest figure ever recorded by the organization. Even more alarmingly 6.5 million people were newly displaced, almost twice as many as the 3.5 million during 2011.
The increase in numbers was a result of the conflict in the several countries in Africa and the Middle East. The conflict in Syria alone was responsible for 2.4 million. This was a fivefold increase than the previous year.
In Myanmar an estimated 166,000 Rohingya Muslims were displaced in 2012. Their numbers continue to rise by the day. In the mainly Muslim Mindanao region of Philippines at least 178,000 people have fled as result of clashes between government forces and non-state armed groups. In India around 500,000 people were displaced in the north-eastern state of Assam due to clashes between the Bodo tribes and the Muslims. In addition, thousands of Muslims were displaced due to the Gujarat riots in 2002. How many of them continue to remain as IDPs is anyoneâ€™s guess but all available information shows that not many have been able to return to their original homes.
In Sri Lanka many Northern Muslims IDPs continue to live their places of displacement despite having been registered by the government to have returned to their original homes. Similarly, thousands of Malay Muslims have been displaced in Thailand as a result of conflict between the insurgents and the government.
Elsewhere in the world as well there has been an increase in the Muslim IDPs. Many a times, as is obviously the case in Syria, people have been forced into becoming IDPs due to the actions of fellow Muslims. So for example, the increased violence perpetrated by the radical group Boko Haram in Nigeria has resulted in the displacement of thousands of Muslims. In Pakistanâ€™s federally administered tribal Areas at least 412,000 people had fled due to fighting between governments and NSAGs. In East Java in Indonesia around 165 Shiah Muslims were driven from their homes by armed mobs. They have reportedly asked to convert to Sunni Islam or relocate. They continue to live in a sports centre.