Three female Nobel Peace laureates began a weeklong trip to Bangladesh on Saturday to meet Rohingya Muslim women who were tortured and raped by soldiers in Myanmar before fleeing the country. During their visit, Iran's Shirin Ebadi, Yemen's Tawakkol Karman, and Northern Ireland's Mairead Maguire will assess the violence against the Rohingya women and the refugees' overall situation, according to the Nobel Women's Initiative, a platform of six female peace laureates established in 2006. One irony: A key figure being blamed for the plight of the Rohingya refugees is a Nobel laureate herself, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled army-led violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar since late August and are living in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
Myanmar's security forces have been accused of atrocities against the Rohingya, including killing, rape, and arson. The United Nations and the United States have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing." Sunday is the six-month anniversary of the start of the refugee crisis, Asia's worst since the Vietnam War. In an email to the AP on Saturday, Karman said that she and her colleagues were standing "in solidarity with displaced Rohingya women and calling for Rohingya women's voices to be heard." She said Rohingya women are twice victimized—for being Rohingya and for being women—and "are affected by the ethnic cleansing and are also subject to high levels of sexual and gender-based violence."