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Rohingya,Muslim ethnic, cultural, and linguistic group living primarily in Rakhine State, W Myanmar. A minority of some 1.5 million in a country that is predominantly Buddhist, they speak a language related to that spoken around Chittagong, Bangladesh, which was under Arakanese (Rakhine) rule for long periods of time from the 9th to 17th cent. There have been Muslims living in the coastal state since the 15th cent., when the region was an independent Arakanese kingdom. Significant Muslim immigration later occurred after the British won control of the Rakhine area in 1826, and ruled it as part of British India. After Myanmar's independence from Britain in 1948, the Rohingya were not considered one of the ethnicities eligible for citizenship, but many initially obtained identity cards and some acquired citizenship. After the 1962 military coup they were given only foreign identity cards, and in 1982 a new citizenship law again failed to recognize the Rohingya as one of the country's many ethnic groups, rendering them virtually stateless.
In the late 20th and early 21st cent., the Rohingya have been subject to recurring persecution in Myanmar. Discouraged from practising their religion and subject to severe restrictions on education, employment, marriage, and freedom of movement, they have often been the target of Myanmar's security forces. A Rohingya insurgent attack on police in 2016 led to a crackdown in N Rakhine in which the military were accused of committing atrocities. New insurgent attacks in 2017 sparked attacks on Rohingyas by the military and Buddhist mobs. Rohingya villages were burned, and some 7,000 Rohingyas were believed to have been killed. Some 700,000 fled to Bangladesh, joining the 300,000 already there; another 125,000 were forced into camps in Rakhine. A United Nations report later accused Myanmar of genocide. An international agreement called for repatriating the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar begining in 2018, but little progress has been made. In 2020 Bangladesh begin holding some of the refugees on the formerly uninhabited, low-lying island of Bhasan Char, where it had built facilties.