may well be the Rohingya people of Rakhine State in western Burma (the country also known as Myanmar).
Photograph by: Saurabh Das / Associated Press in the Los Angeles Times at http://framework.latimes.com/2012/06/19/pictures-in-the-news-451/#/0 accessed 16 August 2012
Source: Picture is a composite of a Google Maps image and the map of Rakhine State at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Rakhine_State_in_Myanmar.svg accessed 16 August 2012.
The BBC sums up their plight quite succinctly in an article titled "Bangladesh accused of 'crackdown' on Rohingya refugees":
They are among the world's least wanted and most persecuted people - Burma denies them citizenship and refuses to let them own land.
It does not allow them to travel or even marry without first seeking permission.
And they are not welcome in Bangladesh either, where at least 200,000 now live as illegal immigrants, without rights to employment, health care or education.
and you can read more BBC coverage at "Burmese exiles in desperate conditions".
Amnesty International has developed a report, "Myanmar: The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental rights denied", although since it dates from 2004, it is out of date with recent developments--such as the ongoing violence in their home state in Burma, or Bangladesh's refusal to permit philanthropic organizations to help the refugees who have fled to their country.
Still, it gives a good general overview of the problem, grounding it in its historical, political, and sociocultural roots.
This document reports on the situation of the Rohingyas, a muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar who are subjected to multiple restrictions and human rights violations - among them, restriction of mov[e]ment, forced labour, forced eviction and land confiscation and various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation.
Most people in the United States have never heard of the Rohingya people, so if you haven't heard of them before now, you're certainly not alone.
They certainly are hated, though: many Burmese Buddhists claim the Rohingya are not Burmese at all, but rather are Bangladeshi intruders in Burma; Bangladesh, on the other hand, does not want to accept them, either.
Meanwhile, the violence and a multitude of other affronts continue to happen.
Some sobbed quietly while others pleaded and raised their arms to heaven. Their children looked on with glassy stares, utterly exhausted after days at sea in an open boat. Soon they would be on the water again, escorted by a Bangladeshi coast guard vessel and pushed back into the waters of Burma where they knew violence still raged.
"The Mogh [ethnic Rakhine people of Burma] slaughtered my brothers. They will kill us all … please help us!" screamed a woman carrying a baby only a few months old, before she was hustled away by border guards.
The sectarian violence in Burma that has sent boatloads of refugees fleeing to Bangladesh in recent weeks – and being firmly pushed back – has once again turned the spotlight on the plight of Burma's Rohingya minority.
There is no place the Rohingya people can call home. Burma passed a law in 1982 – criticised as discriminatory by human rights groups – that effectively rendered them stateless. Waves of ethnic violence since 1991, some of it state-sponsored, have pushed more than 250,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh, where they live in squalid, makeshift camps with little or no access to healthcare or education. --The Guardian, "Burma's Rohingya refugees find little respite in Bangladesh" accessed 16 August 2012
Source: "Nozir Hossain shows the scar he received while trying to protect himself on the day his sons were killed." Photograph: Syed Zain Al-Mahmood for the Guardian. At http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Environment/Pix/columnists/2012/6/26/1340709910115/MDG--Burma-008.jpg accessed 16 August 2012
The situation is all very sad and distressing, but what does it have to do with massage?
This: massage practitioners are currently engaged in passionate debates over the future of massage, as well as over its very nature.
Is massage a personal service, or is it self-expression, or is it a business, or is it a healthcare profession?
If it's a personal service or self-expression or business, then that's one thing--personal services carry no fiduciary duties of equality of access.
But if massage truly aspires to become a healthcare profession, then questions of human rights and accessibility lie at the very core of the discussion. We need to figure out where we stand on these questions, and why.
There is talk in the air that Rohingya refugees will be resettled here in Seattle, but no groups have arrived yet, and as far as I've been able to find out, plans seem still to be up in the air.
This, then--if massage is truly becoming a healthcare profession--would be the perfect time to plan a program in advance, to extend access to massage to this group of traumatized refugees, rejected by other groups from their homeland, who are undergoing the stress from the massive adjustment from refugee camps to modern US society, as well as the aftereffects of the trauma to which they have borne witness.
What do you think we can do for people in this situation? What should we do? What will it take on our part?