The Diplomat: A Digital Nation for the Stateless Rohingya?

On the first floor of an unassuming building on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, three wall clocks are set to the times of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Arakan, the former name for Rakhine state in west Myanmar.

It’s the hub of Rohingya Vision, a TV channel run by exiled Rohingya. Since 2012, the station has focused on the ongoing crisis in the Muslim minority’s Rakhine homelands. But in recent years the founders have increasingly turned their attention to the swelling ranks of Rohingya refugees. The newsroom now doubles as a base for a mission to unite and uplift the scattered diaspora.

Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya community leader who lives in Malaysia, is the driving forced behind the Rohingya Project. He explains that the goal is to find a solution for one of the biggest problems facing Rohingya refugees in their host countries — financial exclusion due to the absence of an officially-recognized identity.

“We want to produce a digital identity using blockchain that is incorruptible, far from centralization, and where nobody has the kill switch,” says Noor.

He is referring to the decades of persecution faced by the Muslim minority under successive governments in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which has denied the Rohingya’s long history in the country and in 1982 stripped them of their rights to citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless.