Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is under fire after posting tweets Saturday encouraging his followers to visit Myanmar without mentioning allegations of genocide and gang rape by its military against the Rohingya Muslim population — nearly a million of whom have been forced from the country.
The backlash began Saturday evening when Dorsey posted about his 10-day trip to the Myanmar town of Pyin Oo Lwin for a meditation retreat. In the thread, Dorsey wrote about how he had isolated himself from technology to “hack at the deepest layer of the mind and reprogram it” using an intense form of Buddhist meditation called Vipassana.
He went on to call the country beautiful, writing that “the people are full of joy and the food is amazing.” Toward the end of the thread, Dorsey encouraged his 4.12 million followers to try Vipassana for themselves, and even travel to Myanmar:
Many of his critics, however, noticed that in promoting the country, Dorsey failed to speak about the accusations of mass killings and war crimes reportedly carried out by the country’s military last year.
In August, a report from the United Nations called for Myanmar’s military leaders — including its commander in chief — to be investigated and prosecuted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The military is accused of atrocities such as raping women and killing children — driving out nearly a million Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh, creating a large refugee camp.
The report found “patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan state” that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” a statement announcing the report’s findings said.
The Myanmar military has denied claims of the atrocities, stating instead that they are responding to security challenges.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the military’s actions as “abhorrent ethnic cleansing” in August, adding that the United States would “continue to hold those responsible accountable.”
The United States has also imposed sanctions on three military commanders.
In response to Dorsey’s thread, John Stanton of BuzzFeed wrote, “It’s actually pretty on brand for @jack to promote going to a country where they’re committing genocide as some sort of low key meditation retreat.”
In response to another tweet in which Dorsey wrote that the people of Myanmar “are full of joy,” a user replied: “The people are so full of joy! I suppose you didn’t visit any of the hundreds of villages burnt by government forces or talk to any of the more than half million Rohingya forced to flee the country who are now living in overwhelmed refugee camps in Bangladesh? Meditate on THAT.”
Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for Human Rights Watch, wrote: “I’m no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you’re in a country where the military has committed mass killings & mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today’s biggest humanitarian disasters?”
Another user quoted Dorsey’s tweet that encouraged people to travel to Myanmar, writing: “@Jack is recommending Myanmar as a hip cool tourist destination at the same time as hundreds of thousands of members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been forced to flee the country (to Bangladesh & elsewhere) due to persecution, violence, rape, murder, & attempted genocide.”
Dorsey did not publicly comment on the criticism as of Sunday afternoon. A person who said they were familiar with Dorsey’s intentions told The Washington Post that Dorsey traveled to Myanmar because Vipassana — which has numerous adaptations — is practiced in its most traditional form only within the country.
Shibani Mahtani contributed to this report.