September 19, 2019
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Two years since exodus, Rohingyas embrace hardships for safety in Bangladesh

By Azad Majumder

Kutupalang, Bangladesh, Aug 25 (efe-epa).– Samira Begum and her husband Mohammad Ayub had everything that a middle-class family could expect in rural Myanmar - about three acres of farming land and a house for living.

But then they had to leave everything behind to stay alive and escape Myanmar military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslim community in northern Rakhine state of the country.

That was on Aug. 25, 2017, when the campaign, which the United Nations says had signs genocide, was launched in retaliation for a series of attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group- an offensive that forced some 740,000 members of the community to flee to Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees have alleged gang rapes, massacres and brutal repression at the hands of Myanmar soldiers. The Rohingya Muslims demand that they be given citizenship in Myanmar, promises of safety, and legal rights to the land they left behind when they fled.

The Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, making them effectively stateless.

Samira, then heavily pregnant, found a shelter in a small shack in Bangladesh’s Kutupalang refugee camp. The one-room house is now shared by five members of her family.

She thought she was lucky when she gave birth to Masheka Bibi, the youngest of her three children, two months later in the camp. It was a normal delivery with no complications.

But Samira, 35, soon realized that her daughter had developed a skin disease in the congested camp. The mother and the infant battled with the disease for about a year and half.

“We were living well in Myanmar. But now we lost everything,” said Samira.

The family receives 27 kg rice along with some split pulses and cooking oil from aid agencies every 15 days, which Samira said was helping them to survive but they have little options to meet their other needs.

To support the family, Samira said her husband Ayub sometimes works as a cleaner in the camp.

Mohammad Harun, an 11-year old boy, who lives in a nearby shelter with his mother and five siblings, said they sell the share of their aid if they wish to eat some other foodstuff someday.

“My father died in Myanmar, so we don’t have anyone to earn. If we want to eat fish or vegetable my mother sells some rice from our share,” he said.

UN children agency UNICEF last week said that frustration is growing among young Rohingyas as at least 25,000 children are not attending any learning programs while there is no formal education available for boys and girls aged over 15.

International charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders warned of other challenges.

“Living in a camp means that they are overcrowded and in quite unhygienic condition…which increases the risk of infectious diseases,” said MSF spokesperson Diana Corben.

“We see a lot of diarrhea cases with the rain, and we also see many respiratory tract infections. Because of the close proximity people live in, it’s very easy to have an infection from one person to another,” she said.

“You obviously see skin and soft tissue infections and obviously any type of infection that could be prevented with vaccination, diphtheria for example, because they are quite contagious,” she added.

Rohingya leader Mohammad Mohibullah said it was a difficult life that the community cannot bear for a very long period.

“Life of Rohingyas in this place is very difficult. Even though we are getting three kinds of food – rice, dal and oil, it did not maintain nutritional balance,” Mohibullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told EFE.

“We are getting and taking this to survive in this difficult condition. Our shelter is (made) with bamboo and tarpaulin,” he said, adding when it rains, water pours in and when it is too sunny and hot, it is scorching inside.

The only way out of this “difficult life”, Mohibullah said, is returning to Myanmar.

“Rohingyas are willing to go back as quickly as possible. As soon as Myanmar government accepts our demands it will not take more than six months for all of us to leave,” said the Rohingya leader.

Two attempts to start the repatriation by the Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities in November 2018 and earlier this week, failed as no Rohingya voluntarily agreed to return.

The Rohingya Muslim refugees demand that they be recognized as Myanmar citizens, their rights assured and safety guaranteed before they return home. Till then, they say, they feel safer than they going back to Myanmar despite grave hardships in the refugee camps.

Rohingya man Nur Alam, 50, whose four children went missing when the crisis started, said he would wait here until his death rather than going back to Myanmar in the present situation.

“If I go back, there is no guarantee I will get a burial when I will die. Here I can at least get this,” said Alam.

Mia Seppo, the UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said it was a shared global responsibility to continue humanitarian support of these Rohingya people as long it takes them to stay in Bangladesh.

“I think it’s important when you think of that global engagement, that the world cannot forget why these people crossed the border, why they have to seek safety in Bangladesh,” Seppo told EFE in an interview.

“I think it’s also important to keep in mind the principle of global burden sharing…it’s a shared responsibility of the international community together with all the partners in Bangladesh to support the Rohingyas,” she said.

Seppo said a joint appeal for $920 million to support the Rohingyas in 2019 has far met only 36 percent of the demand.

“We are not there yet but we hope the support will be coming from our partners and we will get much higher response rate by the end of the year…The attention is certainly there and hopefully the attention will stay on this crisis until there are some solutions in sight,” she said. EFE-EPA


Related content

Rohingya refugees mark ‘Genocide Day’, seek rights in Myanmar

Dhaka, Aug 25 (efe-epa).– Thousands of Rohingya refugees held protest rally on Sunday, marking the “Genocide Day” on the second anniversary of a Myanmar military offensive that forced nearly 738,000 members of the Muslim minority community to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

The Rohingya congregated at the massive Kutupalong refugee camp, located in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, carrying different banners and placards that sought dialog with Myanmar authorities before they return home.

The placards referred the anniversary of the start of Rohingya crisis and few of them read “Going Home Campaign; talk to us”, “Talk to us about rights, Talk to us about citizenship and Rohingya ethnicity”, “Talk to us about security.”

The second anniversary of Rohingya crisis came in less than week after a fresh move by Bangladesh and Mynnmar authorities to start their repatriation faltered as no Rohingya agreed to return.

A similar move failed earlier in November last year as the refugees refused to return home unless their rights were assured.

“We would like to go back home with our rights as citizen, our safety and security and in our original land. We want a dialogue with Myanmar government about our rights,” Mohammad Jubair, a leader of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told EFE after Sunday’s rally.

The rally ended with special prayers for the victims of offensive.

Bangladesh police said the rally at Camp-4 near Madhucharara, which was attended by about 100,000 Rohingyas, ended peacefully.

“Rohingyas held several rallies in several places of Kutupalang and Teknaf today. About 100,000 Rohingyas joined in the biggest one in Camp-4,” said Nurul Islam Majumder, an officer at a police station in Ukhya sub-district of Cox's Bazar.

“It ended peacefully. We have deployed enough forces to prevent any untoward incident,” he added.

On August 25, 2017, Myanmar military launched a campaign against Rohingyas after insurgents of the rebel group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked multiple security posts, forcing the minority Muslim group to flee in neighboring Bangladesh.

The refugees have been living in poor conditions in the world's biggest refugee camp in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district.

Another 125,000 Rohingyas live in the western Rakhine state in conditions of segregation as internally displaced persons, after episodes of sectarian violence that started in 2012.

Myanmar classifies Rohingyas as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, denying them citizenship and imposing a number of restrictions, including limits on their freedom of movement. EFE


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