‘It is like living in an open-air prison’: Life inside the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

Muhammad, 30, has been a refugee in Bangladesh since 1992. He traveled to the South Asian country from Myanmar (formerly Burma) with his parents, brother, and sister.

He said: “We left Myanmar due to the persecution by the Buddhist government and military. There were restrictions on marriage, education and also, Rohingya people were wrongly imprisoned. We were beaten and had to carry out forced labor.

“My father was abducted several times; he was a businessman who sold fruit at the local market. One day he was injured, the doctor saw to his injury and bandaged him, that night the military came to our home at midnight and threatened to shoot us if we didn’t open the door.

“They entered our home and threatened to kill my father with a knife and tied him up. They took him and many other villagers to the forest where he was forced to cut trees even though his hand was wounded.

“I was a child when we escaped from Myanmar to Bangladesh and have lived at the refugee camp for the past 28 years.

“When we arrived in Bangladesh, there were no schools set up so my siblings and I studied privately, which was how we learned the English language. I eventually became a teacher myself.

“In the refugee camp, different people do different things to pass the time. I wake up in the morning and have breakfast and go to school. After teaching I come home to spend time with my family and go shopping at the local market. In the evening I have a meal and hold private classes for students.

“We don’t live in a proper house, the roof is tarpaulin so it’s extremely hot and hard to sleep at summertime, and during the monsoon season, water comes into our shelter. Due to cyclones happening almost every year our homes are destroyed. We have to rebuild structures ourselves.

“It is like living in an open-air prison for us as we aren’t allowed to go out of the camp to the nearby town so life is difficult, the rations we get are not enough as we receive only 700 taka (£6) a month.”

The Rohingya are a race and a minority in Myanmar, their forefathers lived in Myanmar peacefully but since 1948 the predominantly Buddhist country claimed that the Rohingya were not from Myanmar so they shouldn’t be allowed to live there.

Ever since, they have been killing Rohingya and forcing them out to other countries including India, Thailand, and Malaysia. Recently, nearly a million of them were expelled from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The ethnic genocide has taken place as the Rohingya are different in appearance, culture, and religion from the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar.

Muhammad added: “There has been silent killing going on since 1948, in 2017 for example, more than 740,000 Rohingya were expelled, thousands of people were killed, many men and women were raped. Impregnated women would give birth in the camps. The genocide has been recognized by many countries including Canada.”

In a welcome turn of events, since the military coup in February, the anti-military movement in Myanmar has called for a return to democracy and is calling for ethnic minority rights.

In a startling development, social media in the country has been inundated with support for the Rohingya with #Black4Rohingya. The three-finger salute which is trending has come to signify solidarity with ‘the world’s most persecuted minority.’

(This story has not been edited by CME and is published from Asian Image)

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