With the recent coup by the military in Myanmar, a Rohingya family have spoken regarding their experience of atrocities carried out by the country’s military and about life in a refugee camp.
With the recent coup by the military in Myanmar a Rohingya family have spoken regarding their experience of atrocities carried out by the country’s military and about life in a refugee camp.
Sirazul Islam, 21, was born in a camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh and lived there till the age of eight before coming to the UK. He currently lives with his family in Bradford.
The world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s bazaar in Bangladesh is home to one million Muslim Rohingya people. The Rohingya are commonly referred to as the most persecuted minority in the world.
Sirazul said: “I am presently a student at the University of Manchester which is a far cry from the refugee camps in Bangladesh where conditions are best described as open air prisons, where you have no prospects, no future, no respect, no opportunities and only the most basic education if at all.
“In the camp there is a lack of sanitation and clean water. Our basic rights are limited, such as not being able to work or travel freely.
“In 1992 my parents escaped to Bangladesh from Myanmar due to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military. They would come into our homes and demand food and money. They also carried out forced sterilization, forced labour, raping men and women, murder, shelling and burning down our homes.
“They have carried out genocide towards us because of our appearance and the language we speak. Also, we have a different culture to the majority Bhuddist population. In 2017 the worst atrocities were carried out towards the Rohingya people resulting in the expulsion of more than 700,000 of us.”
The Myanmar military carried out a coup on February 1 and has detained Aung San Suu Kyi who was the State Counsellor and other leaders.
Sirazul, who is a law student stated: “Suu Kyi was once our beacon of hope. When she was detained by the military, the Rohingya supported her, protested for her and tried to help her. Once she came into power she turned a blind eye to us and denied us our basic rights and would not even use the term ‘Rohingya.’
Kyi was internationally recognised for her campaign for democracy and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her reputation was tarnished following an army crackdown on the Rohingya minority. She was accused of refusing to condemn the military or acknowledge its atrocities.
Sirazul is worried because the situation in Myanmar looks to become worse under direct military rule for the remaining Rohingya in the South East Asian country. There are still 600,000 Rohingya in Myanmar living mostly in camps.
He added: “I am a campaigner and want to raise awareness of the genocide that has been taking place, I want to campaign for my people to secure a life in Myanmar but it has to be safe for them to go back home. We have to hold the military accountable for its atrocities. I lost a cousin who was shot. ”
His father, San Miah, recalls life in Myanmar: “At first, there was harmony. My entire family lived in Myanmar. Then it all changed when the military took power. We were treated like second class citizens, with many of our rights either restricted or denied.
“The military would make us do forced labour. We were beaten up if we refused. We were in constant fear for our lives. Me and my family finally escaped through the jungle and had to cross a river into Bangladesh.”
Miah lived in a Bangladeshi refugee camp for 18 years and describes the conditions as “horrific” and how his children “did not get an education.” He feels that even though he escaped genocide, life did not get better for him and his family until arriving in the UK.
“Majority of my relatives are still living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.” He said.