Subscribe to SIAWI content updates by Email
Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > The Unwanted: A Haunting Look at the Rohingya Who Escaped Ethnic (...)

The Unwanted: A Haunting Look at the Rohingya Who Escaped Ethnic Cleansing

Saturday 25 August 2018, by siawi3

Source: https://theintercept.com/2017/10/29/rohingya-crisis-myanmar-photos/

The Unwanted: A Haunting Look at the Rohingya Who Escaped Ethnic Cleansing

Elizabeth Rubin, Paula Bronstein

October 29 2017, 3:23 p.m.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

All photos here

Stranded, stateless, unwanted, they are citizens of no country. Myanmar and Bangladesh toss their fate back and forth, even as Myanmar’s army makes one thing clear to every Rohingya they aren’t raping, murdering, burning, or shooting: “Get out and don’t come back.” So they flee from their villages until they reach the border of Rakhine state, their ostensible home in Myanmar.

When they can, they board boats to escape, some are so rickety they capsize, and many can’t swim across the river. Drowned children and young women wash up on the shores of Bangladesh. Sometimes an entire family is gone to the sea. You can see the nighttime devastation of families gathering their dead, washing their bodies, wrapping them in shrouds for burial, here in Paula Bronstein’s photographs.

This article includes graphic images that some readers may find disturbing.
KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 7: Rohingya wait in line for hours as an emergency food distribution takes place by World Food program ( WFP) and Save The Children October 7, Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Rice, lentils, sugar, salt and oil was given out. Well over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Rohingya wait in line for hours as an emergency food distribution is organized by the World Food Program and Save the Children. Rice, lentils, sugar, salt, and oil are given out, Oct. 7, Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
SHAH PORIR DWIP ISLAND, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 9: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) Madia Khatun, a relative, grieves next to the bodies of 5 children, after an overcrowded boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsized overnight killed around 12 people including five children on October 9, on Shah Porir Dwip Island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Well over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Madia Khatun, a relative, grieves next to the bodies of five children, after an overcrowded boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsized overnight, killing about 12 people, Oct. 9, on Shah Porir Dwip Island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
THAINKHALI, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 7: A man hits anxious Rohingya children with a cane as things get out of control during a humanitarian aid distribution while monsoon rains continue to batter the area causing more difficulties October 7, Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Well over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

A man hits anxious Rohingya children with a cane during a humanitarian aid distribution while monsoon rains continue to batter the area causing more difficulties, Oct. 7, Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Most of the Rohingya amass in villages near Bangladesh waiting for the mysterious crossings. Photographers, fixers, aid agencies get whispers: the crossing is coming. Then suddenly, in the pre-dawn light, tens of thousands of Rohingya are on the move, wading through green, sodden, rice paddies, belongings cabbaged on the head, babies in arms, wounded on shoulders. “The faucet is turned on and then suddenly turned off,” says Bronstein, who photographed two of these monumental migrations, October 9 and October 16. Is there coordination between the Myanmar and Bangladeshi authorities? Is it a temporary solution? A permanent ethnic cleansing? Coordinated cleansing?
KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 29: Women are seen behind a mosquito net September 29 in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh from the horrific violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar causing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Women are seen behind a mosquito net on Sept. 29 in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

BALUKHALI, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 2: Laundry is seen hanging overlooking the sprawling refugee camp on October 2, 2017 in Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Laundry hangs on a line overlooking the sprawling refugee camp on Oct. 2, 2017 in Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

PALONG KHALI, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 9: Thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar walk along a muddy rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Well over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar walk along a muddy rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The refugees then walk for miles inside Bangladesh. Some stop in abandoned villages, some make it to decades-old refugee camps, some are whacked with bamboo rods by the Bangladeshi border guards, ordered to stay in the fields with no idea of what’s going on, where they will end up, when it will end.

Why?

Perhaps to get more money, Bronstein says.

“It was outrageously inhuman. They made it to where they’d get water and biscuits from WFP [the World Food Program] and the authorities said, ‘No we’re sorry you have to go back into the field, the rice paddy.’ They were crying, especially the children, ‘These horrible Bangladeshi border guards are threatening to beat us, and we don’t know what is going on.’ They kept them for three days in muddy fields and then processed them. It was atrocious. Why they did this, I can’t get a straight answer.”

KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 4: Aneta Begum,25, is treated for a head injury by staff member Jacqueline Murekezi at the ’Doctors Without Borders’ Kutupalong clinic on October 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic healthcare services at their Kutupalong clinic since 2009. Due to the current Rohingya crisis, the clinic has expanded it’s inpatient capacity dealing with approximately 2,500 out patient treatments and around 1,000 emergency room patients per week. All healthcare services provided at the clinic are free of charge to both the Rohingya refugee population as well as local Bangladeshi patients. Doctors Without Borders has also set up a number of health posts, mobile clinics and water and sanitation services elsewhere in Cox’s Bazar to better respond to the influx. Well over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Aneta Begum, 25, is treated for a head injury by staff member Jacqueline Murekezi at a Doctors Without Borders clinic on Oct. 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic health care services at their Kutupalong clinic since 2009. Due to the current crisis, the clinic has expanded its inpatient capacity, dealing with approximately 2,500 outpatient treatments and around 1,000 emergency room patients per week.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 4: Patients wait for testing and medical treatment for tuberculosis at the ’Doctors Without Borders’ Kutupalong clinic on October 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic healthcare services at their Kutupalong clinic since 2009. Due to the current Rohingya crisis, the clinic has expanded it’s inpatient capacity dealing with approximately 2,500 out patient treatments and around 1,000 emergency room patients per week. All healthcare services provided at the clinic are free of charge to both the Rohingya refugee population as well as local Bangladeshi patients. Doctors Without Borders has also set up a number of health posts, mobile clinics and water and sanitation services elsewhere in Cox’s Bazar to better respond to the influx. Well over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Patients wait for testing and medical treatment for tuberculosis at the Doctors Without Borders Kutupalong clinic on Oct. 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 4: A severely malnourished, premature 15 day old baby gets treated in the pediatric - neonatal unit at the ’Doctors Without Borders’ Kutupalong clinic on October 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic healthcare services at their Kutupalong clinic since 2009. Due to the current Rohingya crisis, the clinic has expanded it’s inpatient capacity dealing with approximately 2,500 out patient treatments and around 1,000 emergency room patients per week. All healthcare services provided at the clinic are free of charge to both the Rohingya refugee population as well as local Bangladeshi patients. Doctors Without Borders has also set up a number of health posts, mobile clinics and water and sanitation services elsewhere in Cox’s Bazar to better respond to the influx. Well over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

A severely malnourished and premature baby, 15 days old, is treated in the pediatric-neonatal unit at the Doctors Without Borders Kutupalong clinic on Oct. 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic health care services at this clinic since 2009.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

It rained while they were stranded. There was nowhere to sit or sleep.

“And then the sun comes out and you get a rainbow,” Bronstein notes. “It’s beautiful, and people are in agony. Nature does funny things. There’s always beauty where people are suffering.”

Just down the road from the camps where tens of thousands of Rohingya languish, there is a beach resort where tourists take selfies, swim, and drink cocktails.

The Rohingya crisis is not new. Aid groups have provided relief in Bangladeshi camps that are decades old. The Rohingya keep coming with each new wave of violence doled out to them by the Myanmar authorities. Reports are now emerging, from clinics and those who escaped, of soldiers and Buddhist extremists slaughtering the men and dragging girls as young as 9 years old into the forest to gang rape them. Rape is one of the tools of ethnic cleansing. Burn the villages. Slaughter the men. Rape the girls. Decimate a people.

Is there any political will or authoritative moral institution that will indict anyone for war crimes? Who would bring the charges? Russia? The Chinese? They have too much at stake in Burma economically, geographically. They’ve been involved in building a new Economic Zone with an industrial park, oil and gas terminals, and a railway line all in Rakhine state, where the Rohingya reside. As for the U.S., it has far diminished influence in Asia — not to mention the world —and no credibility left with regard to human rights or internationalism.

KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 29: Hasina Begum, age 18, holds her newborn baby, 8 days old, born while she was walking in the forest escaping from Myanmar September 29, 2017 in Kutupalong , Bangladesh. She is now living inside a makeshift shelter packed with new arrivals. Over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh from the horrific violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar causing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Hasina Begum, age 18, holds her newborn baby, 8 days old, born while she was walking in the forest escaping from Myanmar, Sept. 29, 2017 in Kutupalong, Bangladesh. She is now living in a makeshift shelter packed with new arrivals.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
THAINKHALI, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 25: Sajida Begum, 18, sits in her makeshift tent, washing rice for dinner as smoke catches the late afternoon light September 25, 2017 in Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Over 429,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state as Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi downplayed the crisis during a speech in Myanmar this week faces and defended the security forces while criticism on her handling of the Rohingya crisis grows. Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, spoke at the United Nations General Assembly last week, focusing on the humanitarian challenges of hosting the minority Muslim group who currently lack food, medical services, and toilets, while new satellite images from Myanmar’s Rakhine state continue to show smoke rising from Rohingya villages. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Sajida Begum, 18, sits in her makeshift tent, washing rice for dinner as smoke catches the late-afternoon light, Sept. 25, 2017 in Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

There are close to 2 million Rohingya in the world. Until recently, most lived in Myanmar for generations with their identity questioned, their history denied. Even the name Rohingya is a source of controversy. Is it an ethnic, political, or religious grouping? The best one can say is that it’s a complex identity rooted in fluctuating kingdoms, Muslim conquests, colonialism, nationalist movements, and ethnic cleansing.

Today about 4.3% of the Burmese population is Muslim. More than half are Rohingya. The 1982 citizenship law in Myanmar made it virtually impossible for Rohingya to qualify as citizens. (You had to either prove roots in Burma before 1823, when the British colonized the area, or you have to belong to one of the approved ethnic groups — which doesn’t include Rohingya). Successive Burmese governments simply call the Rohingya as Bengalis. So they have no rights to free movement, higher education, voting, or public office. They even have to get permission to marry. Since the 1970s, with each successive onslaught of violence, the Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, where they are also given no rights and often sent back.

The ethnic cleansing of the last two months is the most severe and systematic to date. Some 600,000 people have been forced out of Rakhine state by the Myanmar army and Buddhist extremists. And so today, some 1.3 million Rohingya exist in limbo without a place on earth to call “my country.”
SHAH PORIR DWIP, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 30: Boats full of people continue to arrive along the shores of the Naf River as Rohingya come in the safety of darkness September 30, on Shah Porir Dwip island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Over a half a million Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state causing a humanitarian crisis in the region with continued challenges for aid agencies. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Boats full of people continue to arrive along the shores of the Naf River as Rohingya come in the safety of darkness Sept. 30, on Shah Porir Dwip Island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
PATUWARTEK, INANI BEACH, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts death.) The body of a Rohingya woman lays on a beach washed up after a boat sunk in rough seas off the coast of Bangladesh carrying over 100 people September 28 close to Patuwartek, Inani beach, Bangladesh. Seventeen survivors were found along with the bodies of 15 women and children. Over 500 Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late August during the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state as Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi downplayed the crisis during a speech in Myanmar this week faces and defended the security forces while criticism on her handling of the Rohingya crisis grows. Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, spoke at the United Nations General Assembly last week, focusing on the humanitarian challenges of hosting the minority Muslim group who currently lack food, medical services, and toilets, while new satellite images from Myanmar’s Rakhine state continue to show smoke rising from Rohingya villages. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

The body of a Rohingya woman lays on a beach washed up after a boat sunk in rough seas off the coast of Bangladesh carrying over 100 people Sept. 28 close to Patuwartek, Inani beach, Bangladesh. Seventeen survivors were found along with the bodies of 15 women and children.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
KUTUPALONG, BANGLADESH - OCTOBER 13: People cross a bamboo bridge over a stream as the sun sets on October 13, 2017 at the Kutuplaong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. According to UN sources around 519,000 Rohingya refugees had fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August. Thousands more remain stranded in Myanmar without the means to cross the border into Bangladesh. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

People cross a bamboo bridge over a stream as the sun sets on Oct. 13, 2017 at the Kutuplaong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Text by Elizabeth Rubin and photography by Paula Bronstein.

°°°

Source: https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=641568806

Forced To Flee Myanmar, Rohingya Refugees Face Monsoon Landslides In Bangladesh

By Jason Beaubien

August 25, 2018 ·

In the sprawling Balukhahli refugee camp near the Bangladeshi resort town of Cox’s Bazar, 52-year-old Shah Miya lives with two of his daughters and four of their children in a makeshift shelter on a steep, sandy hillside. But in a recent monsoon downpour, he says, the hill behind his shelter collapsed late at night.

“I didn’t know it would collapse,” Miya says. “Then I heard a big noise. It was like, boom! And then it fell down.”

The landslide covered half the family’s shelter in several feet of wet, brown sand. Fortunately, he says, no one was injured.

One of the greatest threats facing Rohingya refugees in the huge camps in Bangladesh is the land itself. As the refugees have built their shelters, they’ve also stripped away almost all the hillside vegetation, making the sandy cliffs prone to collapse. In this year’s monsoon season, thousands of shelters like Miya’s have been damaged or destroyed and dozens of people have been injured. Early in the monsoon season, one child was even killed in a landslide.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the start of a massive exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled attacks by Myanmar soldiers and pro-government militias, in what the U.S. and the U.N. have labeled a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Myanmar says it was an operation targeting Rohingya militants who’d attacked government police stations and army posts.

Once refugees arrived in Bangladesh, they hastily erected shelters with bamboo and plastic sheeting in the hills outside Cox’s Bazar. The shelters are jammed so close together that often there isn’t even enough room to walk between them.

Miya says when he arrived 11 months ago, the only space he could find was on a ledge, with a steep cliff rising on one side and a precipitous drop on the other.

“Back in Myanmar, I had a strong house,” he says — a house made of wood, nothing like what he and his daughters and grandchildren share now, with the sand and mud and walls made of flimsy sheeting.

Like most of the refugees, the family cooks over open fires. But in the monsoon rains of recent months, getting dry firewood can be almost impossible.

“We have wet fire wood, a wet stove, everything is wet,” Miya’s daughter, Dilarah, says. “That’s why it is harder to cook here, especially in the monsoon.”

Despite the difficult living conditions and the precarious location of their shelter, Miya says he plans to rebuild in exactly this same spot.

He’s clearing the ledge with a hoe and digging out the bamboo poles that were buried in the landslide. This camp is so crowded already that he says there’s no other place to build a shelter nearby. In this spot, he knows his neighbors. Two of his grandchildren attend a nearby school for two hours a day.

“With those children, where would I go?” he asks. “That’s why I prefer to stay here.”

Aid groups have launched massive campaigns to try to prevent catastrophic landslides at the camps. They’ve dug drainage canals and ditches. They’ve sandbagged unstable cliffs. They’ve also spread plastic sheeting and tarpaulins over entire hillsides to keep them from eroding and falling on the refugee shelters below.

Despite their efforts, thousands of shelters and other structures in the camps have collapsed. One neighborhood leader in the Balukhali camp says residents have rebuilt a mosque three times after it was repeatedly submerged under crumbling sand.

Aid groups led by the U.N. refugee agency have been trying to create safer, more stable settlements for the Rohingya. The only place to do that is on the very edges of what has now become the largest refugee camp in the world. In an area known as the Camp 4 Extension, aid agencies are using bulldozers to flatten the hills. Workers are building long rows of identical, white-walled shelters. Since March, more than 40,000 people have been relocated to planned settlements like the Camp 4 Extension.

“We are bringing people from landslide risk areas, from flood-affected areas, from construction sites,” says Sarah Jabin, an assistant field officer with the U.N. refugee agency.

But even when the refugees are living in dangerous, difficult locations, she says, most of them don’t want to move. Many of the Rohingya settled next to people they already knew from their villages back in Myanmar. They don’t want to get moved miles away and lose those social bonds.

Jabin says another challenge is that the Rohingya never faced landslides in their villages at home, so the idea of an avalanche is foreign to them.

“No matter how much we showed pictures, how much we gave examples of how [landslides] happen, they were adamant that ’No, this is not a reality. This is not going to happen to us,’” she says with an air of exasperation. “And so that was also an added struggle for us to convince them.”

Roshedha Begum was among those who were finally persuaded and moved to the Camp 4 Extension. She moved into her shelter earlier this month, but says she doesn’t like being on the outer edge of this mega-camp. She says it’s a long walk now to get to the mosque or the health clinic. Officials with the U.N. say that more mosques and other facilities will be built as these new neighborhoods expand.

Talking about the difficulties in the camp, Begum gets angry. And then it becomes clear that it’s not the distance to the mosque or how long it takes to get to the market that’s bothering her.

She’s upset that she is here at all. She’s mad, she says, that the government in Myanmar succeeded in driving the Rohingya from their villages.

“In the violence, we lost our country,” she says.

Then she pulls out her phone. On it, she has a photograph of her son’s dead body. He was killed, she says, by a Myanmar soldier in the attacks last year. At that point, her anger turns to tears.