Arson, rape, brutal murders: What the Rohingya saw before they fled Myanmar

Since 25 August, when Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya, nearly 613,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh. Of these, nearly 60 percent are children, with many suffering severe malnutrition. Data from a recent nutrition assessment conducted at Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, shows a 7.5 percent prevalence of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.

The Rohingya, a distinct ethnic group living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, along the border with Bangladesh, are the “world’s most persecuted minority” according to the UN. Most of them are Muslim, with some Hindu.

Following the military coup in 1962 there have been several military crackdowns against the Rohingya, forcing them to flee to neighbouring countries. They are not considered among Myanmar’s 135 official ethnic groups, and since 1982 have been denied citizenship, leaving them effectively ‘Stateless’.

While successive waves of violence have led to the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar over many years, the current wave is the fastest mass exodus of people after the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

With a daily influx of about 2,000 refugees, from various entry points, the refugee camps are strained for food, water, sanitation and medical services.

Many in the camps have lost family members in Myanmar. Women and girls have been “systematically targeted” for gang-rapes by Myanmarese soldiers, according to Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Pramila Patten. Patten said that since the first mass influx of refugees into Bangladesh in August, gender-based violence specialists had delivered services to 1,644 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, “although this is only the tip of the iceberg”.

A Rohingya refugee Abdul Kader described the violence that took place in his village, "At around 8 or 9 am, the military began to torch our village from one end. They were also killing people. So we left our village and waited by the Naf river. Around two thousand people were sitting beside the river and waiting for boats to arrive. The Myanmarese military surrounded us. At first they butchered the men. Then they shot the men.  They again butchered people who were not shot. Then they started torturing the women. They slaughtered the kids and threw them into the water. We somehow managed to cross the river by a boat... we hid in the paddy fields and saw what was going on. First, they killed all the men and then the women. The women who were alive were taken inside the houses in tens and raped and killed. They lit the houses on fire with people inside. The men killed before were thrown into the river... Dead bodies of small children were floating in the water. It was already evening when the dead bodies were put in a hole in the ground and burnt...".

A new report by the International Organisation of Migration states that Rohingya refugee children are working punishing hours for paltry pay in Bangladesh, with some suffering beatings and sexual assault. The report further states that girls as young as 11 are being married of in lieu of protection and economic advancement.

Firstpost got in touch with a production crew in Bangladesh to spend time with the Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district, and find out stories of the carnage they witnessed in their homeland, and the journeys they undertook to reach safety. ​​The video above carries interviews of five refugees from the Kutupalong and Tumru camps.

Updated Date: Nov 16, 2017 14:42 PM

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