The Unwanted Myanmar’s Rohingya: Homeless, Countryless & With No Place To Go

Just because there is a clinic, it doesn’t mean that there is help. A boy with a bad stomach is not seen by a doctor.

 

Photojournalist Michael Drost-Hansen is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his project ‘Rohingya‘.  To see Michael’s body of work click on any photograph.

 

Western Burma has always been borderland between Buddhism in the East and the Muslim empires in the West. Burma is primarily a Buddhist country and the Rohingya is discriminated partly because of their religion. Here a group of boys are taught Arabic by an Imam in the camp.

 

In June 2012 a wave of violence spread throughout Rakhine State in the western part of Myanmar. Rakhine is one of the poorest states in the country and was home to the majority of Rohingya Muslims in the country. In 2012 the capital of Rakhine State, Sittwe, was home to 200.000 Rakhine Buddhists and 140.000 Rohingya Muslims. For decades there have been tensions between the two groups.  After a Buddhist woman was allegedly raped by three Rohingya men, a group of Rakhine brutally murmured 10 Muslim pilgrims in return. More than 8,000 women are raped each year in Myanmar, but this one should prove to be landmark.

 

Abdul Salam is 58 years old and lives in one of the camps with his wife, Fetamah and their three children. Abdul was a rickshaw driver in Sittwe until his house was burned down. He tried to put out the fire, but was shot in the leg by the military.

 

"During the clashes major Muslim areas were set on fire and more than 200 Rohingya were killed in Sittwe alone. 140.000 lost their homes..."

 

Sholay, 26, lives in one of the unregistered camps with her husband and their two children

 

A group of boys carry blocks of clay to reinforce the dike that separates the camps from the Indian Ocean.

 

The following days there were clashes between Rakhine and Rohingya in several places in Rakhine state. On June 10, President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency throughout the area. In the Northern Rakhine the police searched homes and serious violence were carried out by the security forces in attempt to find the suspected trouble makers among Rohingya.  In Sittwe, Rohingya went on the street and protested, but the vast majority of Buddhists held them back. During the clashes major Muslim areas were set on fire and more than 200 Rohingya were killed in Sittwe alone. 140.000 lost their homes and the President stated that Rohingya was no longer welcome in his country.  In the huge camps outside Sittwe the conditions are bad. Very few NGO’s are allowed to work in the camps a few hours a day. There are no schools, no money, very little food and very little health care. There are a few clinics but often times there are no doctors.

 

Zormi Hussein, 13, was knocked down by the police during the riots in June, 2012. He hit his head so much that he was brain damaged. Today he is multi-handicapped. He can’t sit, smile or in any way communicate.

 

"Many have tried to flee to Bangladesh, but when there were too many, the military in Bangladesh pushed the boats back."

 

The people fleeing leaves the camps in the night to avoid trouble with the police. Often they must bribe the police and the fleet to let them pass.

 

"... the government has placed land mines along the border to try to keep Rohingya from returning."

 

Abdul Salam

 

"...Rohingya does not exist..." 

 

Until 1982 the Rohingya had citizenship in Burma. The papers here is one of several versions of a limited citizenship that was later rejected. Today Rohingya are without citizenship or any kind of rights.

 

In the Buddhist country of Myanmar, Rohingya is seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But Rohingya has lived in the area for centuries. Now they no longer have a home.  Many have tried to flee to Bangladesh, but when there were too many, the military in Bangladesh pushed the boats back. Some have tried to flee to Malaysia and Thailand, but there they are also not welcome.  After new clashes, hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh, but Bangladesh itself has major problems with overpopulation and cannot handle the many refugees. The bad situation in Bangladesh camps causes some to try to return to Myanmar, but the government has placed land mines along the border to try to keep Rohingya from returning.  Rohingya has no country, no where they can call home and nobody wants them in their country. The government in Myanmar even says that Rohingya does not exist, only Bengali who should return to Bangladesh and leave Myanmar.

 

A woman who fled her house in Sittwe is sitting in front of her house in the Dar Paling camp.

 

See also:

Idomeni

By Michael Drost-Hansen

 


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