Bangladesh: Rohingya refugee camps no safe haven
By Chandan Sarkar / The Oslo Times
Dhaka: Saidiya Begum-22 was newly married. Not long after she was married the Burmese soldiers entered her village, captured and killed the men house after house, soon the army got inside her home grabbed her husband and shot him down in the fields, they later raped her right beside her husband’s body.
When she opened her eyes in the next morning she got found herself lying on the field beside dead husband. This incident took place in 2012 in Myanmar and during this period Saidiya lost everything and everyone she loved. The 22-year-old in an effort to protect herself from the blood-thirsty Burmese army, left her country and crossed over into Bangladesh on a tiny boat past the Naf river, which borders the two countries and took refuge near the sea shore at Shaplapur.
Sadiya is just one of the many Rohingya women whose lives have been tattered, today between 1400-1800 Rohingya people live in Shaplapur where they are being discriminated day after day.With the help of other people from her community Saidiya Begum has a room in a slum, which she shares with her children. Nine months after the rape incident Saidiya had given birth Sanun age 3 years 8 months. However, Sanun is the war child; she did not know who her father is. Though Saidiya has managed to get away from Burma, she still hasn’t been able to protect herself from sex thirsty men. Saidiya is beautiful and young, so she became a target for a boat owner, who walks into her room and rapes her when all the Rohingya men are out fishing at night. ” At night when the all our men go fishing in the bay, the owner of the boat comes and forcibly enter my room and rapes me.” It is regular phenomenon and as a result of it she got pregnant and gave birth 2 other Children, youngest one is just 9 months old.
The Rohingya community has no working rights in Bangladesh. But they need to work to stay alive as the relief fund they are provided with by The government and the United Nations is barely enough, so they fall prey to low wages and are forced to work long hours for less pay. They are therefore forced to do multiple severely low paying jobs and their settlements are usually found near the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal. As the only job they get is fishing, while the women work as maidservants.
This community does not own boats and are only paid for their labor, so they don’t earn much as the boat owners know that these men have no working rights in Bangladesh. The boat owners usually pay them around $2 -$3 per day. The fishermen usually go to the sea at midnight or during early morning hours and return in the evening. The boat owners’ come to the Rohingya slums in the middle of the night and wake them up and force them to go fishing.
“Mr Niyaz (Nick name) told The Oslo Times that a, ‘there are very few women there who are nt yet married but because of the high rape incidences they tend to fall pregnant like Saidiya did. “Few days’ back I heard one girl is pregnant. It is really very awkward here in Bangladesh and in our Muslim community for a girl to become pregnant before marriage. Though it is not their fault this society will not accept them.”
“We talked with the girl and forced her to tell us the name of the man who got her pregnant. Initially, she didn’t respond but after a while, she told us the name of the person – The person is so powerful that we cannot do anything about it as he is the one who has sheltered us here and is even involved in politics so he is very influential”.
Despite trying to get the name of the sex offender from Newaz The Oslo Times was unable to make him speak as according to him there is no use, the man is just too powerful and he would cut his throat if the word ever got out.
The Rohingya women and children are the most vulnerable to sex offenders, and tend to fall prey to them even while doing their household chores like collecting wood for the cooking, because f their refugee status that does nt give them any rights. They cant even lodge a police complaint because the police will not take their plight seriously. “The people committing crimes against us are influential people who can do anything they want and no one can save us. Back home in Myanmar the government has thrown out us they consider us as Bangladeshis who migrated to Burma in 1947. On the other hand here in Bangladesh, we have no any rights to even to take legal protection, where can we go, who will hear our plight,” said Saidiya as tears ran down her eyes.
Bangladesh is a densely populated country and despite this, the government of Bangladesh is doing its best to shelter the Rohingya Community. However, the Rohingyas are living a very harsh life in refugee camps, they are struggling from malnourishment, isolation, illiteracy and neglect. There is one registered camp where 90,000 refugees live another unregistered camp just 15 miles away in Leda Bazaar, where approximately 25,000 Rohingyas live.
These camps are no safe havens for this muslim community as their women are victims of sexual violence, their children are denied education and there is limited access to health and medical aid. This hostile environment for Rohingyas in Bangladesh forces them to board boats to take them to other parts of Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia; however, these countries too are not usually welcoming like Bangladesh. It is Myanmar’s duty to accept the Rohingya as citizens, accept their history and ensure the safe repatriation of each and every member of the community back into Arakan. Although they are safer in Bangladesh than in Myanmar, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh want to return home to Arakan once it is safe to all it home.