Eid reminds Rohingya refugees of happier times at home
Eid is always better when one gets to celebrate it with loved ones, a fact that one can see in the teary eyes and heavy hearts of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims living at dilapidated refugee camps in Bangladesh.
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Abdul Hakim, a 26-year-old Rohingya Muslim, said last year he celebrated Eid-al Fitr with his family at his house in Myanmar in Arakan state’s Maungdaw before he was forced to flee to the Kutupalang camp in Bangladesh.
Hakim said back then he had plans to get married after Eid but his life changed abruptly after the Myanmar army and Buddhist extremists burnt his home down and killed his father, brother and niece.
He said he barely managed to escape to Bangladesh, albeit with injuries, along with his mother and sister-in-law. It took him an exhausting five days to cross the Bangladeshi border and get shelter at refugee camps where he now lives in a squalid makeshift place, packed with polythene sheets and bamboos over a muddy floor; his daily struggle like hundreds of thousands like him at the camp is to get food and meet other basic needs.
“I have no time to think about Eid,” Hakim said. In fact, after losing his family members, especially his father and brother in the violence, he said he has now also lost all feelings of pleasure in life.
“How can I celebrate Eid in this foreign land while the blood of my father and brother is still very fresh to me?” he asked.
For people like Hakim, this is the first Eid after the attacks on Rohingya Muslims on Aug. 25 in Myanmar.
Ziaul Haq, another Rohingya refugee, living at Leda Camp of Tekhnaf, said the Myanmar military had shot dead his 15-year-old brother Anisur Rahman.
“We are happy here. At least we are now safe from a murderous situation.
“[But] It is not life at all which we now live. We want to go back to our own country. But we need citizenship rights and safety there.
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“When we get justice and return to our own country then we will celebrate Eid properly,” Haq said.
For 27-year-old Humaera Begum, Eid this year is devoid of happiness as her husband remains incarcerated at a Myanmar jail.
Begum said she does not even know if her husband is still alive.
“I have no Eid without my husband. I am waiting for him. I do not know whether I will get back my husband or not,” she said.
Despite their desperate situation, the younger Rohinya told Anadolu Agency it was still better than living under the shadow of guns.
Bibi Ayesha, 11, and Samira ,12, who also live at Leda camp said at least now they live without fear of getting killed.
“We are happy as we have no fear here. We are roaming throughout the camp. No one is standing in front of our tent with rifles to kill us,” Ayesha said.
Meanwhile, District Commissioner of Cox’s Bazar Md. Kamal Hossain told Anadolu Agency Eid preparations had been made at the camps to help the refugees.
“We prepared all the mosques in the camps for Eid prayer for Rohingya Muslims. A good number of NGOs have distributed some clothes and food items for them in the last couple of days ahead of Eid,” he said.
People from different walks of life have also been visiting camps on the eve of Eid, distributing food and clothes.
- Rohingya grieve world over
Rohingya Muslims as far away as Canada are grieving this Eid.
Nur Hasin, a Rohingya Muslim living in the Canadadian city Ontario, told Anadolu Agency his relatives had to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh after Aug. 25 violence.
“How can I enjoy Eid while most of my relatives are struggling for survival in camps amid the catastrophic monsoon rains,” Hasin said.
Ahsan Lokmani, a Bangladeshi expat living in Kuwait for the last 15 years, said: “Whenever we celebrate Eid abroad at least we know that our family members were well and they were celebrating the festival with new dress and delicious food, and we would soon meet them.
“But Roingya Muslim refugees have little hope to return back to their own land and there is no chance for most of them to meet their dear ones as already many of them have been brutally killed by the Myanmar army and extremist Buddhists,” he said.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children, and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published recently, the humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.