‘5 years of hopelessness:’ Agonizing wait for Rohingyas to return home

By Azad Majumder

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug 24 (EFE) – Mohammad Hasim currently lives in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, not far from his home in Myanmar’s Maungdaw district that he fled after a brutal military crackdown.

“You can almost see it from here. All you need to do is cross a hill across the Ukhiya border to go to my village,” Hasim told EFE.

Hasim has not returned home since 2017 and is unsure if he ever will.

“I am mostly worried about my five children. I do not know what future lies ahead of them,” he said.

His children often discuss the possibility of going home, said Hasim.

“We do not see any hope,” he said. “Almost every day, we hear the news of violence in our country. No one can guarantee our safety in Myanmar.”

Most Rohingya leaders and rights activists, who believe the conditions in Myanmar are not conducive for their return, share the sentiment.

Likewise, Rashid Ahmed lives in a 10X10 sqft shelter made of bamboo and tarpaulin in the Lambashia camp of Kutupalong.

The cramped space made them prone to diseases like cold, fever, and diarrhea.

Rashid said he suffered from jaundice for the last year and recovered recently.

“Life is very hard, yet I am happy. I do not fear for my life. In Myanmar, they killed three of my relatives in 2017 and burnt our houses,” he said.

Around 926,000 Rohingya refugees have left neighboring Myanmar for Bangladesh, including 728,000 who survived a wave of violence and persecution by the Myanmar military in August 2017.

The crackdown has invited allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocidal intent against the Myanmar military.

Two attempts to repatriate the refugees from Bangladesh failed because the Rohingyas refused to return home without guaranteeing citizenship and security.

“Repatriation is our top priority and hope, but due to a lack of political will, it will not be possible right now,” Khin Maung, founder and executive director of the non-profit Rohingya Youth Association, told EFE.

“On-going fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military in Arakan state gives a signal that repatriation is impossible with our ethnic rights,” he added.

Rights activist Win Naing said the Myanmar Army and the Buddhist insurgent group, active in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since 2009, were against the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

“The military and the AA extort money from innocent people and confiscate the belongings of Rohingyas,” Naing told EFE.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh on Aug.16 failed to provide the refugee group any hope.

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