HRW says Bangladesh threatening Rohingyas for setting up schools

Dhaka, Mar 22 (EFE)- The nonprofit Human Rights Watch on Tuesday alleged that Bangladesh officials were threatening to confiscate identity documents of Rohingya refugees and forcibly relocate them to a remote, flood-prone island if they violated a ban on schools run by them.

Since December 2021, Bangladesh authorities have banned schools that were run by Rohingyas to compensate for the lack of formal and secondary-level education in the refugee camps, and also shut down madrasas that provide Islamic religious education, according to HRW.

The New York-based rights group alleged that Bangladesh prohibited humanitarian groups from providing education to Rohingya refugee children beyond basic, informal, primary-level classes.

“First the government blocked meaningful education for Rohingya children, then it closed the schools Rohingya set up for themselves, and now it threatens to banish teachers and students to a prison-like island,” HRW’s associate children’s rights director Bill Van Esveld said in a statement.

“Foreign governments that want to support the Rohingya should be calling out Bangladesh for relentlessly blocking these children’s right to learn,” he stressed.

HRW said that it had spoken to 30 Rohingyas, among them 15 teachers and eight parents, who claimed being threatened for violating the education bans, including being forcibly relocated to the remote flood-prone island of Bhasan Char.

The Bangladesh authorities flatly denied the allegations saying that HRW was “lying and running a propaganda campaign.”

“Rohingya children go to school freely. There’s no bar on them. Some Rohingyas run private coaching centers inside the camps. We did not even close that. It is unnecessary, false propaganda,” Shamsud Douza, deputy refugee relief and repatriate commissioner of Bangladesh, told EFE.

“They lied in the past too. Their sample size is very poor. Please tell them to visit the camp, not do a sample survey and rather hold a census. The camp is open. They can speak to 900,000 Rohingyas instead of just talking to 30 people,” he added.

Bangladesh prohibits teaching Rohingya children the Bangla language, or the national curriculum, as part of the government’s policy to prevent Rohingyas from integrating and remaining permanently in the country.

The refugee-led schools only teach the formal Myanmar curriculum, not the Bangladesh curriculum.

“The Bangladesh government is tightening the screws to prevent Rohingya refugee children from any access to formal education, after years of deliberately depriving them of quality schooling,” Van Esveld said.

Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence by the Myanmar military in August 2017.

Bangladesh relocated around 25,000 Rohingyas from their camp in Cox’s Bazar in the south of the country to Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh officials defended the move, saying it was necessary to decongest the massively overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar. EFE


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