Rising crime in refugee camps stigmatizes Rohingyas in Bangladesh

By Azad Majumder

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug 26 (EFE).- The only witness to the murder of Rohingya leader Mohibullah often wakes up bathed in sweat due to nightmares, as fear continues to affect the daily life of the community inside refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Mohibullah “called me to discuss something,” Abdul Malek told EFE outside the assassinated leader’s office in Cox’s Bazar, southeast Bangladesh.

“I noticed two people entering the office shortly after we began talking. (…) One was carrying a pipe gun, the other had a pistol,” Malek said.

“Before we could react, they shot Master Mohibullah and ran away.”

The assassination of Mohibullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), in September 2021, drastically changed the lives of many Rohingyas, including Malek, 60.

“We don’t stay outside our shelter after afternoon prayers and never talk to a stranger,” Emdad Hossain, who was in charge of guarding Mohibullah’s office, told EFE.

Several ARSPH leaders have gone into hiding or taken refuge in protected camps. Some of them, including Mohibullah’s relatives, have fled the country.

Roshidullah, who was in charge of drafting documents at Mohibullah’s office, told EFE on phone that he had sought refuge in the UN transit camp fearing for his life.

“We are 12 families living in the transit camp as terrorists are still active in the camp. They have moved inside the camp and are creating a lot of problems for the Rohingyas,” he said.

Mohibullah’s relatives have blamed his murder on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the extremist group responsible for attacks on Myanmar military on Aug.25, 2017 that triggered a wave of repression which forced thousands of members of this minority to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Although Bangladeshi police have charged 29 people with the crime, with suspected links to ARSA, the authorities officially deny the group’s presence in the country.

“We consider criminals as criminals. Regardless of under which name they operate. We try to prosecute them under our regular laws,” Cox’s Bazar police chief Hasanuzzaman told EFE.

Mohibullah’s murder was the precursor to a wave of violence in the camps.

On Aug.10, two community leaders were shot dead in refugee camps, while another Rohingya leader was hacked to death the month before.

Cox’s Bazar police spokesperson Rafiqul Isla told EFE that between Aug.25, 2017 and Aug. 20, 2022, a total of 2,438 crimes were registered in Rohingya camps.

These include 100 cases of murder – most of them carried out with knives or gunshots – 185 cases of possession of arms, 1,636 drug cases, 39 kidnappings, and 13 cases of attacks on security forces.

A total of 5,226 refugees have been charged for these crimes.

“This figure is not high if we compare it to the total Rohingya population, which is over one million,” said Rafiqul.

“But the beneficiaries of these crimes are many, especially in drug-related cases. Also, we believe that the crime rate among Rohingyas is higher than our data shows,” he said.

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