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Rohingya refugees tell Arab News of rape by Myanmar Army

Rohingya Muslim refugees wait as food is distributed by the Bangladeshi Army at Balukhali refugee camp near Gumdhum on Tuesday. (AFP)
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: In the past week alone, nearly 15,000 Rohingya refugees have taken shelter in the Teknaf and Kutupalang Thana areas of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, increasing the total number of refugees to 440,000.
They say grave human rights violations have been committed by the Myanmar Army against the Muslim minority, including rape.
Though the exact number of rape victims is unknown, officials at a makeshift clinic told Arab News that they have so far treated 100 Rohingya women in Cox’s Bazar alone. It is very difficult for rape victims to speak out due to social and religious taboos, officials added.
“The army attacked our house, and took me and my sister to a nearby army camp,” Saleha Khatun, a 23-year-old Rohingya refugee in Kutupalang camp in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.
“There were 23 other girls imprisoned in that camp. I was brutally raped for three days in a row. “Even death is preferable over this dishonor,” she said, weeping.
“Both of us sisters were kept imprisoned in the camp and were treated like slaves. They didn’t allow us to put on any clothes during these three days. Tied up naked to the bed, the army started raping us in a group. It was worse than hell.”
Asma Begum, 19, who used to live in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, told Arab News: “We were preparing to move out and cross the border into Bangladesh. At around 11 a.m., the army entered our house. They tied my husband to a pillar and threw two of my babies out of the house. Five of the soldiers raped me, one after another, in front of my husband. Later they tried to kill my husband. I begged for our lives, and got mercy on condition that we leave the house instantly.”
Mukti Biswas, a psychologist with Gonoshastho Kendro, a local NGO treating refugees at Ukhia, Teknaf and Bandarban camps, told Arab News: “These abused Rohingya women are now suffering from acute depression and trauma. We need to address the mental health issue immediately. In some cases, they aren’t prepared to discuss their traumatic experiences. We’re treating them by observing the symptoms and offering free medicines. Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable. We need more doctors and psychiatrists to treat this huge number of refugees.”
Bangladesh’s government has deployed more doctors and medical assistants in the last couple of days to provide primary health care to the refugees. A total of 30 doctors, almost 30 health assistants and 42 nurses are now working in camps.
In emergency cases, patients are referred to the nearest state-run hospital, where authorities have launched special units for the Rohingya. Twenty additional doctors have been deployed in Cox’s Bazar’s general hospitals.
Medicins Sans Frontieres, Gonoshastho Kendro, the Red Cross, Action Against Hunger, and other local and international NGOs are also providing free health care.
“Bangladesh will allow in all Rohingya refugees as long as they come here and seek refuge,” Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal said Tuesday.