A bittersweet reunion in a Rohingya refugee camp

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Zobaer Ahmed Rana reunion with his family after 11 years
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Abu toyob and Anowara Begum's finally got a little chance to sit under a roof after 14 days of their life saving journey from Buchidong, Myanmar.
Updated 21 October 2017
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A bittersweet reunion in a Rohingya refugee camp

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Zobaer Ahmed Rana left his parents at the age of 6 and came to Bangladesh with his uncle in search of a better life.

But the Rohingya family was reunited this week as the remaining members fled the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar.

“I haven’t seen my son for 11 years. He’s a grownup now,” Rana’s mother Anowara Begum, who entered Bangladesh as a refugee four days ago, told Arab News.

“This is the first time I see my daughter-in-law. It’s a very happy moment for our family, but we can’t celebrate at this time of crisis.”

The family and 20,000 other refugees had to wait for four days at the border to enter Bangladesh.

The family got clearance from Bangladeshi authorities on Thursday to enter the Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia Thana.

Recent drone footage from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows thousands of Rohingya refugees lined up for kilometers near the border.

The UNHCR has expressed grave concern over the condition of the stranded refugees, who have little to no food, water or shelter, and are weakened by days of travelling on foot.

“We’re advocating with the Bangladesh authorities to urgently admit these refugees fleeing violence and increasingly difficult conditions back home. Every minute counts given the fragile condition they’re arriving in,” said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.

“They’re waiting for permission to move away from the border, where the sound of gunfire continues to be heard every night from the Myanmar side.”

Rana told Arab News: “My 25-member family started the journey toward Bangladesh on Oct. 9. It took them four days to reach the border, during which time I was in contact with them via a cellular phone.”

He visited his family the day they arrived at the camp, giving them dried food. He said no visitors were allowed on the second day, but on the third day he was able to give them rice.

Rana has been living with his uncle in Bangladesh’s port city of Chittagong since 2004. He completed his higher secondary education, and works as an assistant at a men’s hair salon.

Rana’s father Abu Toyob told Arab News: “We lived in Buthidaung town in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for many generations. I had a grocery shop in the local market and around 5 acres of land that I inherited from my father. But now I’m penniless and faced with uncertainty regarding my family of five sons and three daughters.”

Although the international community is urging Myanmar’s military to stop its abuses in Rakhine, there is no sign of improvement in the situation.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently reported that 582,000 Rohingya refugees have taken shelter in Bangladesh since the influx began on Aug. 25.

But unofficial sources put the figure at more than 600,000, and aid agencies are seeking more support from the international community to cope with increasing demand for humanitarian aid.


UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

Updated 25 April 2018
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UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

  • Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
  • Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.

MANAGUA: The United Nations said Tuesday that many deaths in nearly a week of anti-government protests violently repressed by police in Nicaragua may have been "unlawful" and called for an investigation.
The scrutiny from the Swiss-based UN human rights office adds to international alarm at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's ordered crackdown against a wave of anti-government demonstrations and clashes.
The European Union, United States and the Vatican have all urged talks to restore calm, while the US embassy in Managua ordered family members of staff out of the country after Ortega deployed the army to the streets and looting broke out.
A toll compiled from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Ortega's wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, puts the number of deaths since last Wednesday at 27. Most were protesters, among which university students and youths figure prominently.
"We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings," Liz Throssell of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights told reporters in Geneva.
"It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account," Throssell said.
The UN office said at least 25 people, including a police officer, had been killed.
The protests were sparked Wednesday by pension reforms aimed at keeping Nicaragua's burdened Social Security Institute afloat by cutting benefits and increasing contributions.
But they rapidly spread and intensified as other grievances over Ortega's rule surged to the fore.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people -- employees, students, pensioners and ordinary citizens -- marched peacefully in the capital Managua and other cities demanding an end to the forceful security crackdown on protests.
Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
Ortega, a 72-year-old former Sandinista guerrilla leader who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, has been taken aback by the demonstrations against him, the biggest in his last 11-year stretch in power.
He has canceled the pension reforms and called for dialogue, and Murillo has suggested arrested protesters could be released.
But his security forces have not been pulled back, and -- though Managua appeared relatively calm early Tuesday -- widespread anti-government sentiment persisted.
Even Nicaragua's business sector, whose support had shored up Ortega over the past decade, has abandoned him over the violence.
A pro-government rally was being organized for Thursday to show that the president still enjoyed backing from part of the population.
Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
But dissatisfaction has been bubbling over in recent months.
Frustrations have been voiced over corruption, the distant and autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country's politics in elections, and the president's control over the Congress, the courts and the electoral authority.
In rural areas, anger also stemmed from a stalled plan by Ortega to have a Chinese company carve a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua to rival Panama's lucrative Pacific-to-Atlantic shipping canal.
If the project went ahead, it would displace thousands of rural dwellers and indigenous communities, while dealing a negative impact on the environment.
"People are demanding democracy, freedom, free elections, a transparent government, the separation of powers, rule of law. The people want freedom," former Nicaraguan foreign minister Norman Caldera told AFP.
"If the government doesn't yield, it's going to be very difficult to stop this (the protests)," he said, asserting that the "big majority" of the population was showing its frustration with Ortega.
"The repressive apparatus is not able to halt protests on this scale," Caldera said.
Though Ortega has held out the promise of talks with opponents, the lack of any identifiable leader in the protest movement could make dialogue there difficult.
Under his watch, Nicaragua has avoided the rampant crime seen in northern Central American countries where gangs are rife.
It has also put in solid economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest nations in Latin America.
The sudden upsurge in the streets puts Ortega at a crossroads: to tough it out, or to bow to the demands for democracy that have become too loud to ignore.