6 months after attacks began, Rohingya see no end in sight

Rohingya Muslim refugees in Jalpatoli refugee camp, in the no-man's land area between Myanmar and Bangladesh, watch as Myanmar soldiers patrol on the other side of the border, near Gumdhum village in Ukhia. (AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018
0

6 months after attacks began, Rohingya see no end in sight

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Their houses are often made of plastic sheets. Much of their food comes from aid agencies. Jobs are few, and there is painfully little to do. The nightmares are relentless.
But six months after their horrors began, the Rohingya Muslims who fled army attacks in Myanmar for refuge in Bangladesh feel one immense consolation.
"Nobody is coming to kill us, that's for sure," said Mohammed Amanullah, whose village was destroyed last year just before he left for Bangladesh with his wife and three children. They now live in the Kutupalong refugee camp outside the coastal city of Cox's Bazar. "We have peace here."
On Aug. 25, Rohingya insurgents attacked several security posts in Myanmar, killing at least 14 people. Within hours, waves of revenge attacks broke out, with the military and Buddhist mobs marauding through Rohingya villages in bloody pogroms, killing thousands, raping women and girls, and burning houses and whole villages. The aid group Doctors Without Borders has estimated at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in Myanmar in the first month of the violence, including at least 730 children younger than 5. The survivors flooded into Bangladesh.
Six months later, there are few signs Rohingya are going home anytime soon.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an agreement to gradually repatriate Rohingya in "safety, security and dignity," but the process has been opaque and the dangers remain. New satellite images have shown empty villages and hamlets leveled, erasing evidence of the Rohingyas' former lives. And with 700,000 having fled Myanmar since August, more Rohingya continue to flee.
So for now, the refugees wait.
"If they agree to send us back that's fine, but is it that easy?" asked Amanullah. "Myanmar must give us citizenship. That is our home. Without citizenship they will torture us again. They will kill us again."
He said he would only return under the protection of UN peacekeepers: "They must take care of us there. Otherwise it will not work. "
Buddhist-majority Myanmar doesn't recognize the Rohingya as an official ethnic group and they face intense discrimination and persecution.
The children in the camps face a particularly difficult time. The UN estimates children are the heads of 5,600 refugee families.
A survey of children's lives inside the camps showed they faced an array of terrors, from girls reporting concerns of harassments near the camp toilets to fears that elephants and snakes could attack them as they collect firewood.
"We cannot expect Rohingya children to overcome the traumatic experiences they've suffered when exposed to further insecurity and fears of violence in the camps," Mark Pierce, country director for Save the Children in Bangladesh, said in a statement.
The study was prepared jointly by Save the Children, World Vision and Plan International.
"The overwhelming message from these children is that they are afraid," Pierce said. "This is no way for a child to live."
The situation will worsen soon. Seasonal monsoon rains will begin pounding the refugees' plastic-and-bamboo city in April.


India ‘arrogant’ for canceling rare meeting: Pakistan’s Khan

Updated 31 min 53 sec ago
0

India ‘arrogant’ for canceling rare meeting: Pakistan’s Khan

  • India pulled the plug on a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart set for next week on the sidelines of a major UN conference, just one day after saying it would go ahead.
  • High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare.

ISLAMABAD: India’s decision to cancel rare talks with Islamabad was disappointing and “arrogant,” Imran Khan said Saturday, one day after New Delhi accused Pakistan’s prime minister of harboring an “evil agenda.”
India pulled the plug on a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart set for next week on the sidelines of a major UN conference, just one day after saying it would go ahead.
The foreign ministry in New Delhi blamed the about-face on recent actions that had revealed Pakistan’s “evil agenda” and the “true face” of Khan, who hit back on Twitter Saturday.
“Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” he wrote.
“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
New Delhi said it canceled the talks after the “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” and the recent release of a series of Pakistani postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”
India did not specify which killings it was referring to in its statement, but earlier this week, an Indian border guard in the disputed territory of Kashmir was killed and his body mutilated.
Three policemen were then found dead on Friday after being abducted in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan also recently issued postage stamps of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri militant commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016, whose death sparked a wave of violent protests in the territory.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
In a statement from its foreign office, Pakistan said Friday it had “nothing to do with” the deaths, accusing India of spreading “motivated and malicious propaganda.”
The meeting in New York between Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi — on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly debate — was only confirmed on Thursday.
It came after Khan wrote to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi calling for a resumption of talks between the nuclear-armed foes.
High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare. Indian media described the meeting would have been the first in nearly three years.