Dhaka allocates land for giant Rohingya camp

A Rohingya Muslim refugee and child look on as they sit in a school housing new refugees from Myanmar in Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangaldeshi district of Ukhia on September 23, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2017

Dhaka allocates land for giant Rohingya camp

DHAKA: Bangladesh will expand a massive settlement under construction in its southernmost district to house 900,000 Rohingya Muslims, a minister said Thursday, putting it on track to rival the world’s largest refugee camps.
Two thousand acres of land in Cox’s Bazar district were set aside last month for a new site to house 400,000 Rohingya who had fled ethnic bloodshed in neighboring Myanmar since late August.
But space has been exhausted as the number of refugees exceeded half a million, putting immense strain on camps along the border that already hosted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya displaced from past violence in Rakhine State.
Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, minister for disaster management and relief, said the estimated 8-900,000 refugees would be relocated to the new camp on the fringes of Kutupalong, the largest Rohingya settlement in the area.
“Those who are living in scattered places... would be brought into one place. That’s why more land is needed. Slowly all of them will come,” he told AFP, adding families were already on the move to the new site.
The settlement being built by the army — known as the Kutupalong Extension — would be expanded by 1,000 acres to accommodate the enormous population, Maya said.
He said all refugees living in the 23 camps stretching along the border would be relocated to the new site, and the existing settlements closed. Two have already been shut down, he added.
The project has caused concern among doctors and charities on the ground who fear a disease like cholera could spread quickly through such a congested, overpopulated site.
The refugee crisis — ignited by violence in Myanmar’s westernmost Rakhine State on Aug. 25 — is the fastest and largest flow of people across a frontier since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the lead UN agency handling the humanitarian crisis, says the situation is “slowly spiralling into a catastrophe of biblical proportions.”
Charities are struggling to feed and shelter the half a million new refugees who have flooded the camps, where cases of diarrhea have doubled in the past week due to poor sanitation.
Mark Lowcock, a UN under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the world body would be seeking around $430 million to scale up the relief operation for the destitute Rohingya.


Biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim south bans women, causing outcry

Updated 47 min 16 sec ago

Biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim south bans women, causing outcry

MOSCOW: The biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim-majority North Caucasus region has banned women, prompting anger from rights activists and others who have accused the sports complex of discrimination.
The Anzhi Arena spa-complex near Makhachkala, the capital of the internal Russian republic of Dagestan, announced its policy change on the Instagram social media platform on Monday.
“From Jan. 20 onwards attendance of the pool is open only to men,” it said.
The decision has sparked heated debate among residents of the mountainous region, where traditional social values and conservative interpretations of Islam often put it at odds with large parts of European Russia where more liberal values prevail.
The swimming pool said its decision to deny entry to women, who were previously only admitted on Fridays for women-only sessions, was financially motivated.
“Unfortunately, there were hardly any visitors during women’s days,” the RIA news agency cited the spa complex as saying on its Instagram page, which has now been set to private.
“Specifically because of this, after a thorough analysis and evaluation, the difficult decision was made that keeping days for women open in our pool was not viable.”
It is common in the North Caucasus region to find sports facilities offering men and women access on separate days of the week. But a complete ban on women using the pool goes against the Russian constitution, activists said.
Fatima Abdulkhalimova, 31, said she could no longer use the pool despite working there as an instructor.
“I do demonstrations, show people the correct technique, and now I’m not allowed to enter the water,” Abdulkhalimova, a former professional swimmer, said.
“I think it’s to do with religion, I believe it is because a lot of religious guys come here,” she said.
Access to the pool had initially been permitted for both men and women, she said, before being restricted to Fridays only for women.
If having women-only days was not financially viable, then why not simply return to the earlier, mixed-gender system, Abdulkhalimova questioned.
Three women from Dagestan have now filed a complaint to the regional Prosecutor’s Office accusing the sports complex of unconstitutional gender-based discrimination, a copy of the document, shared by Olga Gnezdilova, a lawyer with the Rights Initiative Project, showed.
One of the complainants is Svetlana Anokhina, editor of a local online media platform focused on women’s rights. She said the practice of separating public spaces by gender was on the rise.
“I have a daughter here and she has three daughters too. I’m angry because... I’m afraid for them. I don’t want them to live in a special ghetto for women,” Anokhina, who is based in Makhachkala, said.
One woman, who said she frequently used the pool, said she had been refused a membership pass last month.
Commenting on a post on Instagram she wrote that the pool’s administrators had told her she couldn’t buy a pass because there was not enough locker room space for men.