In makeshift homes, Rohingya recall Ramadan in Myanmar

A Myanmar border guard policeman stand near a Rohingya Muslim family in front of their home in a village during a government-organized visit for journalists in Buthidaung townships in the restive Rakhine state on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2019

In makeshift homes, Rohingya recall Ramadan in Myanmar

  • More than 1.1 million Rohingya are currently lodged at various refugee camps, with nearly 750,000 taking shelter in Bangladesh since August 2017 when the violence escalated in the northern Myanmar province of Rakhine

DHAKA: 
For the past two years, during Ramadan, an overwhelming sadness takes over 15-year-old Ahmed Kamal, a Rohingya refugee at the Cox’s Bazar camp in Bangladesh.
He says it is at this time, specifically during iftar, that he misses his mother, Halima Begum, the most.
Begum was brutally killed in September 2017 by the Myanmar army during a crackdown on thousands of Rohingya — many of whom fled to Bangladesh to escape the persecution.
“My mother used to prepare so many homemade foods during iftar and we all used to enjoy it. But everything is lost now,” Kamal told Arab News.
For many of the Rohingya living at Cox’s Bazar, Ramadan brings with it a sense of nostalgia and memories of days well spent.
“We used to have a get-together with relatives during Ramadan at our home in Mongdu township. All year, I used to wait for this Ramadan get-together with our maternal cousins, grandparents and uncles,” Saleha Khatun, a 13-year-old refugee girl from Kutupalang Rohingya camp, said.
“Some of our relatives were killed in September 2017, a few of them stayed in Rakhine and some fled to Cox’s Bazar. Our greater family is now completely scattered and I miss my relatives a lot in this Ramadan month,” she added.
More than 1.1 million Rohingya are currently lodged at various refugee camps, with nearly 750,000 taking shelter in Bangladesh since August 2017 when the violence escalated in the northern Myanmar province of Rakhine. For most of the Rohingya, this is their second Ramadan in Bangladesh since the great exodus.

BACKGROUND

• World Food Program steps up free food initiative for the displaced this month.

• More than 1.1 million living in world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh.

“Last year we didn’t get enough food for iftar to break the fast. Sometimes we had to drink only water but this year there is enough — we have received food from the World Food Program (WFP),” Rashid Khan, a refugee from Balukhali camp, told Arab News.
The WFP also distributed dates to families in refugee camps specifically for Ramadan, which were donated by Qatar.
Gemma Snowdon, the WFP’s communications officer at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News: “We have scaled up our e-voucher food assistance system in time for Ramadan, which means families have access to a wider range of food. Using an electronic card, families can shop at one of the WFP e-voucher outlets in the camps, and access things such as fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, dried fish, spices, and the usual staples.”
She added that the program gave the Rohingya a greater range of choice for Ramadan, as opposed to basic rice, lentils and oil they were previously receiving. There are also special offers on food from retailers who operate the WFP e-voucher outlets so people can receive more than they usually do.
“We believe quality food assistance needs to extend beyond just Ramadan, and for us to do this we rely on the generous support provided by donors around the globe,” said Snowdon.


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.