Eid Al-Fitr offers little respite to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
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Over 1.15 million Rohingya are living in camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. (AN photo)
Updated 05 June 2019

Eid Al-Fitr offers little respite to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh’s government has allotted around 6,500 acres to establish the refugee camps, but space is still tight
  • Different aid agencies have also come up with special offerings to make the festival a little more colorful to the Rohingya

DHAKA: Three years ago, Arifa Bibi would have had her hands full on Eid.

With hordes of relatives and friends thronging to her humble home in Rakhine province, Myanmar, she would be busy in the kitchen whipping up delicacies.

Little did she know then that she would one day find herself struggling to make ends meet as a Rohingya refugee at a makeshift camp in Bangladesh. 

In the 34 camps at Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, hundreds of Rohingya remain stranded following a spate of violence in Myanmar. However, estrangement from their motherland fails to dampen their spirits on Eid. 

Just a couple of days before Eid, the Rohingya were busy making preparations to celebrate the occasion. 

Bangladesh’s government has allotted around 6,500 acres to establish the refugee camps, but space is still tight. “This refugee camp is highly congested and there is no open area available for Eid congregation. So, we have made preparations to offer the Eid prayers inside the mosque,” Abu Solaiman, a refugee from Balukhali camp, told Arab News.

There are more than 550,000 Rohingya children who are deprived of playgrounds and basic recreational pursuits for lack of space. Nevertheless, Rohingya children at Cox’s Bazar have figured out their own ways to turn Eid into a memorable occasion.

“On this Eid, there will be a fair inside the camps which has a merry-go-round and some other amusement materials for the kids,” Humayun Kabir, a Rohingya child at Kutupalang camp, told Arab News.

Halima Sheikh another refugee girl from the same camp, also expressed her excitement over the Eid fair.

“I have asked my father for some money for Eid shopping at the fair along with my friends. I plan to purchase cosmetics for me and my mother,” she said.

At the end of Ramadan, Rohingya women are now trying their best to prepare special dishes as a part of Eid tradition.

Different aid agencies have also come up with special offerings to make the festival a little more colorful to the Rohingya.

“We have provided a special Eid package which includes aromatic rice, lentils, milk, sugar, vermicelli, etc., to several hundred Rohingya families. We also received some Zakat funds from a nonresident Bangladeshi to run one of our health posts in the refugee camps,” said Nazrul Islam, country manager of UK-based aid agency Global One.

Another Bangladeshi aid agency, BRAC, has also provided food packages. “We have supported 2,500 Rohingya families with special food aid, including meat, oil and spices,” Khaled Morshed, head of the humanitarian response program at BRAC, told Arab News.

The authorities in Bangladesh have also beefed up security in and around the refugee camps to ensure peace during the festival.

“We have deployed around 1,100 police in and around the refugee camps to ensure round-the-clock vigilance,” Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.


Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

Indonesia’s Vice President Ma’ruf Amin says the government is on a quest to stop the spread of radicalism. (AN photo by Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)
Updated 25 February 2020

Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

  • Vice President Ma’ruf Amin shares concern over former Indonesian Daesh members who want to return home
  • There are 600 former jail inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has decided not to repatriate hundreds of citizens who joined Daesh in a bid to counter the rise of radicalization in its society.

President Joko Widodo said on Feb. 12 that the government was prioritizing the security of its 260 million population by reducing their exposure to terrorist attacks from those who had fought for Daesh.
Indonesia has experienced a number of attacks by people linked to militant groups that support Daesh. Recent attacks include a suicide bombing at a police headquarters in November and an attack on the then-chief security minister, Wiranto — a retired general who like many Indonesians uses one name — who was stabbed in the abdomen last October by a man affiliated to a Daesh-supporting network.
Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said that there were 689 people in camps in Syria — most of them women and children — who said they come from Indonesia, based on data provided by the CIA, the the Red Cross and other agencies.
The government will consider on a case-by-case basis whether to repatriate children aged 10 or younger, and based on whether they have parents or are orphaned.
Mahfud said that the government was concerned that if foreign terrorist fighters were repatriated they could become a dangerous new “virus” for the country.
Indonesians who had been repatriated from Syria have to take part in a government-sponsored deradicalization program for a month.
In addition, the national counterterrorism agency BNPT has rolled out deradicalization programs for terror convicts incarcerated in more than 100 correctional facilities. It continues to monitor at least 600 former jail inmates who have served their terms and are undertaking empowerment programs to prevent them from rejoining fellow militants.
Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has been tasked with the responsibility of coordinating efforts to take on radicalization. His credentials as a senior Muslim cleric are expected to carry weight in countering the spread of hardline Islamic teachings.

INNUMBERS

260m - Total population of Indonesia.

689 - Number of people in Syrian camps who say they are from Indonesia.

600 - Number of inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, septuagenarian Amin, who is chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, although in an inactive capacity, acknowledged his background as a religious figure was the reason why President Widodo assigned him to the task.
“We want to instill a sense of religious moderation and develop a nationalist commitment,” he said.
He added that the government did not want former Daesh members who claimed to be Indonesians bringing “a plague” to the country, becoming “a new source of radicalism” if they were repatriated.
The government uses the term “radical terrorism” to avoid confusion with other types of radicalism.

Hundreds of Indonesians joined Daesh in Syria, to fight against President Bashar Assad. (Getty)

Amin said that prevention and law enforcement were required to combat terrorism. While Indonesia has gained international recognition for its counterterrorism efforts, there remains much to do to curb the spread of radical terrorism, he said.
“If radicalism turns into action, it could become terrorism, so we begin from their way of thinking and we realign their intolerant thoughts, which are the source of radicalism. We deradicalize those who have been exposed,” Amin said.
There are five provinces where the spread of radicalism and terrorism have been particularly being targeted: Aceh, Riau, Central Sulawesi, West Kalimantan and East Java.
Amin said that the government was on a quest to prevent the spread of religious radicalism in Indonesia.
“The cause of terrorism and radicalism could be triggered by religious teachings, the economic situation, injustice, therefore it takes a comprehensive approach from upstream to downstream,” Amin said.
A coordinated approach involves various government agencies and institutions, and begins with early childhood education through to college.
“We want to instill religious moderation, a sense of nationalism and patriotism and introduce Pancasila into early childhood education,” Amin said, referring to the country’s foundation principles.
According to the Global Threat Landscape report issued in January by Singapore’s International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), deradicalization programs targeting women and children are necessary given the growing number of women involved in terrorist activities. The programs need to be different to those provided for male militants.
The report found that family networks which include wives would continue to play a part in militant activities in Indonesia this year. Family units are likely to be involved in future attacks as some pro-Daesh families have indoctrinated their children with its ideology.
Previous attacks have seen women and children involved in attacks such as the suicide bombing in Surabaya targeting churches and a police headquarters in 2018.
Asked if the BNPT efforts have been enough to counter radicalization in Indonesia, Amin said that the program was on track, but in the future the government aimed to have a more focused target supported by cooperation with government agencies.
 “We expect the results would be much better than what has been achieved so far,” he said.