‘Miracle’ Rohingya baby turns 2 on crackdown anniversary

COX’S BAZAR DISTRICT: Rohingya refugee Mohammad Selim interacts with his son Ahmad Shah, who was born two years ago when a brutal military clampdown eventually drove away some 740,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. – AFP

BALUKHALI: Heavily pregnant Rohingya mother Rashida Khatun fled her home in a remote village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state two years ago, bone-tired but desperate to find a safe place to give birth. After walking for hours with her husband and three children, Khatun took a treacherous sea journey in bad weather to reach the southeastern tip of Bangladesh.

The family took shelter beside a road and erected a makeshift roof with twigs and a polythene sheet. Several hours later, Khatun gave birth to Ahmad Shah in the pouring rain, helped by other Rohingya women also sheltering nearby. “I was so tired. Yet I wanted to give a safe birth to my unborn baby,” the 29-year-old mother said.

“I thought he wouldn’t survive because we were getting drenched by the rain.” Shah turned two on Sunday-the second anniversary of the mass exodus of some 740,000 Rohingya who fled a brutal military crackdown in western Myanmar and took refuge in vast, squalid camps in Bangladesh. His birth, and his family’s ordeal, are a reminder of the struggles the stateless Muslim minority went through to flee their homeland.

Some 200,000 Rohingya took part in a rally at the world’s largest refugee settlement on Sunday to mark what the refugees describe as “Genocide Day”. Shah’s father Mohammad Selim said his son was a miracle child. “Allah saved my kid that night. All praise to Him,” said Selim, an imam at a mosque at Balukhali refugee camp. He said his other children still remembered the trauma of the perilous journey. “I am so happy for Shah that he didn’t have to go through those woes. I will make him an Islamic scholar someday,” he added.

Rohingya shot dead

In another development, Bangladesh police shot dead a third Rohingya refugee yesterday after they were accused of the murder of a ruling party official that has sparked anger among the local population. Nearly a million Rohingya live in squalid camps in south-east Bangladesh, 740,000 of whom fled a 2017 military offensive against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Police said Mohammad Hasan, a suspected Rohingya “dacoit” or gang member, was shot dead after he allegedly opened fire at officers during a raid to arrest him at Jadimura refugee camp. “He is an accused in the murder of Omar Faruk,” local police chief Prodeep Kumar Das told AFP, referring to a ruling Awami League party youth wing official who was shot in the head by suspected Rohingya criminals on Thursday.

On Saturday police said they had shot dead two Rohingya refugees at the same refugee camp in the Cox’s Bazar district over their alleged roles in the murder. Rights activists, who asked not to be named, said they believe the two Rohingya men were killed by police in what appeared to be a staged encounter. The incident comes days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border to conflict-scarred Rakhine state.

On Sunday, the Rohingya marked two years since the military crackdown in Myanmar with some 200,000 rallying in a refugee camp where refugee leaders vowed they won’t return home unless their rights and security are ensured. Faruk’s murder had sparked anger among the local population, with hundreds of furious people blocking a key highway leading to the camp for hours on Thursday, burning tyres and vandalizing shops visited by refugees.

Rohingya refugees have said the recent bloodshed has created an atmosphere of fear in the camp, where security has been tightened. With the latest death, at least 33 Rohingya have been killed by Bangladeshi police and security forces since the exodus in August 2017, a police inspector Ruhul Amin said. He said that most were suspected drug traffickers, accused of smuggling yaba, a popular methamphetamine pill from across the Myanmar border. UN investigators have said the 2017 violence warrants the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for “genocide”. – Agencies

Back to top button