I visited Kutapalong camp in February 2017 and in Februay 2018 and September 2018. The visit in 2017 was a real eye opener physically witnessing for the first time how approximately 400,000 displayed Rohingya people are living in the Kutupalong camp in scantly conditions since 1992. In my first visit I visited the office of the UNHCR and met the senior officer Mr Iktaruddin Bayzid with whom I have kept in touch and continued to meet on my subsequent visits. In 2017 I also met Rohingya comrades Md Shafi and Md Hossain for the first time, just 2 of the Rohingya activist helping various NGO’s and Charities alike in ways possible!
Both comrades since have been and continue to be of great help and support for RANE and we often rely on their local knowledge and support in all our aid distributions thus far. If I am brutality honest then what I witnessed in my first visit was both painful and heartbreaking seeing and meeting orphaned children’s, men who lost their wives or daughters and women who have been raped, survived rape and or lost their husbands and sons! It was heartbreaking listening to their shocking individual and personal stories of how they fled, what they have lost and the conditions that they are now living! They are safe from harm, however living a life scavenging for everyday necessities. This visit led to the formation of RANE.
My second visit was post the mass migration of 25th August 2017 when almost a MILLION Rohingya people entered Bangladesh within days and weeks fleeing the persecution and the ethnic cleansing of this minority group of people of Myanmar (Burma). The visit in February 2018 was organised and arranged with the CAP Foundation whom RANE financially supported to establish the Maternity Centre at the Kutupalong Camp. The Maternity Clinic was officially opened during this visit and on the very first opening day a number of babies were safely delivered at this clinic. I also met with our Rohingya colleagues on the ground and delivered aid, sporting and education supplies for the young people in the camp. This was also an opportunity to research and take stock of the needs of the people and where RANE could have an impact. At this visit I met up with one of the Camp Officials who provided me with the shocking stats; that there are now a staggering 34 camps in total accommodating around 1.5 million people.
It was at this visit that I first met the wounded 15 year old Umme Salma who survived molestation attempt, however was shot in the thigh as a result of her fight. It was difficult to hold on to the tears listening her harrowing tale, how she spent over a week travelling on foot fleeing her persecutors without food and medical attention! Salma’s wish is to study so that she can help the Rohingya people. I was so emotionally drained listening to this young girls story, yet felt inspired listening to her plea that she wishes to continue with her studies which led me to do the #LungiChallenge – Lunghi is a piece of clothing sarong like which is popularly worn by men in Asian Countries. the fund raising challenge was that I travel back to the UK in freezing minus weather wearing the Lunghi, sandals and T-shirt; this fundraiser rasied around £700 with which we started to provide private tuition for Salma and 15 other young girls.
Two of RANE’s main focus is to establish ‘Safe Centres for Women’ and to continue to offer ‘Education’ opportunity/provisions for young people. Please support RANE and donate as much as you can.
The day on 25th August, 2017 the Myanmar government with military and Rakhine extremists created a long planwise situation to drag away the minority Rohingya Muslims from their country of origin. At midnight, the military together with Rakhines commenced torching villages with launchers in Buthidaung, Rathidaung and Maungdow. When the Rohingyas came to know that the villages on fire, they began coming out from their houses and the military open fired toward the people cutting the others with swards. In the morning, the military arrested hundreds of Rohingys and females were taken away and many more were molest, assaulted and raped before the eyes of their dear and near ones. The Rakhines looted away the valuables and burned the empty houses.
The rest Rohingyas who could escape from the deadly firing started walking through the forests with their family members and villagers where many had to walk more then ten days to reach Naf river to cross to Bangladesh. Crossing the Naf river the Rohingyas got welcoming from the government of Bangladesh and her generous people. They were given food, water, cash money and shelters.
I met a young woman in September, 2017 who told the horrific things she encounter that she newly wedded young husband and father-in-law were shot in front of her. She said, It is unacceptably hurt touching to my juvenile husband was shot and dying in front of me where I could do nothing for him and even I could not feet him water that he asked for. Then I was taken to an empty house together with my mother and other five women where the military attempted to take off my clothes and my mother was slaughtered before my eyes as she tried to prevent the military from raping. I was beaten very badly with handle of gun that I fell down and I remember that three military raped me then I lost my conscious. When her consciousness came back she found herself naked while the house was on fire. She broke and sneaks out from a corner of the house and crept to the paddy field. In the middle of the paddy field, she met her uncle who was sitting there since morning that he came there to graze cattle. He immediately gave her the shirt he was wearing so that she can cover her body.
National and international journalists and humanitarian workers hurried to the border areas to help report and support the coming Rohingyas from Myanmar. In few days later on, the government of Bangladesh with NGOs built shelters and registered the displaced Rohingyas.
In 2018, two attempt of repatriation failed as the Rohingyas were unwilling to go back to the same persecution before any justice is happen. They want the culprits to be arrested so that they get justification from the ICC and ICJ where Gambia filed case on behalf of the Rohingya minority and case is still undergoing.
Mohammed Shafi, RANE local representative and Rohingya
I visited Kutapalong camp in March 2018 to meet with our colleagues on the ground to deliver aid, sporting and education supplies for the young people in the camp. It was also an opportunity to research and take stock of the needs of the people and where RANE could have an impact.
I met Umme Salma who had fled Myanmar with her family on an arduous journey. She is one of many we started providing private tuition to continue their education as best as possible.
I spoke with many of the Rohingya refugees and listened to their stories and struggles leaving everything behind to survive.