Ukraine: 19 people killed in Russian strikes on Monday

KUTUPALONG: Rohingya refugee Khin Zaw recalls a warm welcome when he arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing army abuses in his village in Burma. Five years later, the hostility of which he and his community are victims is such that he considers a dangerous return to his country.

In 2017, he was among some 750,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, where there were already more than 100,000 refugees from this Muslim minority, victims like them of previous violence by the Burmese army.

At the time, thousands of Bangladeshis, outraged by anti-Muslim violence across the border, came from across the country to distribute food and medicine to shocked Rohingyas.

Since then, the refugees have survived crammed into unsanitary camps but refuse to return to Burma until they are granted citizenship rights and security guarantees.

The February 2021 military coup in Burma has removed any prospect of an agreement for their return to their native country.

‘So much hate’

Bangladesh is struggling to support the huge population of traumatized refugees. But the latter are increasingly victims of hostilities also on this land of welcome.

“There is so much hatred among the local people and the press here that I fear it will spark violence at any moment,” Khin Zaw told AFP in his shack in the vast refugee camp on the border with Burma.

“It is better that we go home, even if it means facing bullets there,” he continues, “if we die, at least we will be buried in our homeland.”

In March, the United States for the first time officially declared that the Rohingya minority had been victims of genocide perpetrated by the Burmese army in 2016 and 2017.

And in July, the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body of the UN, considered itself competent to judge an accusation of genocide by the Rohingyas against Burma.

Visiting Bangladesh in August at the end of her term, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was concerned about “the growing anti-Rohingya rhetoric” and that the community could serve as a “scapegoat”.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, discussing with her the “burden” that the Rohingya camps represent for the weakened economy of her country, said she feared for “the security and stability of the entire region”.

Bangladeshis living near camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazar are “also suffering” and “uncomfortable”, she told AFP last month in New York. .

A popular online news portal recently posed this question: “how long will Bangladesh be punished for its benevolence?”.

“Cancerous Tumor”

Another headline in the local press compared the presence of the Rohingyas to a “cancerous tumor”.

“They are stealing our jobs (…) and bringing shame to Bangladesh,” accuses Ayasur Rahman, spokesperson for a local organization campaigning against the presence of the Rohingyas.

“They should be sent to Burma immediately,” he adds.

Refugees recognize the rise in crime and violence in the camps, with dozens of murders, kidnappings and police roundups targeting drug trafficking networks. But they are its first victims.

“Out of a million people, there are a handful of black sheep. This does not justify treating the entire refugee community as a criminal,” refugee Abdul Mannan told AFP.

And to emphasize: “it is very humiliating the way we are portrayed”.

Bangladesh’s economic difficulties are helping to erode charitable feelings.

“The compassion that was shown in 2017 and the following years has dwindled. It has been replaced by xenophobic rhetoric,” said Ali Riaz, a professor of political science at Illinois State University, who has written extensively on the Rohingya crisis.

“Fear and hatred are the main characteristics,” he told AFP, “and unfortunately they never fail.”

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Ukraine: 19 people killed in Russian strikes on Monday