Thursday, 23rd August , 2018, 04:41 pm,BDST
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Rohingya scars testify to Myanmar crackdown



Lastnewsbd, 23rd August, Dhaka: Myanmar says its military operations in Sikander’s home state of Rakhine last August were an effort to root out terrorists who had targeted police officers. But the scars and disfigured skin of Rohingya civilian’s men, women and children — tell a different story. “It was a soldier who shot me,” Sikander, 37, recounted almost a year after Myanmar security forces stormed his village of Yae Twin Kyun, in Muangdaw district, on 1 September. On the back of his right shoulder is a large scar, round and concave, a thumb-sized gouge of flesh taken from his body. “I’m still in pain, I take medicine from the clinic [for it],” he told AFP. “I can’t lift heavy things.” Sikander is one of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims — a minority from Myanmar long considered outsiders and denied citizenship expelled almost a year ago when security forces launched “clearance operations” after rebel attacks. Today, he lives across the border in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where refugee camps hold more than a million Rohingya. Those who made it to Bangladesh have recounted rape, extrajudicial killings and the razing of entire villages.

Rohingya refugee Mohammad Sikander felt a flash of pain as a bullet — fired by a Myanmar soldier tore into his shoulder. Myanmar has denied accusations of atrocities — apart from a solitary massacre in the village of Inn Din. It insists its operations were proportionate responses targeting Rohingya militants. But the violence written on the bodies of refugees speaks otherwise. A round tore through 60-year-old Kabir Ahmed’s left shoulder as he fled, leaving a pink arrow-shaped scar. There is the line of gnarled flesh under the bend of eight-year-old Minara’s knee, where she was shot at home in Rakhine. Mohammad Haroon, 28, has a gash at the top of his spine where a bullet hit him as he was trying to cross the border. Aid group Doctors Without Borders says it has treated more than 2,600 patients for injuries from bullets, knives and burns. The figure does not include women subjected to sexual violence. Many of the wounds have an enduring physical impact.

Minara can’t walk properly and Haroon has trouble breathing. Mohammed Sultan, 30, went blind after a bullet pierced his right temple and severed his optical nerves. But his brother fared worse. “One of my brothers came to rescue me, but he was shot in the back, and he died,” he said. Rohingya mark Eid, one year after Myanmar crisis began Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims marked Eid al-Adha on Wednesday in the world’s largest refugee camp, almost a year to the day since a brutal military crackdown drove the persecuted minority from Myanmar in huge numbers. Prayers were offered in makeshift mosques across southern Bangladesh to celebrate the Islamic festival of sacrifice as cows were slaughtered in muddy fields across the sprawling camps. In Kutupalong, a gigantic hill settlement crammed with hundreds of thousands of refugees, a muezzin called the faithful to pray as children played on a wooden carousel and ran about in dirt alleyways in new clothes for the special day. For many refugees, this Eid al-Adha is the first since their violent expulsion from western Myanmar a year ago in a campaign of orchestrated violence likened by US and UN officials to ethnic cleansing. Myanmar’s military, backed by armed Buddhist militias, began sweeping through Rohingya villages in August 2017 just days before Eid celebrations got underway. Memories of his torched homeland, and misery in Bangladesh, overshadowed festivities for 19-year-old Mohammad Issa, one of the 700,000 Rohingya who fled the bloody purge. “In Myanmar we had money, we had cattle and land. Eid was happier there,” he told AFP near a row of reeking pit latrines in Jamtoli camp, a new settlement for recently-arrived refugees. Muslims traditionally sacrifice animals for the three-day Eid al-Adha feast, a tribute to the prophet Abraham slaughtering a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son. Those able to make the sacrifice known as qurbani will consume some of the meat and give the rest to the poor unable to buy food. In Cox’s Bazar near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, where squalid camps host generations of Rohingya refugees expelled from western Myanmar, there is much need, and little to go around.

Cows, goats and sheep flooded local markets catering to the displaced Muslims in the lead up to Eid. Some better-off families pooled whatever cash they could muster to make the Islamic sacrifice, buying shares in a cow or goat. But for most refugees — barred from legally working, and surviving hand to mouth on charity — such luxuries are wildly beyond their means. The sight of animals being fattened for slaughter taunted Mohammad Amin, a teenager who remembered the home-cooked meat delicacies and special gifts reserved for the holiest Islamic festivity back home. “But here, we don’t have any money to slaughter cows or buy new clothes,” the downcast 15-year-old told AFP. The influx of refugees delivered a bumper year for Bangladeshi livestock trader Aktar Hussain and others like him, who counted wads of cash at a busy cattle market market adjacent to the camps. “This has been my best year yet,” he told AFP, as prospective Rohingya buyers examined a sturdy brown cow in a muddy clearing. “Last year, I sold 15 cows at Eid. This year, I’ve already sold 50.” The festival differs from Eid al-Fitr, the other major festival in the Islamic calendar, which was celebrated in June in Muslim-majority Bangladesh after the fasting month of Ramadan.

 

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