Saturday, March 23, 2019 | ePaper
Rohingyas have no future in BD camps: Adv Razia
Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana on Wednesday said, there is no future of the 900,000 Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar to escape brutal military crackdown in August last year.
Razia Sultana, who is a leading campaigner, said, there is little hope among the refugees who belonged to the Muslim minority in Myanmar.
She said this while talking with the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dhaka.
"The more time they spend in the camps, the worse they get," said Razia Sultana, who last week received the International Women of Courage Award (IWCA) from the US Department of State.
"Yes, they are getting food. But that is not enough. It's like a zoo where the people are just being fed and grown. There's no education. There's no future," she said.
Sultana, a Rohingya who was born in Myanmar, but grew up in Bangladesh, is one of 10 women who received the IWCA, given to women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and advocated for peace.
After interviewing hundreds of victims of sexual violence following an earlier influx of Rohingya refugees in 2016, she set up the Rohingya Women's Welfare Society to provide counselling for women in the camps in 2017.
The organisation also trains Rohingya volunteers to address problems such as domestic abuse and child marriage in the community. "If you give the Rohingya women an opportunity and a bit of security, they will amaze you," said Sultana.
"When I first started working, I could barely convince five girls to take part in the programme. Today we have 60 volunteers who do amazing work. They inform me about early marriages, domestic violence or risks of trafficking in the camps."
Razia Sultana said that the lack of hope in the camps is becoming source of trafficking and she called on Bangladesh to crack down on the crime. Police records show more than 100 Rohingyas were rescued from being trafficked this year alone.
"People in the camps are scared to talk about the criminals who are involved in trafficking because they obviously don't want to be killed. There's a sense of fear," she said.
UN investigators have accused Myanmar's army of carrying out mass killings and rapes with "genocidal intent" during the massive offensive that laid waste to hundreds of Rohingya villages in 2017. Myanmar denies the charge and says its offensive was a legitimate response to an insurgent threat and has pledged to welcome the refugees back. But the United Nations says conditions are not yet right for return.
The Rohingya say they want guarantees over their safety and to be recognized as citizens before returning - most are stateless as Myanmar does not regard them as its citizens.