Eid-ul-Fitr for the Rohingyas, now stranded in a foreign land, brings little of joy but more of woes of leaving behind a homeland they have inhabited for generations.
Eid is not just having improved food and new clothes; it is also having relatives around to meet and talk to; it is also being in one’s own familiar environment where one has grown up.
But for the Rohingyas this is not to be as they have been violently uprooted from their homeland.
Fleeing into Bangladesh in the face of state persecution back in their homeland since August 25, they had come here empty-handed and are now living in camps built with polythene sheets with inadequate food, sanitation and others facilities.
Only last year, the Rohingyas, who are mostly Muslim ethic group of Myanmar, celebrated Eid with family members with joy, feast and festivity but this year their families are shattered and there is uncertain about regular meal.
Besides, downpour for the past several days has increased their plight and fear of death in possible landslides has somewhat more blurred the joy of Eid for them.
Eid-ul-Fitr is scheduled to be celebrated in Bangladesh on Saturday subject to sighting of Shawal moon on Friday.
Rohingyas who are fighting hard for life are now tensed as large areas of their camps have gone under water following the downpour and fear is growing about further landsides in the one of the congested and largest refugee camps in the world.
‘Now we are in fear about landslides; we have neither Eid, nor festivities,’ said Rohingya woman Ayesha Begum, living in Balukhali camp, heaving a deep sigh.
UN agencies have reported about 100 incidents, including landslides, water-logging, extreme wind and lightning strikes at the camps that caused death of at least three in last five days.
Twenty-six-year-old Ayesha Begum asked how she could enjoy Eid with her two infants as she had no idea whether her husband was dead and alive. ‘Many say he is dead but I still waiting,’ she said, wiping her eyes.
Ayesha recalling her life in Maungdaw town in Rakhine State of Myanmar said her family was doing well as her husband was running a small business alongside farming.
‘Eid used to bring a lot of joy; we had new clothes, exchanged gifts, arranged heavy feast, outings and visiting relatives. But now it seems like a dream,’ she added.
She said that this was her first Eid on other country as they were hiding to save life in the first half of September 2017 when Eid-ul-Azha was being celebrated. She crossed into Bangladesh later that month.
About 7 lakh Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the UN denounced as ethnic cleansing since August 25, 2017.
The influx of over 11 lakh Myanmar refugees into Bangladesh since 1978 led to indiscriminate deforestation and hill cutting.
Another Rohingya Abdur Rahim, 45, living with five children in Kutupalang camp said he was going through the hardest moment of his life as he for the first time would not be able to buy any new clothes for his children and wife.
‘My children are upset as well as myself….,’ lamented Rahim, a teacher form Buchidong. He added that he was consoling himself like other Rohingyas that they are ‘living aboard for saving life and this is a test of life’.
Abdur Rahim and his fellows Mohammad Rafiq and Mohammad Hasim from Maungdaw said that they used to take preparation for Eid from the middle of Ramadan.
‘We used to go for shopping in main town,’ said Rafiq, adding that they usually took beef, ruti and paratha, a type of South Asian flat bread that is fried in a pan, vermicelli, sweet and others on Eid day.
‘Arranging vermicelli is a struggle, let alone new clothes and gift. All these are not possible this year. Even we are not sure about future,’ Hasim said.
‘We left behind all our assets, jobs and life there [in Myanmar],’ Abdur Rahim said, adding ‘we also left behind our Eid.’
‘I could not stay in my country, as they killed my 11 family members,’ Hasim said, when story of others ethnic minorities were more or less the same.
‘I thought about fleeing to Bangladesh to save live. We are now safe at the cost of happiness and festivity,’ he said.
All three said that they wanted to return to their homeland only after Myanmar government ensured their citizenship, security, recognised them as Rohingya community, returned their home and land occupied by Myanmar Buddhists and army.
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