Thousands of Rohingyas held peaceful protests at different camps in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday, demanding citizenship rights, safe and dignified return to their homeland.
Marking one year of their displacement from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, they held protests by holding placards and banners at almost all of the 30 camps in Cox’s Bazar, giving a call for justice.
Big banners were written with ‘365 days of crying, now I am angry’, ‘Never Again: Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day. 25 August, 2018’.
Many also waved flags having ‘Justice, back home, Rohingya, rights’ ‘August 25, Black Day’ and others written on them.
Rohingyas under the banner of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights held a big rally at Lambashia of Kutupalang camp.
Boys of Rohingya and Free Rohingya Coalition held a rally on Cox’s Bazar-Taknaf road and formed human chains in other places.
One of the organisers of the rally of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights Mohammad Mohibulla told reporters that the Rohingyas were sad on the day yet they held protests.
He said that they want to go back to their homeland with all rights including citizenship, dignity and safety.
Saturday marked a year since one of the 21st century’s worst refugee crises drew the world’s attention.
In 2017, an unprecedented number of Rohingyas began fleeing their homes in Rakhine State after Myanmar military launched a crackdown following attacks on border posts, allegedly by Rohingya rebels.
The United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres termed it as ‘a humanitarian and human rights nightmare’ and the UN denounced it as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
Since August 25, 2017, terrified, starving, exhausted Rohingyas continued arriving in Bangladesh trekking hills and crossing rough sea and the River Naf on boat and taking shelter in Cox’s Bazar.
Their camps built on hillsides risk being washed away by the monsoon rain or destroyed by a cyclone.
About 6,000 acres of national forests have been cleared to build world largest refugee camps. The lush, green, hilly landscape rapidly transformed into town of tents as far as the eye can see.
UNHCR said that more than 720,000 Rohingyas fled violence since August 25, 2017. They
have joined an estimated 4 lakh Rohingyas from previous waves of influx fuelled by intimidation since 1978.
Rohingyas fled unrest in Rakhine in 1978, 1991-92 and October 2016 and almost all of them took shelter at Teknaf and Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar, which housed two registered Rohingya camps and several other unregistered camps.
An estimated 24,000 ethnic minority Rohingyas were murdered and about 18,000 women and girls raped, according to a study conducted by a five-country research consortium released in London on August 16.
A Rohingya woman Shekuga BiBi, a school teacher of Buthidaung township, said that they were protesting at atrocities of Myanmar that destroyed their homes, schools, masjid and others structures.
‘Myanmar military killed our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, son and daughters. They also raped our young sisters, mothers. We are observing the day as a black day,’ she said.
‘We want to return to our homeland and our houses but with the dignity, with same status of other Myanmar citizens,’ she demanded.
‘We want justice as Myanmar army killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,’ said Tamizur Rahman, a 12-year-old Rohingya boy.