Remembering the Rohingya Tragedy from Inside the Shelter

Remembering the Rohingya Tragedy from Inside the Shelter

ACTNews, COX’S BAZAR – The sun was shining its brightest on Thursday (5/10) noon in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The air in Kutupalong Camp, the largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, became even drier due to the fiercely hot weather. From inside a bamboo shelter, suddenly a man invited us to get in. The man, Maulana Abdurrahim, is one of the Islamic teachers in the madrasa in Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT)’s Integrated Community Shelter (ICS).

Before he fled to Bangladesh, Abdurrahim was quite a rich man in his village. He has vast farmlands that can be cultivated. He was a respected figure in his homeland in Ulapi Village, Buthidaung District, Myanmar. The villagers used to know him as an Islamic teacher in Jami’a Riyadhul Ulum, one of the Islamic school in Buthidaung.

The father of six told us a lot about the moment when the tragedy happened in August 2017. He told us about the horror of the rape, massacre and torture committed by the Burmese military.

“The Burmese army came to my house, so I ran through the back door. At the time, they wanted to capture me, while my cousin and my son were beaten and tortured. Three days later, the armies returned to my house and started burning my house to the ground,” told Abdurrahim, remembering the events in bitterness. His sadness was apparent on his face as he was telling us the story.

Around 70 families, consisting of 500 people, from his village had to leave their birthplace for safety. There was nothing left to do as their village was burned down to the ground by the Burmese military.

Abdurrahim and his fellow villagers had to take a long, difficult journey for three days to Kutupalong. They walked across hills and crossed the Naf River without boats. They did not have enough provisions. When they were hungry, they had to eat anything available in the jungle: leaves, flowers, etc.

“Now there was no one in our village. Many have fled to seek shelter while a number of them were massacred by the Burmese military. However, in other villages, I heard that there are some Rohingyas left. They are unable to get out because of the blockade by the Burmese military. They are trapped inside, too afraid to get out,” he explained.

He added that, even prior to that event, there had been some Rohingyas who had been massacred and raped.

Abdurrahim was targeted by the military to be killed. They have been spreading rumors about him as the basis to capture him. Abdurrahim told us that the military accused him of inciting the Rohingya youth to protest against the Myanmar Government.

Planned tragedies

The expulsion and massacre of the Rohingyas by the Burmese military was not something spontaneous or unplanned. According to Abdurrahim, they had planned it neatly and systematically.

He told us that on October 6th 2015, there had been long term plans to empty the villages in Rakhine and other areas dwelled by the Rohingyas.

“Their first agenda is to massacre the highly-educated Rohingyas, starting by collecting the data about the learned Rohingyas or the respected figures. There can be about 50, 70, or tens of learned people in each village that will be massacred, one of their targets was me,” he told us.

Forty-nine learned people in his village, including Abdurrahim himself, were about to be captured and killed. He thought that, before his turn came, he had to save himself and leave his home village. Of the 49 people, 6 of them were more than 80-year-old. They were freed after paying large amount of money.

“We have not received any news of their latest conditions. I suspect they too have been killed by the Burmese military,” said Abdurrahim sadly.

Appreciation to the people of Indonesia

For nine months, Abdurrahim and other Rohingya refugees have been living in ICS-ACT. Despite his status as a refugee, his spirit and determination to raise the status of the Rohingyas do not decrease.

Abdurrahim then became an ACT volunteer who coordinate and supervise the education activities in ICS-ACT. He oversees eight madrasas and two Quranic memorization schools which have 800 Rohingya students.

“Although they now live in refugee camps, the children have to keep learning. Along with 32 other teachers, every day I teach the children. The subjects include Qur’anic sciences, Hadith, Arabic language, English language, Burmese language and mathematics. Alhamdulillah, ACT provides allowance for the students as well as 125 teachers every month, not only for the teachers in ICS-ACT but, also in other camps,” he said.

He thanked Allah for bestowing upon him blessings through ACT. For the last nine months, the Rohingya children and teachers were supported not only financially but alsi spiritually. This is something that has greatly impressed Abdurrahim.

“Most of us are Muslims. Alhamdulillah, ACT helps us fulfilling the spiritual need by providing mosques, madrasas, Quranic schools, etc.” he said thankfully.

In his opinion, ACT’s shelters are much better than other shelters which are mostly made of wood and tarpaulins. ACT’s shelters were made of bamboo walls, zinc roofs and concrete floor, making them a lot stronger than other shelters.

“ACT has been helping us for the sake of Allah. I can see that. The people of Indonesia through ACT have greatly helped us and saved us. We will not forget the people of Indonesia and ACT. Every day, after the five daily prayers, we always pray for ACT donors in Indonesia so that they can give more benefits,” he concluded. []

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