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Indian investigators recently busted an alleged human trafficking ring that was smuggling ethnic Rohingya girls into India from refugee camps in Bangladesh.
It’s just the latest misfortune to befall members of this ethnic group who have been forced from their homes and put into limbo.
Six years ago, almost one million ethnic Rohingya fled from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, reported the Irrawaddy, an independent English-language newspaper that covers Myanmar. The Rohingya have been fighting for their rights and more autonomy since the country formerly known as Burma won its independence from Britain in 1948, according to the Conversation.
More recently, however, the military junta that runs Myanmar is facing charges of genocide for brutal crackdowns in 2016 and 2017 that allegedly included mass killings and the displacement of the Rohingya community into neighboring countries like Bangladesh, the Guardian wrote. New evidence recently surfaced that appears to incontrovertibly prove that Myanmar’s generals meticulously planned their purge, added Reuters.
After seemingly relinquishing power and allowing Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to assume more power in government, the junta staged a coup early last year, retaking control. They are likely continuing the atrocities not only against the Muslim Rohingyas but also against all political opponents, United Nations officials warned recently.
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, as the suspected human trafficking ring demonstrates, the Rohingya suffer. Entire families live in small shacks in 34 squalid camps with poor sanitation they cannot leave without a permit. Young women in refugee camps are forced to accept polygamy often with men three times their age – or older – or risk abuse at the hands of predators, reported the Daily Star, a local English-language newspaper.
There is little work – refugees are restricted from setting up businesses within the camps – and even fewer educational opportunities. In December, the government banned home-schooling and private education. More recently, they bulldozed 30 schools in the camps, where half of the residents are children like Noor, 13, who wants to become a doctor but now has nowhere to study or anything to do all day. “My dream ended in Class 6,” he told the Economist.
While the Bangladesh government fears extremism developing in the schools and crime syndicates from Rohingya-run businesses, essentially it doesn’t want these refugees getting too comfortable, the Economist added.
Still, Bangladeshis in Cox’s Bazar have raised questions about Rohingya terrorists operating within the camps and orchestrating killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities that tend to occur alongside hate and violence, Radio Free Asia wrote. Bangladeshi police have also arrested members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the rebel group fighting against Myanmar’s central government, on charges of murder and other misdeeds.
For Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, the instability of a massive refugee population is yet another challenge to overcome alongside rising fuel prices and other supply shocks exerting a toll on the country’s economy, Bloomberg noted.
Meanwhile, the refugees want to go home. Last month, tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh staged demonstrations to demand repatriation to Myanmar.
“We don’t want to stay in the camps,” said Rohingya community leader Sayed Ullah said in a speech at one rally, as Al Jazeera reported. “Being refugees is not easy. It’s hell.”
Recently, Bangladesh asked China for help returning the refugees to Myanmar, the AP reported. But previous repatriation attempts have failed with Rohingya refusing to go home until Myanmar gives the largely Muslim minority guarantees of rights and security.
With the perpetrators of their persecution now in power, that’s likely a long way off.