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Rohingya refugees face violence from militants and authorities, HRW states

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting abuse committed by militants and local authorities against Rohingya refugees in the camps located near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. It claims that Bangladesh has failed to take appropriate action to protect its nearly one million refugees. Twenty-six cases of violence against the Rohingya have been documented, including rape, torture, murder, forced marriage, and kidnapping, between January and April 2023. “Donor governments should be helping to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh while pressing for the establishment of rights-respecting civilian rule in Myanmar so they can one day go home,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW deputy Asia director.

The HRW report states that militant groups such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), and Islami Mahaz, are responsible for killing Rohingya human rights activists and community leaders. Bangladesh officials stated that at least 48 have been killed in 2023 with another 40 killed the previous year. “These armed groups decided to increase violence in the camps, killing people, targeting majhis [Rohingya refugee camp leaders] and activists, to create an environment of fear so that they can operate in the camps without interruption by Bangladesh authorities,” a Rohingya human rights activist told HRW. 

The HRW report claimed that these same militant groups have committed sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls and have forced some into marriage. Some confessed to HRW that militants have even gone as far as sexually assaulting them while their husbands were away working in Malaysia. HRW interviewed one woman who detailed her rape at the hands of a man who filmed it and posted it online. A 16-year-old girl told HRW that she was forced to marry an ARSA member at 14 after he threatened to kill her family. Militants have also been accused of recruiting children with boys as young as 13 being offered bribes and weapons to join. Some boys have been reportedly recruited by force. 

Local officials have put Rohingya refugees in danger by forcing them to become informants and participate in the identification of militants during police raids. But they aren’t even able to file official complaints with the police. Instead they must talk with the security and administration authorities based in the camps, but many have reported that no permission to file complaints with police would be granted. Rohingya that were able to talk with police received no follow ups as they were unable to pay expected bribes and legal fees. 

The HRW report calls on Bangladesh and U.N. agencies to develop a security policy to protect the Rohingya. It recommended that the U.N. train security personnel and forward survivors of violence to medical and protection services. It requested the international community press Bangladesh to get rid of its bureaucracy that prevent refugees from accessing education and the criminal justice system. 

Over 700,000 Rohingya fled a Burma Army crackdown on northern Rakhine State in 2017. Last year, the U.S. government labeled it a genocide. Bangladesh is now working with Naypyidaw to repatriate 1,000 Rohingya to Burma which has been widely criticized by human rights experts. Over 120,000 Rohingya inside Burma are forced to live in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. They’re denied citizenship and have their movement restricted. Over 100 Rohingya were reportedly killed on May 14 when Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine State.

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