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Rohingya's Bittersweet Eid in Malaysia

Migrants are transferred to a naval base on Langkawi island, Malaysia, on May 13, 2015 (Photo: AP)

July 21, 2015

ALOR SETAR, Malaysia – Starting a new life in Malaysia, Rohingya Muslims have celebrated their first real `Eid Al-Fitr in Malaysia, after escaping persecution in Burma and death with human traffickers.

"I am so happy to be able to fast and celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr in Malaysia without any fear. In Myanmar [Burma], Muslims who gather to pray on `Eid Al-Fitr morning will be arrested by the army," Nurul Amin Nobi Hussein told Benama News.

Detained for two months at the 'death camp' at Wang Kelian, Hussein said ethnic Rohingya in Burma were confined to celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr with family members at home in their village.

"I contacted my parents in Maungdaw, Myanmar. They did not celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr, it was like any other day, just staying in the house," Hussein, 25, said.

"They would be jailed if they failed to do so. The army do not want us to move freely."

According to Hussein, Rohingya Muslims were required to seek permission from the army if they wanted to visit their relatives in other villages during `Eid Al-Fitr or ordinary days.

He was rescued when a syndicate smuggled him to Wang Kelian and Padang Besar, southern Thailand.

Nobi Hussein sees his arrival to Malaysia gives as relief and hope for a better future.

For this year, his joy is overwhelming as his wife Nur Khaidha Abdul Shukur, 24, and their two children, Mansur Ali aged four and five-month old Mohamad Yasir, share his joy at their present home at Simpang Kuala, Alor Setar.

His wife was also rescued after 10 days at a transit camp at Padang Besar, southern Thailand. She testifies about the rape of Rohingya women by guards at the camp.

Putting his predicaments aside, Nurul Amin dreams of a brighter future.

"This year is more special because I could buy new clothes for my children, cook food and make ethnic Rohingya traditional cakes to celebrate. We also freely visited friends at wherever they were staying," he said.


Jahedul Islam, another Rohingya Muslim, was enthusiastic about celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr in a peaceful environment.

"I am very happy to be celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr in Malaysia but I also feel very sad that my family and relatives have to live under oppression by the Myanmar army," Islam said.

"I also grieve and feel a sense of guilt when I think of friends who suffered and died at the hands of violent guards at the camp. Nurul (Amin) and I are among the fortunate ones to have managed to escape," he said.

Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.

They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.

The Burmese government, as well as the Buddhist majority, refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.

Rights groups have accused Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the sectarian violence last year.

Fleeing state-sponsored persecution, an estimated 120,000 Burmese refugees fled to live in 10 camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border, according to The Border Consortium, which coordinates NGO activity in the camps.

Many fled persecution and ethnic wars as well as poverty and have lived in the camps with no legal means of making an income.

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Rohingya Exodus