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Tales of horror from new arrivals at Rohingya camp

In this November 22, 2016 photo supplied by Amnesty International, Rohingya refugees cross the border into Bangladesh close to Whaikyang in Cox's Bazar district. The actions of Myanmar military may constitute crimes against humanity, human rights group Amnesty International has warned, based on accounts of violence against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority (Photo: AP)

By Maliha Khan & Naushad Ali Husein
December 22, 2016

According to the UNHCR, more than 27,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since the military crackdown began in Myanmar's Rakhine state after attacks on border posts on October 9. 

Every day, new arrivals at the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar bring familiar horror stories of murder and rape from across the Naf River.

But Mohammed Shah Alam will not be able to tell his story.

Shah Alam, 45, suffered a bullet wound when he was attacked by the Myanmar Army on Sunday night. His cousin Fatema Khatun, 40, took him along to flee on a boat around 4am.

She was hoping that he would receive treatment across the border at Leda refugee camp in Teknaf, where their relatives are currently under shelter.

They reached Teknaf around 8am on Monday, but Shah Alam succumbed to his injuries before they reached the camp.

Since the coordinated attacks on Myanmar border posts on October 9, which killed nine policemen, the Myanmar Army launched a fierce crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine State, blaming them for the attacks.

Fleeing the vicious persecution, more than 27,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since the crackdown began, according to the UNHCR.

Fatema said men and boys of her family in Mangala, a village in Rakhine, have been hiding deep in the forest to escape military brutality, coming home only to eat meals.

On Sunday around 8pm, as Shah Alam went home for dinner, news of the imminent arrival of military forces led him and other males to flee.

The military opened fire on the men, and Shah Alam was shot. Fatema picked him up and brought him inside as soon as the forces left.

Fatema said she was certain that they would have been killed if they had tried going to the nearest hospital in Maungdaw town, which is around four kilometres away.

The pair left behind Shah Alam’s wife, who had just given birth to their eighth child six days ago, and Fatema’s husband and four children.

Fatema is lucky enough to find shelter with her sister Romida, who has been living in Leda camp since 2008.

With 5,000 new arrivals, many Rohingya refugees have had to share their huts with relative strangers – like Aziza Begum.

With seven in her own family, Aziza gave shelter to Shomsul Alam’s family of six who arrived on Sunday.

Shomsul says the military set fire to his house, killed one of his sons and shot his son-in-law. They then burnt his beard because it marked him as Muslim, tied him up and repeatedly struck him on his back with their guns.

Unable to walk on his own, Shomsul arrived at the camp supported by his son and another person.

“We live on Tk200 [per day], but they are our Muslim brothers and sisters and our own people. So we take them in,” Aziza said.

Fatema hopes that the rest of her family will soon join her in Bangladesh as those who remain in Myanmar are bound to be killed in the violence targeted at Rohingyas.

However, the 1,972 huts within the camp are already crowded beyond capacity. In the past week, hundreds of newcomers have built shacks out of plastic sheets on nearby properties. The owners have allowed the refugees to live there temporarily.

With dozens of arrivals at Leda every week, these spaces are filling up quickly as well. In a few more weeks, Fatema’s family may have no place to put a piece of plastic over their heads.

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Rohingya Exodus