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The Untold Stories of Myanmar’s Rohingya Women

Four Rohingya women are shownin an illegal Rohingya colony in Bangladesh (Dec. 26, 2016). Photo: Saiful Islam/VOA 

Ro Mayyu Ali
RB Article
February 28, 2017

Women and children are the ones who suffer the most during crisis and disaster. Indeed, it is our common understanding. In this same regard Rohingya in Myanmar are counted as the world’s most persecuted people which is compounded by Myanmar military forces having a reputation of impunity for rape during times of conflict targeting the country’s minority women and minor girls. 

As the agenda of Myanmar’s slow-burning genocide against Rohingya in the country is a decades-long operational, few have also thought of how Rohingya women suffer from the same impunity for rape and sexual assault by Myanmar’s military and BGP forces. On top of this the Rohingya live in one of the poorest places in the state where there are severe restrictions even for the flow of humanitarian aids and foreign-based journalists and reporters.

“Uncle, what happened inside of your home?” asked the 26-years-old Hassan to his old-aged uncle sitting on a wooden chair with teary eyes. They live in the same village tract, Sin Thay Pyin even his uncle is in East hamlet. Hassan had heard a scream of woman while he was passing his uncle’s home. “Where? Nothing!” the old man was reluctant. “I heard a scream suddenly!” Hassan wanted to know. He is so a close relation and wanted to convince his uncle to believe in him. 

“Nail into my head! What can I share with you?” his uncle bursts into tears suddenly. “The waste of military forces! This is your sister, brutally raped by forces.” the father took a deep breath then. “She got pregnant and now having a miscarriage and there is non-stop discharging.” he added. 

“One evening, the military forces came into my home. Firstly, they asked about my father and brothers and I said they all have run away seeing them. And they said, ‘Give us all the money and gold you have.’ I did. I gave them everything including my earrings. Then they said, ‘Take off your clothes!’ A soldier kicked me badly and said ‘Don’t shout’. I did what they told me. Then they all raped me one after another. All but one. He was the last and said he was not going to use his penis for me. And so instead, he used his knife.” the father shared to Hassan everything his daughter had explained to him about the incident. 

Sexual violence is a violation of Universal Human Rights protected by International Human Rights conventions, including the right to security of person; the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the right to life. 

When the situation for Rohingya women is one where it is impossible to even receive a pill to prevent their unwanted pregnancy caused by security forces, the home-delivery with a native traditional birth attendant would be out of our imagination. How could they manage their delivery if it is during the night time, if their hamlet is besieged by the forces and if there are even no fences in their compound? 

On 27 of January, around 12 am, there was an unusual delivery by a Rohingya woman in state-run clinic of Ta Man Thar Village, northern Maungdaw. She was the 20-years-old Assara Begum, wife of Ubidul Rahaman, from Panisara hamlet. Her husband took her to Dr. Maung Tha Tun, the responsible in Ta Man Thar clinic. The doctor checked on her and said the fetus was dead in mother’s womb. Despite finding the resources to have an operation, the doctor took the dead fetus out cutting piece by piece through the mother’s birth canal. 

“The Doctor pushed the mother’s womb with both hands and a little part of fetus came out through then he cut it off. Again he pushed it then cut another piece off. Again and again on! Soon, the woman was unconscious as the pain is unbearable with severe bleeding. And she was returned home dead.” said an eye-witnessed from Ta Man Thar Village. “As it is her first pregnancy, the doctor should have arranged to have an operation. At least, he could have referred her to Malteser International’s Office in Ta Man Thar. It has ambulance and can assist transporting to Maungdaw hospital.” he added. 

You have not heard it before. But it is no wonder, because it is Rohingya women’s stories in Myanmar. It is under-reported and rarely told. I want you to hear more of their untold stories.

On 12 of February, 2017, 33-years-old Noor Habar, daughter of Yaseen, was dlivering at home with an untrained old woman. They live in Shwe Zarr’s Doleya Para Hamlet, downtown of Maungdaw. At around 9 pm at night, the baby was delivered but not the placenta. Accidentally, the old birth attendant cut the umbilical code off before the placenta was passed through. Then the woman was severely exhausted. “As the hour moved into the curfew period, the family was afraid to take her to hospital. While attempting to pass the placenta, the woman died at home.” said a downtown-based activist. “However, the new born baby is alive.” he added. 

Two days later, Montaaz, 27 years old, the youngest sister of Noor Habar gave a twin birth at her parent home in Shwe Zarr Village. The first baby was born alive but the second was dead. On the next day, the first one also died due to lack of medical assistance. Montaaz and her husband live in Wabaik Hamlet, Kyi Kan Pyin Village. Their home was burnt down by military forces last October and she moved to live with her parents in Shwe Zarr Village. 

“While she was fleeing to her parent home, she had to cross a long lake while she was 6-months pregnant. Then she suffered a serious illness.” said Azeem, one of her neighbors. Of course, the workload and stressful worries of pregnant women can jeopardize the balance of their pregnancy. Sometimes, it causes miscarriage, too. 

Indeed, Rohingya women are not even fortunate enough to receive prenatal and postnatal cares. In this time, the aid of INGOs and UN Agencies are severely restricted from flowing to affected areas. Thus, the need for vaccinations during their pregnancy is frequently denied. Their home delivery typically with an old local untrained midwives are dangerous and uncertain. In this week, Rohingya are being forced to receive National Verification Cards, so that they will be able pass the check points. Nevertheless, it is Suu Kyi led Myanmar government’s present step towards the targeting and isolating of the Rohingya, instead of finding a sustainable resolution to restore their national rights. 

These stories follow international outcry over the allegations of widespread Human Rights abuses by Myanmar security forces in Northern Rakhine State in the military and Police led area clearance operation. These operations began after an attack on police out-posts on 9 October and officially came to a halt on the 16th of February. The military operation might have ended but the oppression of the Rohingya in Myanmar continues. Still, Myanmar military forces are in the area crouching silently over us.

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