The words were uttered at me by Kalaya Ahmed, a 62-year-old man whom I met in the refugee camp in Bangladesh in 2009. Ahmed is a Rohingya. This minority religion is a target of persecution by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar and is vilified by military special forces as well as Buddhist militias.
The United Nations has recently published shocking atrocities against Rohingyas as well as the murders of children and infants in Rakhine State th, a state that Rohingyas refer to as Arakan, the former name.
Rohingyas are claiming Myanmar citizenship as a natural right and a right. But the Myanmar government persists in denying them the right to citizenship by claiming they are Rohingya and have been labeled as “Bengali,” “illegal immigrants,” and “outsiders.” Ahmed claims:
There is a reason why the Burmese border security force refers to us Bengalis due to our language and skin color, even though we have never visited Bangladesh prior. Today, I am at the Camp.
Ahmed is among the many thousands of Rohingya refugees who have crossed the borders into Bangladesh and is currently an asylum seeker.
The massive exodus of Rohingyas during the past ten years has led over 400,000 individuals to flee to Bangladesh in the first instance, as well as one-fifth of a million people to various countries.
The main reason for their uncertainty is the issue of their political identity. In spite of all odds and efforts by Myanmar authorities, the Myanmar government refuses to accept Rohingya’s claim to belonging; Ahmed still identifies himself as an official of Myanmar and also as a Rohingya, which is a term that the Myanmar government refuses to accept.
There is also a problem with the Bangladesh administration also does not support Rohingyas. The government recently issued a plan to move them to an island that is susceptible to flooding.
This refusal to recognize rights on each side has only exacerbated the problem.
Rohingyas in a camp that is only accessible via boat within Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar, in 2013. Mathias Eick, EU/ECHO/Flickr, CC BY-SA
Politics of belonging and identity
What is the identity of the Rohingyas themselves in the face of the oppression above?
Research conducted on Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh suggests that they comprehend the concept of identity politics extremely well. They form their own identity through a collective memory of their past lives in the Rakhine state as well as their new existence in the camps. They tell their stories and their cultural lives through songs and drawings ( taranas).
They are important in expressing their sense of belonging and identity as well as showing a different type of resistance, which is not a need for confrontation or protest against the violence and discrimination they have witnessed.
The drawing of pictures is not uncommon among Rohingyas. Graphics are used to relate stories to their children, to explain their reasons for being exiled, as well as to communicate with people interested in their situation. Whatever it is, whether verbal as well as visual, the notion that is frequently mentioned is either violence or persecution.
Anser Ullah, 37 years old, is a refugee who has no documentation from Maungdaw village in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar. The artist depicted violence in the name of religion as well as killing in his drawing below.