Refugee life is difficult.
As Rohingya refugees, we live in limbo, not knowing where we will be in the future. In the camp, we always have to face unbearable problems. We face the torrential rain and landslides during the monsoon season, and the heat in the hot season. Through all the seasons, we have to wait in long lines to get aid just to survive.
But we are happy here in Bangladesh because we have no fear. We can sleep peacefully. In Myanmar, we had our homes, but we couldn’t say they were ours. Our lives were insecure. We were always afraid.
We are very angry with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, because we always supported her. Once upon a time, we demanded her release from house arrest because we hoped that if she came to power, then we would have peace and rights like other ethnic groups in the country. We are very sorry that we got nothing but persecution, atrocities, and horrors and were forced to flee to Bangladesh.
We, the members of the women’s group Shanti Mohila, always think about going home to our country. But we are still afraid of what might happen. We think that if we go back to this government then they will harm us again.
We can only go with rights, safety, and dignity. We want to see a government that will celebrate us as equal citizens of the country. We want to see the perpetrators of abuses against our people punished. We want UN Peacekeepers in Myanmar to protect us. We want to see the internally displaced persons that have been waiting six years in the camps near Sittwe settled in their homes. We want our people who are in jail to be released. We want to go back to our homes with compensation for our property being burned and destroyed.
We will never go to the concentration camps they are building for us. Would you?
We know that we can’t get back our loved ones that they killed. They can’t take back the pain they caused us. But we want justice. We want justice for the genocide committed by the Myanmar government. The military, security forces, and some Rakhine Buddhists together burnt our houses, killed our people, raped us, looted our belongings, and forced us to flee to Bangladesh.
We, Shanti Mohila, welcome the International Criminal Court’s decision to open a preliminary examination of Myanmar. We know the Myanmar government will not cooperate and will not investigate on its own. But we know the ICC has the power to bring the perpetrators to the court and punish them, and we are happy they have taken this step.
But punishment of the perpetrators is not enough. We want to be equal to other ethnic groups in Myanmar. We want the government to accept us as Rohingya, citizens of Myanmar. We want to be involved in decisions that affect us and the right to be part of the government. We want safety. Dignity. If we get this, that would be our justice.
We, Shanti Mohila, have a message for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Rohingya people are originally from Rakhine state, Myanmar. Our ancestral people are from Burma. Once upon a time, our Rohingya people were allowed to take part in government service. Your father knew the Rohingya well. This is why we appeal you to stop violence against us. Call us by our name: Rohingya. Give us our rights like other ethnic groups.
If 135 ethnic groups can be the people of Myanmar, why not us?
Khalunisa is a member of Shanti Mohila, a women’s civil society organization based in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.