Article published in The Funambulist 14 (November-December 2017) Toxic Atmospheres. Click here to access the rest of the issue.
Imran Mohammad, Rohingya writer currently held in detention by Australian authorities on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea
The 1.1 million Rohingyans who lived in Myanmar, formally Burma, are believed to be the most persecuted minority on earth. They lived predominately in the western part of Myanmar in Arakan state. Despite the fact that their ancestors have existed in this part Burma for centuries, they are known as illegal immigrants and suffer systematic discrimination in their own land.
They are peaceful people, but stateless, which simply means they are denied citizenship from the Myanmar government. There are strict restrictions imposed on Rohingya people, such as freedom of movement. They cannot move from one village to another without permission, for which they have to pay. In cases of medical emergency they can try to go to Bangladesh for treatment but if they have no money, then all the efforts are useless. The Rohingya language is not allowed to be written which makes them extremely vulnerable in practicing their religion and many other basic human rights.
For Rohingyans, it is like living in a prison and each village is a compound. They bury their phones like prisoners and as the villages have little or no electricity, they don’t have much opportunity to charge them. I can still remember my parents putting their valuable things like my mother’s wedding gold and money underneath the house, as there is no security in their lives and their property is regularly stolen.
They cannot hold a bank account as they have no permanent identity from the Myanmar government. If the authorities sense someone has quite a lot of money, he will be constantly harassed. To illustrate this point, Rohingyans are dependent upon their farms, fishing, hunting in the mountains and the money that is being sent by their relatives from other countries, through Fundi, a type of network where money changes hands. For example someone in Malaysia, will have someone in Bangladesh, Yengon, or Thailand and they will have someone in Arakan. So he will give the money to your family, but sadly each person will take a commission from you, and by the time your family receive the money, there is not much left. This is not end of struggle, somehow the government knows that you are being sent money and they will come to your house to take a share from it. If the Rohingynas don’t give them money, they will lose their lives, children or be imprisoned on fake charges.
The young boys fear for their lives more than anyone else and young girls prays every single day not to be a rape victim. When a Rohingya woman is raped, it means her life is over.