Precious objects gathered by fleeing Rohingya

first_imgMajor Rohingya refugee camp populations in Cox`s Bazar, Bangladesh. — Map: AFPThe Rohingya had no time to consider what to take as Myanmar forces drove the Muslim minority into Bangladesh in a crackdown a year ago likened by the UN to ethnic cleansing.Some fled with little more than the clothes on their backs and children on their hips. But what they did manage to bring tells an intimate story about the plight of a long persecuted and stateless people.- ‘This isn’t immaterial’ -Jalal Ahmed prised the faded tin number plate marked with Burmese characters off the front of his family’s home as they packed up their lives and left Rakhine state.”When we were leaving, we knew we would need something to prove we were Rohingya, and proof of our residency,” he told AFP in the doorway of the shanty where he lives with his family in a vast refugee camp in southern Bangladesh.The Ahmed family had lived in a proud two-storey wooden home in their village for countless generations, Jalal’s grandfather Abdul said.Jalal, a 52-year-old businessman, said the plate was not a memento but a connection to his past before the misery of refugee life.”This isn’t immaterial,” Jalal said. “We carried it with us because wherever we go, this will show that we belong to a place.”- Our identity -Mohammad Ayaz, 12, brought a faded old photograph of his family with him on the long journey from Myanmar.It shows 17 people — his grandparents, siblings and parents, aunts and uncles — posing for an official portrait holding signs marked with Burmese script.The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar as illegal immigrants, branded “Bengalis” and denied citizenship and basic rights and freedoms.”We will need this photo when we go back to Myanmar, to identify who is who from our family,” he told AFP, folding up the creased photograph for safekeeping.”It’s a very important picture. We will need this.”- Feeding the needy -Asaru Begum knew the journey to Bangladesh would be long and arduous, especially for her children and grandchildren.So she brought cooking pots to gather water, stew rice and green chillies, and perform ablutions for prayer while hiding out in the hills.”I brought the pots and rice because I knew the children would get hungry after two days’ journey,” she told AFP, pointing to the pots she still treasures today.”I brought them so I could feed the babies. They cry a lot when they are hungry.”- ‘I miss school’ -Mohammad Khares, a diligent pupil with dreams of going to university, was in his final year of high school when violence erupted in his village.”I miss school very much. I was about to graduate, I was this close. That really hurts,” the crestfallen 20-year-old told AFP.There are no schools in the camps, so Khares has used his Bengali and English language skills to find piecemeal work with foreign aid groups helping the refugees.His school ID card is precious.Most Rohingya receive little or no schooling in Myanmar so his card — bearing his photograph, credentials and official seal — is a rare privilege and a passport to opportunity.”When I go back to Myanmar, I want to resume my studies. But they might ask, ‘what proof do you have of your education?’ This card will prove that I was a Class 10 (final year) student,” he said.- Family first -Violence descended so quickly on Mohammad Jubayer’s village that he had no time to choose what his family might need to survive in Bangladesh.”On our way here, we couldn’t bring anything,” he told AFP at the edge of a fetid tent colony overlooking a trash-strewn, muddy clearing.Other escapees shared what food they could as Jubayer, 30, and his wife took turns carrying their four infant children as their eldest daughter trailed behind.”We spent nine days walking through the hills. We had our children with us. So we just carried them — nothing else.”- A touch of home -Mohammad Umar left all this favourite playthings behind in Myanmar as his family joined the steady exodus of Rohingya leaving their burning homeland.But once in Bangladesh, the industrious 12-year-old put his mind to work.Scavenging a rechargeable battery, and carving a hull from a chunk of styrofoam, he fashioned a rudimentary boat replete with a pen tube for a rudder.”We used to make these and play with them in Myanmar,” Umar said as the boat chugged through brown puddles swollen by monsoon rain.last_img

Suicide bomber kills 50 in Nigeria mosque

first_imgMap locating attack in Mubi, Nigeria. AFPAt least 50 people were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in northeast Nigeria, police said, in an attack blamed on Boko Haram jihadists.The blast happened during early morning prayers at the Madina mosque in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) by road from the Adamawa state capital Yola.It was the biggest attack in Adamawa since December 2016, when two female suicide bombers killed 45 people at a crowded market in the town of Madagali.Security analysts said Tuesday’s bombing again underlined the threat posed by Boko Haram, despite an overall decline in deaths from attacks by the group last year.Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP that at least 50 were killed in the Mubi attack.”It was a (suicide) bomber who mingled with worshippers. He entered the mosque along with other worshippers for the morning prayers.”It was when the prayers were on that he set off his explosives.”Asked who was responsible, Abubakar said: “We all know the trend. We don’t suspect anyone specifically but we know those behind such kind of attacks.”- Roof blown off -The attack bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram, the Islamist militants whose insurgency has left at least 20,000 people dead and more than 2.6 million others homeless since 2009.Haruna Furo, head of the Adamawa state emergency management agency, and Musa Hamad Bello, chairman of the Mubi north local government area, both confirmed the attack.They gave lower death tolls but both said the number killed was likely to rise.Another emergency services official described the blast as “devastating” and said there were “high casualties”.Abubakar Sule, who lives near the mosque, said he was present during the rescue operation and that 40 people died on the spot while several others were taken to hospital with severe and life-threatening injuries.”The roof was blown off. People near the mosque said the prayer was mid-way when the bomber, who was obviously in the congregation, detonated his explosives.”This is obviously the work of Boko Haram.”Yan St-Pierre, a counter-terrorism specialist at the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, said the bombing fitted a pattern of previous attacks.”It fits with the increasing lethality and potency of suicide attacks of the organisation’s current ‘hot streak’, which started approximately four weeks ago,” he said.The latest Global Terrorism Index, published last week, said that deaths attributed to Boko Haram in 2016 fell by 80 percent.But St-Pierre said despite this “Boko Haram remains an extremely potent and dangerous organisation” which was far from being “on the back foot”, as the military has claimed.- ‘Operational presence’ -In October 2012, at least 40 people were killed in an attack on student housing in Mubi that was widely blamed on Boko Haram.In June 2014, at least 40 football supporters, including women and children, died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town.Boko Haram briefly overran Mubi in late 2014 as its fighters rampaged across northeastern Nigeria, seizing towns and villages in its quest to establish a hardline Islamic state.The town’s name was changed temporarily to Madinatul Islam, or “City of Islam” in Arabic, during the Boko Haram occupation.But it has been peaceful since the military and the civilian militia ousted them from the town, which is a commercial hub and home to the Adamawa State University.Yet in recent months, Boko Haram activity has been concentrated around Madagali, in the far north of Adamawa near the border with neighbouring Borno state.There have been repeated raids and suicide bombings, blamed on Boko Haram remnants pushed out of their camps in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno.Boko Haram fighters are also said to be hiding in the Mandara mountains, which forms the border of Adamawa and Nigeria with neighbouring Cameroon, where there has also been more attacks.Ryan Cummings, from security analysts Signal Risk, said the attack suggests Boko Haram “has an active operational presence in Adamawa” and retained the capacity to hit hard.”It appears that despite open calls for Boko Haram to desist in such acts of mass violence against Muslim civilian interests, that these have not been heeded,” he added.last_img read more