Life in a
Rohingya Refugee Camp.
Published by Transpersonal Journeys.
Life in Refugee Camp.
Published in 2022
Photography © Abdul Monaf.
Text © Dr Chris James.
This book is copyright. Apart from any use under the Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means or process whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.
Designed by Dr Chris James and printed in Australia.
National Library of Australia Cataloguing entry.
Abdul Monaf and Dr Chr James
Life in a Refugee Camp…Title.
. I wish to thank Abdul Monaf for giving me the opportunity to reproduce his beautiful work which tells the story of daily life in a Rohingya refugee camp. This story highlights the need for world peace and recognition of the rights of people everywhere. I hope readers will find meaning in these works.
List of photographs.
I first met Abdul Monaf through social media. At the time I was posting news online that related to what was happening in Afghanistan under the renewed establishment of the Taliban. The coalition forces had left the region and while some western citizens were evacuated, many Afghans who had worked for NATO were left behind. My focus then was on the attempted genocide of the Hazaras, who hold vastly different views to the archaic Taliban. As a Human Rights activist my focus has generally been on genocides, their causes and their impacts, not just on individuals, but the world in general. Genocides have a long history that goes back to the Stone Age when our ancestors were believed to have exterminated the Neanderthals of Europe. With the exception of the Holocaust during the Second World War, which resulted in the extermination of six million Jews, genocide has received little public attention. The scholars interested in the topic are few and the available literatures are limited. Added to this, the world population has increased and the more recent genocides seem to get lost amidst other news stories of wars, famines and global catastrophes. Nonetheless, the numbers of genocides across the globe are growing exponentially. Genocides not only affect the victims they impact on everyone as floods of refugees attempt to find shelter across borders.
Genocides were never exceptional; the twentieth century has produced many genocides across every continent on the planet. There are many examples of human extinction. In most cases genocide occurs in relation to the acquisition of lands and delusion of archaicism. Genocide Watch lists various stages of genocide. They include ethnic division, discrimination, dehumanization, polarization, persecution, mass killing. The victims are usually indigenous to the area where genocides occur and it would be fair to say that first nations people everywhere are at risk. Here are a few examples of genocide:
Indigenous to the United States of America (US) were tribes of Native American Indians. The colonization began in 1607 when England’s Jamestown colonists arrived in present-day Virginia with instructions to gain control of the area. Settlers came in to conflict with the tribes so in 1830, the US undertook a policy of removing all indigenous people from the area. The internments and forced transportation killed entire populations. The Cherokees, for instance, suffered 50 percent fatalities during the “Trail of Tears”; the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles and Creeks, 25 to 35 percent each.
If we move forward a little to Africa, the Herero Genocide that occurred between 1904-1907 in current day Namibia also killed mass populations. The Hereros were herdsmen who migrated to the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. After a German presence was established in the region in the 1800s, the Herero territory was annexed (in 1885) as a part of German South West Africa.
The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the government of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1918. Starting in April 1915, Armenians in the Ottoman armies, serving separately in unarmed labour battalions, were removed and murdered. Of the remaining population, the adult and teenage males were separated from the deportation caravans and killed. Women and children were driven for months over mountains and desert, often raped, tortured, and mutilated. Deprived of food and water, they fell by the hundreds of thousands along the routes to the desert. Ultimately, more than half the Armenian population (1,500,000 people) was decimated.
In 1932-33, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, imposed the system of land management known as collectivization. He seized all privately owned land and stock. The crops and profits went to foreign markets to pay for his five-year plan while millions starved to death. By the spring of 1933, an estimated 25,000 people died every day in the Ukraine, an estimated 7,000,000 persons altogether were annihilated.
In December of 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army entered China’s capital city of Nanking and murdered 300,000 out of the 600,000 people. The siege lasted for six weeks and it has been known for its brutal crimes against women. The Japanese troops raped over 20,000 women, most of whom were murdered after being assaulted.
In 1949 a revolution marked Mao Tse-tung’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese Communist Party systematically destroyed the traditional Chinese social and political system in favour of a peasant society. In 1958, he launched the “Great Leap Forward” campaign, which destroyed the agricultural system and forced the Chinese back into archaic darkness and a famine that killed 27 million people.
In the European republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina a genocide was committed by the Serbs against Bosnian Muslims. In the late 1980’s Muslims were systematically murdered or deported to concentration camps. Over 200,000 Muslim civilians were systematically murdered and 2,000,000 became refugees at the hands of the Serbs.
Beginning on April 6, 1994, groups of ethnic Hutu, armed mostly with machetes, began eliminating the country’s ethic Tutsi population. By July 1994 over one-tenth of the population, an estimated 800,000 persons were killed. The country’s industrial infrastructure was destroyed and much of its population were dislocated
The genocides carried out by the Khmer Rouge were known as the Killing Fields. They consist of a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea). It happened from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970–1975).
Violence and destruction have been raging in the Darfur region of western Sudan since 2003. The government-sponsored militias known as the Janjaweed have conducted a calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, starvation and displacement where an estimated 400,000 people have died due to violence, starvation and disease. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and over 200,000 have fled across the border to Chad. Many now live in camps lacking adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and health care.
In April of 1948 Israel carried put the Deir Yassin massacre, which consisted of around 130 fighters from the far-right Zionist paramilitary They killed at least 107 Palestinian Arabs, including women and children, in Deir Yassin, a village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem. Since 1948 the mass killing and displacement of Palestinians has led to a half-century of military occupation and apartheid. Israel carries out constant military assaults on Gaza, and seemingly the elimination of Palestinians.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (2022) at least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. Years. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. Accordingly, the United Nations Refugee Agency reports that 6 million refugees live in camps, 22 percent of the overall world’s refugee population.
The largest refugee camp in the world is the Kutupalong Refugee settlement in Bangladesh which totals more than the population of Washington DC. some of the residents at Kutupalong have been there for thirty years in very primitive conditions.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency a camp should follow specific guidelines.
“A well-designed camp should protect the environment and help prevent fires and outbreaks of disease. Food, water access points and latrines should be properly lit and near shelters so as to protect women and girls against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and facilities should offer refugees the possibility to access the local economy, infrastructure and services of the host community”.
In reality the conditions in camps are generally well below the set standard and the environment is often far from safe. These issues can vary from camp to camp, but generally speaking, the substandard buildings are potentially very hazardous.
On the afternoon of Monday, 22 March 2021, a massive fire tore through Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Flames ate through the plastic sheeting and bamboo-pole structures and filled the air with toxic smoke. People tried to escape. Families became separated and it took days to find and unite children and loved ones. UN figures indicate that around 45,000 Rohingya refugees were affected by the fire. Kutupalong Refugee Camp holds around 700,000 Rohingya refugees. According to the United Nations the death toll was 15 and more than 500 people were injured. Many more are likely to die from the toxic atmosphere, which loomed for days after the fire. These are people that have already lost everything. The numbers of refugees are growing and the situation is getting worse. Today, Bangladesh hosts around 860,000 Rohingya refugees who are struggling with limited resources, which include proper health care and materials needed for education.
On May 5th a letter was posted on social media that described the current problem in Bangladesh:
“Life in the Kutapalong and adjoining refugee camps in Bangladesh is worse than ever… In 2019 I visited the camp and saw refugees busily shopping in the adjoining markets. Not anymore. There has been a strong crack-down and police keep everyone enclosed inside. Violence is rife. There have been fires and killing. People are beaten by police. Some of their volunteer education that used to be allowed up to Year 8 has been stopped. There are no jobs. Nothing to do”. (Jane Irene Koegh 5th May 2022).
My task as editor is to compile a background and present pictures that tell the story of Life in a Rohingya Refugee Camp. The daily life in the Rohingya camp needs to be told because it is unimaginable to most westerners. Importantly, the photographer Abdul Monaf did not want the focus to be on him, but on the various aspects of refugee life, the good and bad times, that impact on families and their futures, hence his biography is brief.
Abdul arrived in the Kutapalong camp in 1992. He left Arakan State in Myanmar (Burma) due to the ongoing violence. Burma had been ruled by the repressive regime of General Ne Win since 1962 and the country was in chaos and virtually bankrupt. The 1988 confrontation known as the “People Power Uprising “ was a series of nationwide protests addressing the social and political issues. The protests began as a student movement and escalated into major riots where the military were ordered to shoot directly at protesters. In his work, “Why Regimes Create Disorder” published in the 2003 Journal of Conflict Resolution (47(3)pp302-325), Federico Ferrara estimated that causalities ranged from hundreds to tens of thousands. Ne Win resigned suddenly during the riots and his biographer, Dr. Maung Maung, was appointed as head of government. The riots stopped, but only for a short while, but the military retook the country again.
The uprising led to the death and imprisonment of thousands of individuals from the pro-democracy movement. Many of the deaths occurred inside the prisons, where prisoners of conscience were subjected to inhumane torture and deprived of basic provisions, such as food, water, medicine, and sanitation. From 1988 to 2012, the military and the police illegally detained and imprisoned tens of thousands of leaders of the Burmese movement, as well as intellectuals, artists, students, and other activists. The military leaders refused to respect the results of the 1990 general elections.
Burma’s military leaders intensified their crackdown on political dissent throughout the country in 1991. Repression was worse than any other time in recent years. It was marked by a complete lack of basic freedoms and the continuing imprisonment of thousands of suspected opponents of the ruling class and the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). By the middle of the year, the crackdown extended beyond members of the main opposition parties to include a massive purge of those employed in the civil service, schools and universities. In late 1990 and early 1991, SLORC also heightened its offensive against ethnic minority insurgent groups, resulting in widespread civilian casualties and the displacement of tens of thousands of people along Burma’s borders.
A Brief History of the Rohingya.
The modern term Rohingya emerged from colonial and pre-colonial terms Rooinga and Rwangya. The usage of the term Rohingya has been historically documented prior to the British Raj and the Rohingya were long regarded as one of the native groups of the Arakan. The Rohingya were also called Chittagonians during the British colonial rule, and sometimes they were referred to as Bengalis. In the 1950s the Rohingya appeared to be a political movement living as autonomous Muslims in Arakan (or Rakhine). In the 2014 census, the Myanmar government forced the Rohingya to identify themselves as Bengali. This was seen as a loss of identity as well as a loss of Human Rights.
According to Burmese history the Rohingya have lived in Arakan since 3000 BCE. By the 4th century, Arakan became one of the earliest kingdoms in Southeast Asia to adopt an Indian culture. Sanskrit inscriptions in the region reveal that the founders of the first Arakanese states were culturally Indian. The Burmese did not settle in the region until much later.
To be continued.