The 85-year-old Mohammad Amin, of Hatipara in Maungdaw of Rakhine, was a lucky man in 1985. He won a draw of the Myanmar government, along with 19 other Muslim citizens, that gave them the opportunity for Hajj. But that was a long time ago. Now, he is a refugee in Bangladesh, still reeling from the events that displaced him from the place he once called home.
He said, “The then Myanmar government had also recognized me as Rohingya and mentioned me as a citizen of Myanmar on the stamp paper of the draw. We – the 20 lucky draw winners – were in Saudi Arabia for 45 days. The government also provided us a special allowance of about US$1,000 during our visit in Saudi Arabia.”
Early life in Myanmar
Describing the early life, Mohammad Amin said: “I was living inheritably at a small village in Maungdaw called Hatipara, which is near Bolibazar. I have four sons, three daughters, 48 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. My siblings’ families also lived at the same area of the village. Till my Saudi Arabia visit, everything is going on quite good, however, the Myanmar government and the Moghs often used to hassle us violating our civic and social rights.”
“When the government suddenly declared that Rohingyas are not citizens of Myanmar. Our movement from Rakhine to other parts of the country had been restricted. We had faced inhuman behaviours from the government’s staffs and the Moghs when we visited the main towns of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung of Rakhine state.”
“As I was quite known to government officials after winning the lucky draw, they (government officials and Moghs) did not disturb me much. But my family members, kith and kin had faced harassments on a regular basis as time progressed.”
“No development works were carried out at the Rohingya-living areas of the three townships, but the areas in where Moghs – Buddhist Rakhine ethnic community – reside, had been developed on a regular basis.”
“Our children faced difficulty in schooling. We had no acute medical facilities. There was discrimination when it came to selling products we cultivated.”
Mohammad Amin had experienced the Rohingya persecution in Myanmar in 1978, 1991 and 2002 but he never left his parental residence. However, his days became harder after 2012 when Government and Moghs attacked the Rohingyas.
The violence of Myanmar army and the Moghs
“In 2015 and 2016, I experienced the most barbaric events of my life at the hands of the people who once used to respect me. In the two years, the Myanmar army and the Moghs repeatedly looted our houses, shops and markets,” he said.
“Our children, who had a limited study chance till grade 10, could not study over class six after 2012. Besides that, the social and state tortures also increased. We started marrying off our young females early to save them from the ferocious attackers.”
Describing the attack of Myanmar Army and Moghs, Mohammad Amin said: “They announced the people who stay at their respective residence are proved innocent. After that, we used to stay at home but they broke into the every house and looted as they liked.”
“They set fire on aged persons’ beard of face and chest. They used to violate young women regularly. They sometimes picked the women up into their dens and sometimes tortured them using bayonets.”
“They used to pick up the youths from the Rohingya locality without any cause. Later in police outpost, they would tie the detainees and beat them with bamboos. Afterwards, they released the detainees in exchange of large amount bribe of 100,000 to 300,000 Myanmar Kyat.”
Lost family and travel for refuge
In last year’s military crackdown in Myanmar on August 25, Amin lost his nephew who was shot dead by the Myanmar Army and four other relatives who were tortured to death.
“At least 15 of my family members including sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters were injured during the attack. Five of my relatives were arrested by the Myanmar Army without any reason,” he said, sobbing.
“They shot my nephew and four others to death in front of my eyes. They forcibly pulled women out from our residence who took shelter there fearing a military attack. Later, most of them were raped.”
“Most of my family members managed to hide themselves before the arrival of the army. On the following day, we started journey for Bangladesh. When we started crossing the Naf River, the Myanamr’s Border Guard Police open fired, aiming at our boats. Five people including two children drowned in that incident.”
“After a long journey, we reached Balukhali. Some of my family members are scattered in Kutupalang and Balukhali.”
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said more than 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the first month of a crackdown that started in August 25, 2017 in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine.
The repatriation of the huge number of displaced Rohingya people was expected to begin next month, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh.