In a stunning example of the deep emotional bond between mother and son, a displaced Rohingya man walked 65km across the Myanmar border to Bangladesh, with his sick octogenarian mother on his back.
The 30-year-old Zafor Alam and his mother Achhia Khatun fled Myanmar amidst the ongoing military crackdown on the Muslim minority in Rakhine state. They are now taking shelter at Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday, Zafor said that he had fled the troubled state with his mother in fear for their lives, as many of their relatives had already been killed by the Myanmar army.
“The fear of torture, other atrocities and sounds of gunfire made our lives harder there. Those who are strong enough are moving to safety by themselves. But, as my ailing mother cannot walk, I had no choice but to flee persecution while carrying her on my back,” Zafor said.
Generally, it takes two days to cross the border from Balibazar village, where they used to live, but Zafor needed five days to arrive in Bangladesh as he traversed hilly and rocky terrain to avoid detection by Myanmar security forces.
Zafor, the youngest of Achhia’s seven children, also said the physical condition of his mother deteriorated on the journey as they had scarce opportunity to eat. She has since been admitted to the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital at the camp
On August 25, at least 89 people including a dozen security force members were killed as Rohingya insurgents reportedly besieged border check posts in the Rakhine state, prompting the country’s army to launch a new crackdown on the Rohingyas and triggering a fresh exodus of refugees to Bangladesh.
Earlier, over 70,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh in the military crackdown following attacks on security check posts on October 9, 2016, joining an estimated 500,000 refugees who had come to Bangladesh from Myanmar during decades of persecution in their motherland.
The previous counterinsurgency operation ceased in mid-February this year, ending a four-month sweep that the UN said may amount to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.