Foyzul Islam and Hafsa Bibi arrived in Bangladesh with little more than their 18-year-old daughter, Rafiza, after fleeing the violence engulfing their native Rakhine state in Myanmar.
Lost and afraid in the hustle and bustle of the refugee camp in Kutupalong, the family decided to try their luck elsewhere in the country. They fled to Singair in Manikganj on September 14 and took up shelter in the house of a local Muslim cleric.
But as word spread of Rohingya refugees hiding in the village, curious local people flocked to see them.
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Among the inquisitive onlookers was Shoaib Hossain Jewel, a 25-year-old teacher at a madrasa in Jatrabari. Shoaib felt his heart stirring at the sight of Rafiza.
When the three Rohingya were rounded up by law enforcement and sent back to the camp in Kutupalong, little did they know that they were leaving with the heart of this lovestruck madrasa teacher.
Shoaib followed his heart to Teknaf. He searched camp after camp, spoke to hundreds of people, and finally tracked down Rafiza. He asked her parents for her hand, and in defiance of the 2014 ban on marrying Rohingyas by the government, the pair were wed.
Like every clichéd love story, theirs needed a final overwhelming obstacle to overcome. How would Shoaib sneak his Rohingya bride out of the camp, when the army had been tasked to take over administrative duties?
On September 21, a teacher coalition from Singair went to Teknaf to provide relief. Shoaib hid Rafiza under a burkha and joined the group on their way back to Manikganj on September 23.
But the thrill was not over just yet, as Shoaib and Rafiza went into hiding after returning to his village, afraid of government retribution.
Also Read- Bangladeshis can’t marry Rohingya refugees
Shoaib’s family, although delighted by the prospect of their son getting married, remained quiet. However, a teacher who was part of the aid group that helped to liberate the couple from Kutupalong, and the local UP chairman, were not so guarded with the secret. Singair police had been alerted to this couple on the run.
This is the first known marriage between a Bangladeshi and a Rohingya after the August 2017 crisis broke out in Rakhine. The military crackdown by the Myanmar army has forced over 500,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh and thousands more are feared dead in what is being called a modern-day genocide or ethnic cleansing.
The marriage ban was issued by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in July 2014 after the Cox’s Bazar district administration proposed a legal measure to prevent Rohingyas from assuming Bangladesh citizenship by marrying into the country.