The military denies almost all the allegations made by refugees during what it said was a legitimate counterterrorism operation that began on August 25, 2017
“I found her unconscious and naked, lying on the ground face down. Her body was ravaged. I didn’t know whether she was alive or dead when I found her.
“Since then, her life, our lives have not been the same,” said a Rohingya woman about her daughter who was raped by Myanmar army troops at Dhioltoli, Maungdaw, in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 26, 2017.
The woman and her daughter, who is now 15 years old, currently live in a cramped home on the slope of a hill in Kutupalong refugee camp of Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar.
They have been living here since they crossed over into Bangladesh through Tambru in Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari in the first week of September 2017.
United Nations’ investigators in a recent report said that the Myanmar army’s campaign included mass killings and gangrapes, and it was carried out with genocidal intent to destroy the mainly Muslim ethnic minority.
The military denies almost all the allegations made by refugees during what it said was a legitimate counterterrorism operation that began on August 25, 2017.
The mother and her daughter both agreed with the UN report, saying the troopers did kill the men and rape adolescent and young girls of their village during the attack two years ago.
The attack and the rape
In the evening of August 25, 2017, the woman said, she, her husband, and her daughter, joined other villagers fleeing their Dhioltoli homes after Myanmar’s armed forces launched the crackdown following attacks on security posts earlier that day.
“After leaving our home, we hid in a hole in a paddy field first. Then we crossed a nearby canal and took shelter on a hillock, where we met many others like us who fled,” said the woman.
The next morning, more than 100 army troopers surrounded them, moved them to a bigger hill, and separated the men and women from the group of villagers.
The troopers let the minors and teenage boys go after beating them, and then went on to kill the male villagers before dumping their bodies in a mass grave, said the woman.
Then the troopers took to their camp, the women and adolescent girls, who were shell-shocked, witnessing the brutal murders of the male members of their families.
There, the troopers tortured the elderly women and let them go in the afternoon, said the woman, but then proceeded to take turns in raping the girls.
The Rohingya girl whom Dhaka Tribune interviewed with her mother over the past two days, was one of those adolescent girls gangraped.
The mother continued: “Seven army men took my daughter away from me at the camp. Then they raped her. She lost consciousness at one point when they were raping her.
“Afterwards, they thought she was dead and left her naked body at the foot of the hill from where we were picked up.”
The woman, breaking down in tears, then went on to lie down on the floor, showing how she found her daughter’s unclothed body lying on the ground, face down.
Running for their lives
The mother said they stayed on that hillock that night and started for the Bangladesh border the next morning.
“We had nothing to eat and drink. It took us four days to reach the border. My daughter was very sick after being ravaged by those monsters.
“I couldn’t do anything to help her,” she said, fighting back tears.
She said they also saw many camps of the military and Moghs on their way to the border. “We also heard gunshots coming from nearby villages on our way.”
After crossing the border through Tambru, they first came to Palongkhali and later ended up at the Kutupalong Rohingya camp.
“There, my daughter was taken to an MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] clinic, where she underwent treatment for three days. The next two months, the doctors gave her a number of medicines to help her recover,” said the mother.
“However, the trauma has scarred her for the rest of her life. My daughter is still not mentally stable. She is not comfortable around unknown men,” she added.
She said her son and his family also crossed over into Bangladesh a while back, after he spent three years in a Myanmar jail.
‘I will never go back’
Mentioning the UN report on the sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops, Dhaka Tribune asked the 15-year-old rape victim whether she would return with her family to their homeland if justice was served in her case.
In response, she said: “I’m still afraid of them [the rapists]. Afraid of seeing them. I’ve been sick most of the time and taking medicine since I survived the rape.
“I won’t go back even if they are tried and hanged.”
The girl said all she remembers now is that seven Myanmar soldiers took her away from her mother and took turns raping her until she fell unconscious. “After that, I don’t know what they did with me.”
She continued: “They [the Myanmar army] took everything away from us. They tortured us, killed many of us.
“The Myanmar army and Moghs have repressed and tortured us so much that we have lost all interest in returning to Rakhine.”
Asked whether they would go back if Myanmar gave them citizenship as Rohingyas, ensured security for their lives, and returned their homes and lands, the girl adamantly replied in the negative.
The teenage girl who has not been the same since August 26, 2017, fought back tears and demanded at the end that she wanted justice for her family and friends who lost everything to the military crackdown.