The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has been well-received by the Rohingya community for their fight against the oppressive Myanmar regime over their right to live.
What makes ARSA stand out is how they interact with the women.
The Dhaka Tribune discovered numerous female supporters of ARSA among the refugees arriving in Cox’s Bazar. Not many were abashed to speak out about their loyalties and explain the reasoning.
On one searing September day, a line of Rohingya were barely struggling to march towards Teknaf after disembarking from the boats. They looked haggard, their hands clutching the closest family member’s for a sense of security.
A woman tightly gripping the hands of two boys around 12-15 years old, paused in her tracks to speak. She described the horror of having to flee her village in Maungdaw as the staccato of gunfire and deafening explosions silenced the terrified shrieks of the Rohingya. The lines on her face became more and more pronounced with each atrocity described.
But when asked about the ARSA attack on the Myanmar outposts, her face steeled with resolve. She stood straighter, a small hint of pride shone in the glint of her eyes.
“Only ARSA can bring peace to the Rohingya. They showed everyone last October and this year, that the Myanmar army cannot get away after everything they have done. We are not going to be treated like we do not matter,” she proclaimed.
She pointed at her two sons, saying: “I sent both of my sons to ARSA for training last year. They will go again, and help fight for our salvation.”
The proud mother of two ARSA guerillas-in-waiting added that whenever she met anyone from ARSA, they treated her with utmost respect. The display of respect often moved her to cook for them and invite them over for food at her house.
Several other women corroborated her story, adding that they too have seen the firm politeness and respect in the attitude of the ARSA members.
“Our husbands are fighting for us, for our people. ARSA is not a stranger. ARSA is made up of people we know,” another Rohingya woman added.
Almost every Rohingya woman firmly insisted that whereas the Myanmar army is notorious for rape and pillage, ARSA is cut from a different cloth.
“Every night, we pray that our husbands and sons, fathers and brothers, win in their fight and come back to us safe and sound,” a woman said with tears in the corner of her eyes.