The Nobel laureates visiting the no man’s land between Myanmar’s Tambru and Bangladesh’s Konapara border areas have asked the refugees not to hesitate to call themselves Rohingya.
Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen visited the no man’s land around 10:25am on Tuesday.
However, Iran's Shirin Ebadi, the third Nobel Laureate Cox’s Bazar-visiting, could not go to the no man’s Land on Tuesday due to physical illness.
Around 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh since August 2017, fleeing the Myanmar military’s oppression termed as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN.
During their visit, the laureates spoke to the Rohingyas living in the area.
“Don’t hesitate to call yourselves Rohingya. You are the Rohingya people,” the duo reiterated to the people who are living in the no man’s land in constant uncertainty.
The two women also asked the 6,500 the refugees living in no man’s land not to lose hope.
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Karman and Maguire also spoke to around 12 Rohingya women, who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Tawakkol Karman saying: “You are citizens of Myanmar. You will get back your rights. We three Nobel Laureates from Ireland, Iran, and Yemen, have come here to tell you that we are with you on your quest to get your rights back.”
“Rohingyas are our brothers and sisters. We will help you. Do not lose hope. You will be able to go back to your homes one day, Insha Allah,” she added.
On the other hand, Mairead Maguire said: “Always stand with pride and identify as a Rohingya. Three cheers for Rohingyas. You should always say that you are from Rakhine state and that Burma [Myanmar] is your country.”
“We have told your stories to the world and they know about the genocide, rape, murder, and looting that you all have faced. We will take the Myanmar government and their military to the International Criminal Court for their crimes,” she continued.
Mairead also said: “We will ask Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to talk to the Myanmar government and Aung San Suu Kyi to uphold diplomatic ties and ensure that a dialogue takes place to discuss your safe return to your county.”
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The Nobel Women’s Initiative, in partnership with Naripokkho, is hosting the delegation to Bangladesh to witness and highlight the situation of the refugees and the violence against Rohingya women, including high levels of sexual violence. This visit is a part of that initiative.
The delegation builds on more than a decade of work by the Nobel Women’s Initiative in the region and with women’s rights organizations in Myanmar.
Dhaka and Naypyidaw have signed an agreement to send the Rohingyas back to their homeland. After signing a bilateral deal in November, 2017, the repatriation process was scheduled to begin in January, but got delayed.
Bangladesh government’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission said apart from this recent influx, several hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have been living at the two upazilas of Cox’s Bazar for several years.
Local sources say that about 1.5 million Rohingya people from recent and previous upheavals are living in Cox’s Bazar.