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Monday, April 27, 2009

Empowering The Powerless

Salah seorang rakan yang banyak membantu pelarian Rohingya ini telah memberi artikel karangannya. Sama-sama kita menghayati dan ikhtiar untuk membantu saudara seagama kita...

Rohingya is an indeginous ethnic minority group from the Republic of Myanmar living in the western border of Myanmar- Bangladesh known as, Northern Rakhine State. There are approximately 2 million Rohingyas at the moment living under desperate fear of the ruling Junta. They are as put by the UNHCR Refworld “encouraged” to leave their country by their current government Junta. Forced.

The methods of encouragements provided to the Rohingyas are definitely to be questioned. When the basic human rights of a person is denied of course we question what is the type of encouragement the Junta are giving or providing for the Rohingyas. For Rohingyas to get married they need a special permission granted by the Ruling Government of Myanmar. They need special authorization from their government to travel outside of the borders of the Northern Rakhine State. They pay taxes, expensive and ridiculous taxes for giving birth and also for death. Exploited. They are prohibited from practising freedom of religion in daily life. Oppressed. They are not allowed to repair their mosque due to this reason. Yes they are Muslims. Forgotten Muslims living under the oppression of Junta.

Some of the lucky ones have managed to escaped to Bangladesh. Trapped they are not accepted by the Myanmar government as a citizen nor are they accepted as a refugee by the Bangladesh government. Some managed to find more courage and fled to Malaysia. This is where their stories begin for some. This is where I was given the opportunity to meet them, know them and to some small extent hopefully helped them. They left a country filled with oppression and were left with no choice. They were forced to migrate. In order to live. The aggressive treatments by their own government, extent to this point right now where their government official declared them the Rohingyas to be of non citizens of Myanmar. ( February 2009). They came to Malaysia with big hope and lots of prayers. In search of a free life. especially freedom to practice their religion. Malaysian government are not recognizing their needs to be legitimate. Malaysian government do not recognize their refugee status grated to them by the UNHCR a UN Refugee Agency. But they are allowed to stay in the country. Without rights, but allowed to stay. Some after such long transition never knew what Myanmar is as the younger generations are born here in Malaysia. They understood that the country they originally are from oppressed them. They are told by their parents, or family members or grandfather.

A group of them set up their own home. Usually shared with other family of Rohingya. As they are not accepted by Malaysia as well, they are not permitted to work in Malaysia. But for the Rohingyas their life has to go on. They grab whatever job they can do, usually odd jobs with meagre small income to support their family. Helping at the wet market, cutting and trimming lawns, cleaning jobs. Most resort to begging. This is illegal in Malaysia. Begging. So they are usually picked up by the authority. When the authority pick them up, their families at home are of course not informed. Hardship of life change a person, true? Rohingya children are exceptionally vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in Malaysia. The children are beaten and abused in all sort of ways. I met a few, with bruises on their backs, blood cakes all over their bodies. Small children, 8 years old at most. Some are older than this, around 10 to 12 years old. Threats to them are coming from their own family. Family break ups are also high among the community. The father dies and the mother remarries, the father left the family in search of better opportunity in other states in Malaysia. Or the mother remarries and the new father figure cannot accept children from previous marriage. So the children are just left behind. In some family the children are accepted but live under the mercy of the new father or the new mother. I know a little boy who told me he was threatened by his aunt using a machete on his neck. Reason being, he was not doing his house chores as the aunt wants him to. If he does not do what the aunt says, he was previously burnt, he has burnt scars to prove. In his mind he has no doubt that the aunt could also use the machete if he doesn’t follow her instructions. These new generations of young Rohingyas, they never knew what oppression was in Burma but they are definitely well versed and experienced enough to know what abuse and oppression is like even while living here in Malaysia. Most of the families remain poor. I have come to meet a group of children surviving on instant noodles as their meals for days and days. They were truly grateful that at least they have the noodles. At times they don’t even have any food at all. So whatever food is provided it is highly appreciated.

They are mostly not very well educated. This makes it harder for them to be integrated into the local community and the local culture or system. Some adults with whatever little education they have gained from back when they were in Myanmar decided to set up community schools for their children. With hope that the children will have a better future than them. Education. A right that was denied. As they are not accepted by the Malaysian government the children has no rights to go to Malaysia school. UNHCR has repeatedly said that in order for them to build a school for the Rohingya refugees is not possible. The UNHCR are capable of connecting them to local or international NGOs to help but nothing more than this. The International NGO promoted to the Rohingya community is a faith based NGO, a Budhist NGO. The community refused to accept the help. Reason: they have been oppressed by the Junta government, to them their government are basically Budhist. No matter how UNHCR is trying to convince the Rohingya refugees that the NGO is not related to their government and are only there to serve on humanitarian basis, it is still not accepted. The Rohingya community were only trying to defend themselves.

Recently on the 24th of January to be exact, there was a sexual abuse case involving 4 Rohingya children here in Kuala Lumpur. It happened in one of the community school. The victims are aged 8,9,10 and 11. Due to their refugee status, where do they run to for help? The boys were sodomized. The case was reported to police and also to the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur. UNHCR claims that they are not able to help as they have no facility to assist the children. This happened over the Chinese New Year long holiday break (2009). The UNHCR also claims that they have no officers to handle the case as it is a holiday season.

Up to this day, the children were provided with medical care and treatment and then were released from the hospital. There were no psychological treatment, no translator, no lawyers provided for them. The only good thing which turn out to be a blessing for one of the children is that, previously he was an unregistered child, due to his case he was immediately registered by the UNHCR as a refugee and now holds a valid refugee card from UNHCR. My concerns are the boys who are in the hospital with no assistance from the necessary agencies. To this day no help has yet to arrive to them.

The Rohingya again and again are being tested. Again and again they are oppressed. The only solution and a way out for them is education. In this issue even education is hard to get. They have to go through great adventures and adversity throughout their life.

Where do they go from here? Being powerless due to their lack of education, stateless, living in poverty to being forgotten. Are we not of the same big family? Are they not of our own brothers? Our own sisters? What ever tears that they have cried I can assure you, all the readers out there that there are no more left. Still they try to protect what little they know of about their own religion. I wonder if something like this happens to my country, whereby I am forced to leave it Nauzubillah, will there be people to help Malaysians out there? What poof more do you need in order to be able to help them?

In the Quran, it is said:
“Verily, as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves (by not performing Hijrah), they (angels) will say (to them): ‘In what (condition) were you?’ They will reply: ‘We were weak and oppressed in the earth.’ They (angels) will say: ‘Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to migrate therein?’ Such men will find their abode in Hell – what an evil destination! Except the weak ones among men, women and children – who cannot devise a plan, nor are they able to direct their way. These are the ones whom Allaah is (most) likely to forgive, and Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Most Forgiving.”
[Surah An-Nisaa: 97-99].

They the Rohingyas did their part, now that they are here, outside of their country will we do our part?

For more information on the issue of Rohingya you can visit these websites:



To response to the article written, the writer is contactable at minerizah@yahoo.com


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