Abu Raihan MuammedKhalid
This is a story of the most unfortunate people of our time.
Their own country rejects them. The country they came in denies them.
This is a story of the Rohingya refugees living in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s bazar District, Bangladesh. I have visited the Camp on 8th January 2017 and taken photos and videos of the situation there. I have already sent some of that content to many of you. Some of the video images you may have seen in my last email.
This feature contains a harrowing tale of the miseries the Rohingya people going through even inside Bangladesh. No body knows how many of them are in Bangladesh, because nobody went to register or count them. No body know how they are doing, because nobody went there to ask them.
This is my personal attempt to tell the stories of this most unfortunate people of our time. Their own country rejects them. The country they came in denies them.
25 January 2017. 8.12 am: I arrived at the InternationalOrganization for Migration (IOM) Office in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived here the evening before from St.Martin’s Island. I have come to see for myself the condition of the RohingyaRefugees who are living in Bangladesh. I spent the later part of the eveningdiscussing about the whereabouts of the Rohingya refugee Camps and how best tovisit one with the local media workers. A new wave of Rohingya refugees arearriving following the latest wave of atrocities caused by Myanmar sinceOctober 2016. HumanRights Watch New York reported on November 21, 2016 that “new satelliteimagery of Burma’s Rakhine State shows 820 newly identified structuresdestroyed in five different ethnic Rohingya villages between November 10-18,2016”. The day after I visited Kutupalong Camp the NewYork Times published ‘There Are No Homes Left’: Rohingya Tell of Rape, Fireand Death in Myanmar. It’s a grim, frustrating picture.
Fortunately, I had a friend at the town from myUniversity days who introduced me to the people. My friend showed me where theIOM office is so that I can come here by myself in the morning.Photograph 1: Entrance of the International Organizationfor Migration (IOM) Office, Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: AuthorPhotograph 2: Main Entrance of the InternationalOrganization for Migration (IOM) Office, Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.Photo: Author
Three nights ago I went through Teknaf to theSt. Martins Island. On the very first morning when I came out of the Mosque inthe centre of the town after saying my morning prayer a man approached me. Helooked like an educated well to do local young man. But first he told me thathe is a Rohingya and arrived here some days ago. He has relatives living inBangladesh, and will join them soon.
During my visit in the scenic St. Martin’sIsland only a ferry ride away from the Teknaf peninsula I met another Rohingyawho was a waiter in a restaurant I had dinner. He told me his mother is fromthe Island and he came to live in with his maternal relatives some years ago.He did not have any Bangladeshi identity papers, or any papers whatsoever. Infact I was told that about 20% of the inhabitants of St. Martin’s island areRohingyas, arrived in fishing boats and trawlers without ever encountering animmigration post.
I did not discuss but assume that there will bea good many Rohingyas living in Teknaf town and in the surrounding area aswell. Since the dialect they speak is somewhat similar to that of Teknaf, andthe physical appearance is undistinguishable from the Teknaf population, it isvery hard to identify one just by looking at or talking to them. It only addsto the problem that Rohingyas, fearing push back or general persecution fromcertain section of the Bangladeshis, would try to hide their Rohingya identity.It needs to be mentioned that the official Bangladeshi position is to push backthe current onslaught of the Rohingyas in order to discourage furthermigration. For one reason Bangladesh already have a very large number ofRohingya refugees living in the country.
The IOM is the leading inter-governmental organizationin the field of migration. It is supporting the Government increase access tohealthcare services along with water sanitation and hygiene to the vulnerableRohingya Refugees at formal and informal refugee Camps in the South EasternBangladesh, the Cox’s bazar District. I was told by the local media that IOMwould be able to provide me with information regarding my visit to a Camp.
The IOM Office Teknaf does not have a signboardat the entrance of the house it is located in, as can be seen from Picture No.2 below. It does have a small stainless still sign post at the door of thebuilding it is housed in, which is behind the first building in the gatedproperty. We were told about this location by a Taknaf man who runs a communityradio. But on arrival on last evening I became confused. In my mind I thoughtan International Organization working for a vulnerable group must have a largeopenly visible sign board declaring a reassuring bold presence. There is nosignboard on the entrance of the property at all.
We entered the empty deserted-looking propertyand seeing no signs or people I started calling for any people who may bepresent there, a guard or an attendant. But nobody replied. We decided thiscould not be the IOM office and went to find a local man who can help us findit. The man guided us into the same property and confirmed that this is indeedthe IOM Teknaf office. That evening I turned down a dinner invitation from myfriend in order to be able to wake up early to prepare for the day. I went tobed right after an early dinner at a local restaurant.
At my arrival at 8.12am I found the Guard ofthe office and a woman sweeping the floors of the office. I told the Guard thatI wanted to meet the Manager or the person in charge of the office. He said nobody has arrived yet and indicated that I leave. But I did not want to leaveand asked if I could wait there. He agreed and I signed into the visitor’sregister. About half an hour later of the usual office tie, according to theGuard, a woman arrived complaining about the smell on the staircase. Indeed, Itoo noticed a very strong unpleasant smell coming from perhaps a rotting rat. Slowlymore people arrived and one person asked me what I wanted.
I introduced myself and told him that I wantedto know about the Rohingya refugees. He said that they are working with theRohingyas in at least three distinct locations, Lyada, Kutupalong and Noyaparabut he cannot give me any information. I wanted to see the Manager and he toldme that there is no head of this unit; everybody is doing their own work, butthen another person, a relatively older person came to talk to me.
He too said that they cannot give me anyinformation regarding the number of the Rohingya refugees, and an estimate oftheir number, or what different sort of services IOM is providing them. Theelder person then left me as he was going to one of the Camp’s. I asked ifthere is any printed literature regarding IOM’s activities in that area that hemay give me, and the first person gave me a printed page, which later turnedout not to an IOM literature but Government of Bangladesh’s Strategy regardingthe Myanmar Refugees and unregistered citizens, which at one corner has an IOMemblem.
I was surprised by this refusal. Rohingyarefugees are not any new or secret matter. The newspapers are regularlypublishing their news. What could be the reason behind this refusal to give anyinformation? My training as a Barrister in the UK indicated that I should makethe request in writing. I wrote an application requesting to know about theRohingyas IOM is working with.
The IOM employee refused to accept theapplication to reject the request in writing. He said I needed to speak withthe information officer and gave me a telephone number. We called that numberfrom his mobile telephone and a person in Cox’s bazar answered the phone, butsaid that he is the coordination officer and the information officer isstationed in the Capital Dhaka. I took the telephone number and address so thatI contact the office later.
I requested as a last resort if I could travelalong with him when he told me that he is now going to visit a Camp and he saidno. When I was leaving the office I took some photograph with the permission ofthe security guard.
Today on 24th January ’17 I havesearched using Google to learn more about what IOM does about the Rohingyas.They have a website for Bangladesh, andapparently publish Newsletter. I searched the site and found oneitem containing the term ‘Rohingya’, and about four more itemsabout ‘Myanmar Nationals’. None of these are from 2016 or 2017.
I have found two issues of the Newsletter onthe website, one is the Issue 2, 2014, and the other one is Issue 1 2016. The2014 issues has one item of news about “Myanmar Refugees and UndocumentedMyanmar Nationals living in Bangladesh”. The 2016 issue has nothing on thisissue.
The use of the term ‘Rohingya’ in relatedliterature is important. “Myanmar is seeking the ethnic cleansing of the MuslimRohingya minority from its territory”, a senior UN official hastold the BBC. In December 2016 Malaysiahas accused Myanmar of engaging in “ethnic cleansing” of its RohingyaMuslim minority. A Myanmar refugee other than a Rohingya has never beenreported. It is a case of ethnic cleansing and therefore the ethnic identity ofthese persecuted people is of great importance. The common identity of allthese refugee victims characterizes these atrocities they are suffering asethnic cleansing, an offence against humanity. That is why it is extremelyimportant to refer to them in their ethnic identity Rohingya every time wemention them. This is as important for human rights advocates as for the UnitedNations legal systems.
So why IOM is not using ‘Rohingya’ to refer tothese refugees? The Rohingyas themselves see this as a major problem, so do thehuman rights advocates. IntegratedRegional Information Networks IRIN reports that “Myanmarrejects their citizenship and their name itself, and recently condemned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon forsaying “Rohingya” during the November Association of Southeast AsianNations summit in Myanmar”.
I remembered a conversation I had with an IOMVolunteer at St. Martin’s Island during my stay there and also on the previousevening over telephone. He suggested that instead of consulting the office Ivisit a Camp myself on my own.
I asked the shopkeepers at the bus stationabout the bus for Kutupalong Camp and with their advice I boarded a bus. I fellasleep in the bus, I was exhausted. About an hour later I was at KutupalongBazar, and entered the first tea stall that I saw for a cup of tea and somesnack. I felt better soon and approached two young men standing nearby, if theycould work as my guide in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp. The shop owner soonintervened and told me that these young men would not be very helpful, and Irequested him to arrange me a guide. He did help me and a man sitting in thesame tea stall stood and came near me. I paid my bill and soon we started afoottowards the Camp, which is only half a kilometer from the Bus station.
11.45 am: Kutupalong CampPhotograph 3: Solar Street Lights in Kutupalong RefugeeCamp. Photograp taken on 08 January 2017 by this author.
We arrived at the Camp around half past eleven.At first sight it reminded me of the tea garden’s workers colony in Sylhet thatI visited in my student days. It’s not that bad a place, you might think atfirst. The roads are clean earthen roads; no garbage littered on the sides ofthe house, there is solar light on the street which imports an air of modernsustainability. This picture shows bean and pumpkin vines on the roof of thehut; a sign of resilience of the inhabitants. This part of the Camp is old. Theinhabitants arrived some years ago, some even 20 years ago, when the crisisfirst began in Myanmar. They have made the Camp their home.Photograph 4: Water andSanitation facilities at Kutupalong Camp. Photo Credit: Author Photograph 5: Water andSanitation facilities at Kutupalong Camp. PhotoCredit: Author
The inhabitants get their water from tube wellsinstalled by the various agencies. This one has IOM, SIDA and USA emblem markedon the foundation. The Camp is located on hilly forests of Ukhia area of Cox’sBazar district. There is no water sources around. The low grounds between thehills that accumulated some rain water are now dry in this winter. There isalso a bathroom and latrines, three units together, beside the tube well,provided by the Central Emergency Response Fund of the UN, IOM-OIM and USAthrough a local NGO SHED. People are collecting water from the tube well fordomestic use.Photograph 6: A boy standing infront of a line of huts in Kutupalong. 08 January 2017.
But the scenario changes fast. Once inside theCamp we see lines of huts built mainly with scrapes of polythene paper withadditional few tree branches on bamboo structure. The tree branches are not theusual coconut, betel nut branches that are often used on roofs. These are takenfrom some wood trees from the surrounding thin forest.
These huts are much worse than the first few wesaw at the entrance of the Camp. They are one room accommodations of about 7square feet for one family. Rohingyas have large families. Number of the familymembers can be up to 8 members or more. The beginning of January was mildlycold, but in a cold whether the huts would provide little protection from the coldor from the rain in the coming monsoon. We see one family planted a vegetablevine next to the hut’s door. They inhabitants of this hut are here for at leasta few weeks.Photograph 7: A Man standing infront of a hut answering our questions. 08January 2017. Photo: Author
We started to talk to the residents of the Camp. A man comesout of a hut. He tells us that they came here about 20 days ago. They are partof the latest wave of the refugees that came in to Bangladesh following thelast major atrocities that began in October 2016.Photograph 8: Kutupalong Camp has grown inside a thinplanted forest. Photo: Author
The Camp is locatedinside a thin planted forest by the west side of the Cox’s Bazar Teknaf highwayin Ukhia Upajila (Sub-district). To its west lie vast hilly forests that end onthe popular beach resorts of Inani on the Bay of Bengal.Photograph 9: Banana field inside the Camp. Photo: Author
The plain lands of the surrounding area are occupied by theBangladeshi people. There are patches of rice fields, vegetable and fruitorchards like the one in Photograph 7 above in between the hills, cultivated bythe Bangladeshi people.Photograph 10: These latrines and water fountains are notas good as the ones near the entrance. Photo: Author
Although the tube well, bathrooms and the latrines that we saw near the entrance were made of bricks andcorrugated tins, we see latrines made with bamboo walls and polythene roof onan earthen foundation. The initial impression of the Camp being a quiet modernsustainable place soon fades away. I could not find any emblem of any internationalor national assistance agency on these water and sanitation facilities as wehave seen the better ones near the entrance. It is possible that the UN, IOM-OIM, USA and SIDA whichassisted building the facilities near the entrance did not provide assistancefor building these one.Photograph 11: A Mosque with loudspeakers; dilapidated hutson the side of the hill. Photo: Author
The Rohingyas are all Muslims.Mosques with brick walls, tin roofs and loud speakers are seen frequentlybeside the dilapidated and unrecognisable living quarters. These relativelybetter looking Mosques help bring a quick consolation to the onlookers mind;just like the solar panels, street lights and the better sanitation facilitiesnear the entrance. These are the images that will linger in the mind of avisitor long after leaving the Camp, not the 7 square feet excuses for houses,or the lives of their inhabitants.
12.15 PM: Rohingya Refugee Sikander tells his story. Refugee Camp,Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
In this video we see RohingyaRefugees are erasing parts of hills in order to make room for building newhuts. Bangladesh Government destroyed some of the huts built earlier, but theyare building again. In reply to my questionSikander, a Rohingya Refugee who came 10/15 days earlier said there is no otherplace to build a hut around here. The hills are the only place not occupied bythe Bangladeshi people. Sikander told me that he isnow living in his relative’s hut. His relatives are also refugees in this Campwho came earlier. His relatives are also paying for the construction of hishut, which is seen being built behind him. He does not whether theGovernment of Bangladesh is providing any food or other help. Nobody gave himany information. 12.18 pm: The windy hilltop, an old Mosque and a tiny shop: RohingyaRefugee Camp, Kutupalong https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=0ut7TK2tJ2s This video shows a section ofthe Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This section of theCamp has both old and new refugees; some are living in this Camp for 15 to 20years. We see a Mosque built for the old refugees. There are also new housesbeing built on the top of the hill. Bamboo structures are rising on bare sandyground. The wind is quite strong on the hilltop. Vast expanse of thesurrounding area was visible from this point. Yellowish brown bare sandy grounddotted with numerous shabby refugee huts as far as eyes goes. A line of hills andmountains are on the eastern horizon. That is Myanmar, where these Rohingyascame from crossing the River Naf. In the last part of this videoclip we see a refugee opened a tiny shop on a table top catering for other refugees.He is selling lozenges, biscuits, carbonated bottled drinks etc. 12.19: Erased Hills and broken huts: Rohingyas rebuild huts previouslydestroyed by the Bangladesh Department of Forest. https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=mWZg9vEmLUM In this video we see theBangladesh Department of Forest, which manages this area, destroyed huts builtby the Rohingya Refugees. Rohingyas are now rebuilding huts in the samelocation. The ground is visibly erased; it is not unlikely that there weretrees standing on this location before. Photograph 12: Environmental Campaign by the Aid Agencies.Photo: Author
Prominent emblems of ACF International, USA and EU are seenon large billboards dedicated to environmental awareness of the residents ofthe Camp. The one in the Photo No. 10 tells to dispose of the waste intogarbage bins. Although we did not see any garbage bins in the Camp. We did notsee the entire of it, that is true.Photograph 13: Some more huts, a pair of solar panel on topof one. My two guides are seen standing on the left side. Photo: Author
The guide who accompanied me is seenstanding on the left in white lungi and blue shirt. The man standing next tohim in a white shirt is a resident refugee of the Camp who arrived some yearsago. He volunteered to show me around the Camp and hushed into my ear a fewtimes that my guide is trying to shorten my tour so that I do not see the mostof the Camp. The houses in this section of the Camp are made of mud walls androof made of polythene shards. The next monsoon will be a trying time for theinhabitants.Photograph 14: Corridors are not that clean inside the Camp.Photo: Author
The corridors seen in Photo 14are dirty, wet in places even in dry winter. It appears that there is no placenear to dispose of the rubbish or the household waste water, so they have justbeen thrown outside the house. This type of environment is regularly seen inthe urban slums of Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. They create an idealenvironment for infectious diseases. There have been reportsthat the Rohingyas in Camps in Bangladesh had been suffering from topicaldisease- pneumonia, diarrhea, fever and cough. Photograph 15: A woman selling fuel woods from her hutentrance. Photo: Author
In the photograph above I saw awoman selling fire woods from the entrance of her house. The Camp is locatedinside a forest, so the first thought that came to my mind was that this camefrom a tree of that forest. There were reports in the Bangladeshi media in thepast that the Rohingyas are cutting down trees of the surrounding forests tosell. I asked the woman where she got that fire woods, she said she boughtthose from the market.
12.35: The alleyway of Hope and Despair: A view of the refugee hutslining on both sides of the passage.
My Rohingya volunteer guide inblue half shirt tell reminds me of the vastness of the Camp. It would be easyto lose direction inside the Camp. We see numerous huts lined on both sides ofway.
Thousands of Rohingyas foundshelter in these ramshackle huts. It is an alleyway of hope and despair. Thisis the thickest part of the Camp that we have visited. Street light, solarpanel on roof and one unit of brick built latrine with male and female signs ondifferent doors are seen. This part is not new, vegetablevines are seen on more than one roofs. They are not the refugees who camefollowing the latest October onslaught.
My guides reiterate their warningnot to give money to the refuges. There could be troubles if I tried that, theysaid.
12.42: Man cutting side of a hill inside the Camp.
A man is cutting the side of ahill inside Kutupalong Refugee camp. It is not clear whether he is a refugee ora local Bangladeshi. There are rice fields behind him planted by the localsBangladeshis. It could very well be the Bangladeshies who are still cuttinghills. There are abundant signs of past hill cutting in the area, the patchesof rice and vegetable fields, banana plantation, etc.
I have a feeling that the man inthe video cutting hill in a vigorous manner is a local Bangladeshi. It couldnot be examined though; my guides were going another way. It is easy to thinkthat the locals who have in the past established their dominance over theRohingya refugees in the Camp will dominate matters like these too. I heard rumoursduring my tour there that some Bangladeshi influential locals are building someof these huts on hills and renting them to the Rohingyas, it could not besubstantiated.
However, a 2013news report published by Kaladan Press Network (KPN), which claims to be anindependent and non-profitable news agency of Rohingyas of Arakan, Burma, stated that “a Bangladeshi killed a Rohingyarefugee named Nur Mohamed (45), living in unregistered refugee camp for rent of open space in front where Nur denied to pay for rent of space”.Similar accusations of violence by local Bangladeshis towards the Rohingyas havebeen made by another Rohingya media the Rohingya Vision TV and IRIN.
We could not find any independentreport substantiating the view that Bangladeshis are renting space to theRohingya refugees.
However, in video image taken byus below titled ‘12.53: Rohingyas cultivate Vegetable in land rented fromBangladeshis’ we hear my guide telling me that the Rohingyas are growingvegetables in land rented from the Bnagladeshies.
Some of the rumours might betrue.Photograph 16: A small temporary shop selling packaged andfreshly made snacks. Photo: Author
We have seen quite a few shopsand a market in the Camp. This temporary shop is selling packaged and freshlymade snacks to the Refugees. The man is frying sweetened round shaped dough inoil called ‘gulgula’. This is made by mixing unrefined wheat flour with sugarand water and then deep frying the dough in hot oil in a karai. It was quarterto one in the afternoon, lunchtime. Later, at the end of our visit in the CampI ate some of these ‘gulgula’ in Kutupalong Bazar with my guide and volunteers.That was our lunch for the day. Although freshly grated coconut was added tothe ones we ate.Photograph 17: More huts are being built on partly erasedhill sides. Earth slide and erosion may become big problems during next monsoon. Photo: Author
In Photo 17 we saw sides of hillshave been erased and more huts are being built on them. Earth slide and erosionmay become big problems during next monsoon. Later we have seen a man cuttingdown the side of a hill by the side of a rice field. It was not clear if he wasa local Bangladeshi or a Rohingya Refugee.
12.51pm: Rohingya Refugee Sirajul Islam tells me that his house inMyanmar was burnt by the Military.
In this video we numerous newmakeshift huts built on hillsides. A woman washing clothes in the little puddleof rain water in the low ground between the hills wearing a full burka. I donot remember ever seeing a woman wearing a full burka while washing clothes inthe open in Bangladesh. I wonder if this is to save one’s dignity in the harsh andhostile environment of the Refugee Camp or a regular observance of religiousedict. Another family is seen bathing on the left in this same puddle.
The huts in front of us werebuilt about a month ago, tell the locals.
The Refugee in this video,Sirajul Islam, tells me that his house in Myanmar was burnt by the Military. Hereceived 25 Kilograms rice from the Government of Bangladesh. He does not knowif there will be more help later. He was not registered as a refugee at theCamp, no paperwork whatsoever was done. He collected the rice in exchange of atoken which was given earlier by a ‘Majhi’, a community leader, in the Camp.
Nobody gave him any informationregarding how he may register himself as a refugee so that he may receive moreassistance. His fellow refugees are themselves in great distress, he tells me,and are unable to help.
12.53: Rohingyas cultivate Vegetable in land rented from Bangladeshis.
In this very short video image anice field of a few plots of vegetable are seen. My guides told me that theRohingyas are cultivating these fields; the land belongs to the local Bangladeshis.Rohingyas paid the Bangladeshis some money for the land so that they can growvegetables there. 12.57pm: Rohingya Refugee Dil Mohammed tells his story
In this video Rohingya RefugeeDil Mohammed tells me that he arrived at this Camp 10/15 days ago. When theywere attacked, they left the home at once; there was no time even to close thedoors. He could not bring any money with him, not even the clothes, he tellsme.
He arrived by walking through thehilly forests that separates Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was horrible, he tellme. His entire family could not come with him. Some of his children are stillbehind, but they are alive, he says.
They are eight now in his familyin Kutupalong Camp. He did not receive any help; food or otherwise, from anybodyyet.
I told him that many NGOs havetheir offices at the nearby Kutupalong Bazar. Did he try to get any help fromthere? He said he tried once or twice, but could not get through the big crowdof women there. He adds that he felt embarrassed to look for food from people.He was a well to do farmer in Myanmar, tells my guide.
I asked him if the refugees whocame earlier are helping the newcomers with information. He said no. I had avolunteer with me who is also a Rohingya refugee who came some months ago. Heconfirmed that there is no such organized effort among the old refugees in theCamp to help the new comers with information. Although media reports often refersto Camp Committee, I wonder why none of the residents, new and old, mentionedthis Committee to me during conversation.
This is important becausealthough these Rohigya people speak a distant dialect of Bengali, theirlanguage quite different from the language of the local population. Besides,they do not know the locality, or the governance structure of Bangladesh. Theyare in severe distress too.
No Govt. or non-Govt.organization came to register him as a refugee, Dil Mohammed says..He and his family are goingthrough severe hardships. The night before our conversation the family hadboiled rice with a green chilli chatni. They had no food that day up to thetime when we had the conversation, around 12.55 pm.Photograph 18: A used clothes shop near the Mosque. Photo:Author
A used clothes shop near a Mosquewhere we said our noon prayer with the refugees. It was a very hot midday withdry air. After climbing up and down several hills in the open sun I was feelingas though I would faint soon. I drank some water and rested little bit insidethe shade of the Mosque before staring our tour again.
I did not see any interestedbuyers, but the shopkeeper said that business is all right. The clothes aremostly used jeans trousers and western style shirts, and some women’s clothes.
Dil Mohammed, the Refugee Iinterviewed who said that he and his family did not eat anything since morningcame to meet me again after the prayer. He was clearly looking for some moneythis time, but I did not give him any. At the Kutupalong Bazar when I hired theguide I was advised by the shop keeper not to give any money to a refugee. Hesaid if they see handing out money big crowds of refugees would harass me formore money and there were instances where they have even assaulted suchbenefactors, tearing clothes etc.
It was probably a wise decisionif the story is correct, but my conscience still hurts me when I think that Icould have given that man some money to buy a meal for his family that noon.Later we did give some rice to a few families of newly arrived Rohingyas, butDil Mohammed’s family was in a different neighbourhood of the Camp.Photograph 19: The small open house is the place forconsultation and mediation in the Camp, a parliament and a court combined. Photo: Author
This beautiful structure islocated near the market that grew in the Camp. The structure resembles a typeof leisure houses built in the past in Bengal, with a roof and no walls, sothat wind comes in to relieve from the hit and humidity known as haoyaghor, orair house. People would sit in there and gossip in the hot and humid days.
But this was no leisurely airhouse. I was told that it is the place where the people of the Camp sit todiscuss matters related to governance of the Camp, or to mediate a dispute. Itis the parliament and the court combined for the Camp.
A billboard near the structuretell the residents that nobody can defecate on the drains of the Camp inBengali and Myanmar languages. This billboard was installed by EU, NGO Forumfor Public Health and the UNHCR. Photograph 20: An unlikely business woman in a temporaryshop in the market that grew up in the middle of the Camp. Photo: Author
It is the market that grew insidethe Camp. A woman is selling vegetables in her shop. She brought dried fish,potatoes, radishes, aubergines, kakrol, a type of gourd and green chillies tosell.
She is wearing an unmistakablyBurmese long sleeve blouse and a long sarong like gown with a large scarfcovering her head and upper body. The worn but beautiful blouse and shiny metalbracelets in her hands and an uncomfortable look on her face tells of betterdays in the past, perhaps a housewife in a farmer’s household; and her uneasein this new position as a business woman.
There are quite a few othershops, both temporary and permanent, in the market spread around a large openarea. We have taken video image of the market.
01.36pm: A Market inKutupalong
This is the market that we spokeabout above. A boy is selling dried fish to two women wearing full Burkas. Driedfish are the protein of choice for the people of the part of Myanmar they comefrom, the Rakhain state.
I remember in 1996 when I stayedat my Rakhain friend’s house in Teknaf, the friend who helped me find theaddress of the IOM office in Teknaf and also booked my hotel room for this visit,we had dried fish dishes almost every meal of the day. It was quite anexperience for me. The mainstay of Bengali diet is fish and vegetable curries,dried fish are treated as a food of interest for a few.
There is a shop with fresh leafyvegetables, the next shop is selling inexpensive local fruits called boroi (Ziziphusmauritiana) and tentul (tamarind), then there is another used clothes shop, atea stall, another dried fish and vegetable shop, and some permanent teastalls. 02.29 pm: one refugee shows mehis broken leg
Before starting my journey Iintended to give some alms to the Rohingya refugees. I said that to my guides.They said they will help me arrange that. We went to the Kutupalong Bazar, andthere we bought fifty kilograms of rice. We made about 25 two kilograms packetsand carried that to a part of the Camp where the newly arrived Rohingyas live. Wedistributed the packets. Each packet to a family, which will give them one mealof boiled rice for that day. The above is the video image of that. It cost meabout 3,000 taka, including the payments of the guides, which is equivalent to37 US Dollar.
When we were doing that onerefugee shows me his broken leg in braces. Myanmar Military broke his leg witha rod, he says. He treated the broken leg with braces in Bangladesh. He did notreceive any medical assistance from anybody in this Camp.
We return to the Kutupalong bazarsoon after that and eat our lunch with gulgula. Then I leave in a sharedmicrobus for Teknaf where I shall spend the night before starting for Dhaka thenext morning. It was almost sunset time when I reached Teknaf. Our microbus was miraculously saved from an accident on the way back.
(Abu Raihan Muhammed Khalid, Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister-at-Law; LL.M. (London)Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh Head, Raihan Khalid & Associates Address, Contact Details & other information: www.raihankhalid.com)