Mohib Bullah, a member of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, writes after collecting data about victims of a military crackdown in Myanmar, at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
By Clare Baldwin
KUTUPALONG REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Mohib Bullah is not your typical human rights investigator. He chews betel and he lives in a rickety hut made of plastic and bamboo. Sometimes, he can be found standing in a line for rations at the Rohingya refugee camp where he lives in Bangladesh.
Yet Mohib Bullah is among a group of refugees who have achieved something that aid groups, foreign governments and journalists have not. They have painstakingly pieced together, name-by-name, the only record of Rohingya Muslims who were allegedly killed in a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s military.
The bloody assault in the western state of Rakhine drove more than 700,000 of the minority Rohingya people across the border into Bangladesh, and left thousands of dead behind.
Aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières, working in Cox’s Bazar at the southern tip of Bangladesh, estimated in the first month of violence, beginning at the end of August 2017, that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed. But the survey, in what is now the largest refugee camp in the world, was limited to the one month and didn’t identify individuals.
The Rohingya list makers pressed on and their final tally put the number killed at more than 10,000. Their lists, which include the toll from a previous bout of violence in October 2016, catalogue victims by name, age, father’s name, address in Myanmar, and how they were killed.
“When I became a refugee I felt I had to do something,” says Mohib Bullah, 43, who believes that the lists will be historical evidence of atrocities that could otherwise be forgotten.
Myanmar government officials did not answer phone calls seeking comment on the Rohingya lists. Late last year, Myanmar’s military said that 13 members of the security forces had been killed. It also said it recovered the bodies of 376 Rohingya militants between Aug. 25 and Sept. 5, which is the day the army says its offensive against the militants officially ended.