Rohingya in Bangladesh face tide of hostility as welcome turns to fear


Sep 17, 2019 – 06:13


FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of Rohingya refugees shout slogans as they protest against their repatriation at the Unchiprang camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/File Photo

By Poppy McPherson and A S M Suza Uddin

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – When more than 730,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar in 2017, Bangladeshi journalist Sharif Azad was sympathetic to the plight of his fellow Muslims, survivors of a military-led crackdown the United Nations has branded genocide.

The reporter, from the southern corner of Bangladesh that has become home to the world’s largest refugee settlement, said he wrote accounts of the traumatized, exhausted Rohingya and did what he could to help.

“All the people did it,” said Azad, in his office near a bustling market outside the town of Cox’s Bazar.

“We provided the food. We provided land.”

Two years on, Azad runs a campaign against the Rohingya, aiming to see them confined to their camps behind barbed wire until they can be sent back to Myanmar.

“We will continue our movement until repatriation happens,” said Azad, who said his group now has 1,000 members, and is one of several that have sprung up with the same aims.

Most Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are regarded as interlopers, illegal immigrants from South Asia.

Rohingya were driven from their villages in Myanmar into Bangladesh in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, fleeing what they said was persecution at the hands of the Myanmar military.

But the latest influx has been the biggest.

Myanmar denies accusations of genocide. It says its armed forces have carried out legitimate operations against Rohingya militants who attacked security forces.

In Bangladesh, the deterioration of relations between the “host” community and the newcomers has been so precipitous some now fear serious violence.

“I’ve lived to see three influxes and this is the worst,” said Bangladeshi labourer Khadir Hussein, 60, in a tea shop in the border town of Teknaf.

“We feel if they attack us, how will we survive? We’re a minority in our land.”

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SWI, a branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation

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