Rohingya Crisis: The Strength of a Father
I was inspired by one of the stories I heard about a man named Mohammed.
“When the soldiers came, they started shooting through our village and killed 13 people,” tells Mohammed, a Rohingya father of ten.
Mohammed and I are almost the same age. We are both fathers who dearly love our children. Yet, our lives are worlds apart. I have never experienced being the target of ethnic violence and although we would both go to extreme lengths to protect our families, I have never had to do so.
Last year I visited Kutupalong, the refugee camp in Bangladesh where Mohammed sought refuge, because I wanted to see Medair’s work in action and meet the Rohingya community. Mohammed, on the contrary, came to Kutupalong because it was a matter of a life-or-death. He was forced to flee with his wife, Rukhia, and their children, ranging from one to 18 years old, in order to find safety when soldiers attacked their village.
A life or death decision
In August 2017, when he witnessed mass atrocities being committed against the Rohingya minority, Mohammed didn’t hesitate for a second. He grabbed his children and set off on a harrowing journey to Bangladesh, fleeing the escalating violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, and leaving all his possessions behind.
“At the time, I was numb. Darkness overtook me. I was living but I don’t know how. I had seen so many dead bodies and burning homes. It was very painful for me to leave home, not having a destination,” says Mohammed, his friendly face creased with concern.
It took four exhausting days before Mohammed and his family reached the unknown land of Bangladesh. Holding his youngest son close to his chest, Mohammed recalls, “The path was very difficult to walk, very hilly. Finding shelter for my children was difficult and they struggled to sleep. I worried about how I would provide food for my family and would go out at night in search for food. I felt helpless.”
Safe, but not at home
Now living in a crowded refugee camp in Bangladesh, alongside over 626,500 Rohingya refugees in an area of just eight square miles, life has brought new challenges. Mohammed is grateful for the safety the camp provides but it is a far cry from the village he left behind.
“I had a nice house in Rakhine, with furniture, surrounded by trees and land,” says Mohammed. He continues, “I don’t have a job and it is crowded here. There is noise everywhere.”
Mohammed’s greatest dream is to be officially recognized as a Rohingya and as a citizen of a country. This is something I have never had to consider in my own life.
“If only we could get recognition as Rohingya, we would go back. We want to be part of our country and benefit from human rights and freedom. But it will require more time. I’m unhappy. I’m very unhappy about this situation,” says Mohammed, surrounded by six of his children, who are listening attentively to their father.
Hope is possible
I’m grateful for the small difference we can make in Mohammed ‘s life.
“I receive food from Medair. I provide this food to my children and they are happy. If they are happy, I’m happy as well,” says Mohammed.
People like Mohammed are the reason I work for Medair.
Mohammed’s love for his family is inspiring and touches me. Knowing Medair can walk alongside people like Mohammed as he takes care of his family compels me to continue doing what I do. Medair’s mandate is to bring hope and life-saving relief. Together with my colleagues, I want Mohammed and others like him to know they are not forgotten and to help them have hope for the future.
Globally, more than 70 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. As they move to new communities or new countries, their presence impacts the existing residents, many of whom already struggle to survive with limited resources. As tensions rise, coping with refugee migration has become a burning political issue around the globe.
With no end in sight, it’s no exaggeration to say we are living in an age of displacement, and the way we respond to it will define this generation.