Thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps on Sunday demand rights and citizenship on second anniversary of exodus after Myanmar crackdown as they mark Genocide Day.
Almost 200,000 Rohingya participated in a peaceful gathering, which was attended by UN officials, at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday.
Children, hijab-wearing women, and men wearing long lungis shouted: “God is great, long live Rohingya” as they marched in the heart of the world’s largest refugee camp to commemorate what they described as “Genocide Day”.
Some carried placards and banners, reading “Never again! Rohingya genocide remembrance day” and “Restore our citizenship”.
On August 25, 2017, nearly 740,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh – joining 200,000 already there – after Myanmar’s armed forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks on security posts.
Sunday’s rally came days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border.
“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” Mohib Ullah, one of the organisers of Sunday’s protest, told the Associated Press news agency. “Myanmar is our country. We are Rohingya.”
“I have come here to seek justice for the murder of my two sons. I will continue to seek justice till my last breath,” 50-year-old Tayaba Khatun told AFP as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Nearly a million Rohingya live in squalid camps in southeast Bangladesh.
The Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority, are not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and are rendered stateless.