Rohingya in Bangladesh plead for cemeteries

The Rohingya, called the most persecuted minority in the world by the UN, have forwarded their requests to Bangladesh's government for cemeteries. They have hitherto been unable to bury their dead with dignity.

Bangladesh's Rohingya want cemeteries

A Rohingya rights group has asked the Bangladeshi refugee commissioner’s office to allocate a plot of land for members of the minority group to bury the bodies of deceased Rohingya. The Bangladesh’s Rohingya want cemeteries to bury their dead with dignity.

The official application, submitted on June 14 by the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH) lamented that after two years encamped near the country’s southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar, the refugees had nearly run out of cemetery space.

Bangladesh’s Rohingya want cemeteries, forward application

“The local people are worrying for their people to get enough spaces in the cemetery for the future. So they are not allowing the refugees to bury continuously in their cemetery,” said the application reached by Anadolu Agency.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack in Bangladesh’s neighboring Myanmar since dozens were killed there in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a brutal crackdown in August 2017.

No land has officially been set aside for Rohingya burials at the crowded camps, leaders of the group said.

Small areas have been unofficially fixed as cemeteries in most Rohingya camps, with reports that some have had to bury more than one body in a single grave.

Locals demand money for burial spaces and last rites

With a single grave, in conventional cemeteries costing at least 3,000-15,000 Bangladeshi takas ($35-$176), the already destitute refugees have been hard-pressed in procuring a spot to lay their dead to rest.

Having expressed their gratitude for the hospitality of their hosts, the group nonetheless bemoaned the hardship that this caused the refugees.

Read more: Coronavirus: Will the real world please stand up for refugees?

“It is right from their part keeping the spaces for their own villagers. But it is the most difficult and big burden for the Rohingya refugees,” it said, urging authorities to allocate a specific graveyard for all 32 Rohingya camps to “urgently” resolve the issue.

“We need the cemetery for each camp. We cannot create other ways to bury dead peoples’ bodies. Please accept our request and manage the cemetery as quickly as possible.”
According to an approximate calculation by the ARSPH, since the mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh in August 2017, as many as 17,480 Rohingya have died in the camps which house over 1.2 million refugees.

Bangladesh’s Rohingya want cemeteries: decision pending

Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told Anadolu Agency that officials had received the application, but that a decision was pending.

“They [Rohingya] need many things and they are demanding for many things, but we have to deal with it as per our capability and prevailing situation,” said Talukder.

He added that Rohingya were still burying the bodies of deceased people at a certain space in every camp. “Concerned officials are looking into it.”

Read more: Rohingya: The most persecuted minority in the world

The refugees, however, say they need sufficient dedicated space for every camp as cemeteries.

“At least we need to bury our people at a specific place so we can visit the graves of our demised and pray for the departed souls,” Abdul Karim, a refugee at the biggest Kutupalang camp, said.

He added: “It’s our basic right as a human being to be buried at a specific space for successors to mourn.”

Rohingya: the most persecuted minority in the world

The largely Muslim Rohingya fled a military crackdown in Myanmar that the UN has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining some 200,000 already in Bangladesh. Only a handful have returned, fearing for their safety in a country where they are denied citizenship and treated as illegal immigrants.

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled a brutal 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, where around 200,000 refugees were already living.

Ikbal Hossain, the acting police chief of the Cox’s Bazar district, said the enforced “idle and workless” lifestyle of the refugees made them “unstable”. “They are receiving all sorts of aid, but they have ample idle time as they don’t have any other work,” he said.

Read more: First Rohingya woman shot dead in Bangladesh drugs clampdown

However, the persecution of the minority still takes place in their adopted home. Earlier, at least 13 Rohingya were shot dead in what police said were gunfights with officers while allegedly carrying thousands of the “yaba” pills. The presence of the narcotics mafia has in turn led to violence inside the camps, prompting police to increase their presence.

Crime and murder rates in the camps were higher than national statistics, according to police, which record roughly 3,000 murders annually in a country of 168 million. Police chief Hossain said some 318 criminal complaints had been filed against Rohingya since August 2017 including 31 murder cases.

But experts warned the number of murders in the Rohingya camps were far higher than the figures quoted by police. This has added to mistrust by locals.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk

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