Cox’s Bazar – Out of the trees that separate the beach from land, two men are quickly making their way towards me. In their arms is the motionless body of a young boy with a soaked shirt and pair of shorts draping around his skinny frame. His face is covered by a blue and white scarf with blood seeping through the fabric.
An IOM aid worker runs up to the body as the men lay the boy down gently and pull off the scarf to reveal the boy had experienced a blunt force to the face. Though it is obvious the young boy is dead, the aid worker still tries to revive him, but quickly gives up. Later we would find out his name was Shiradul, a Muslim Rohingya refugee and he was only 12 years old.
Early Tuesday morning on October 31st, my team and I were traveling down Marine Drive road to Kutupalong refugee camp to report on a different story, when we saw a woman bent over another person on the side of the road and so we decided to stop.
Shiradul and seven other Muslim Rohingya died when their boat capsized while attempting to beach their boat ashore in Bangladesh. The 17-year-old Muhammad Rafique, one of the 32 who survived, said everyone on the boat had to flee Myanmar because the Myanmar military attacked and burned down their homes in the village of Yung Shing.
Rafique’s story is consistent with what I have heard while reporting on refugees fleeing Myanmar. According to UNICEF, Bangladesh is sheltering nearly 800,000 Muslim Rohingya that arrived after violence erupted in Myanmar in late August of last year.
The Myanmar military has justified their attacks as a retaliation for attacks conducted by insurgents of ARSA, on police posts and army bases at the end of August last year.
At the beginning of October, I came to Bangladesh to visit my grandfather’s village of Enayetpur and learned more about my roots. I saw the home my grandfather was born in, walked the same footpaths as many before me and even prayed salat in the same mosque my great grandfather prayed in.
A couple weeks later I was standing in Cox’s Bazar, next to the bodies of drowned Rohingya Muslims who had been uprooted, casualties of persecution from the Myanmar military and this is how it ended. All you can think of these moments is to be grateful for what you have and tell yourself that reporting their stories is your way of helping the situation.
The road from Cox’s Bazar, Marine Drive is a scenic coastline road that runs south to Teknaf, where many of the Rohingya refugee camps are currently located. The road is green lushes tropical forest and grasslands where you can get lost and forget there is a world crisis behind the hills.
We eventually reach Kutupalong refugee camp, the largest Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. The deforested hills have been covered with white and black tarps tied together with bamboo to make square homes and from the doorway in and out move the Rohingya. This is the home of the Rohingya now, stateless because of the Myanmar government and at the mercy of a generous World.
I am grabbing my equipment and my Bangladeshi colleagues are on the phones trying to reschedule our morning. I look at my notes getting ready to report in the camps, yet I can’t help but think how Shiradul almost made it to Bangladesh. Everything is by chance.
By: Adnan Khan