‘They raped us one by one’: Ro­hingya woman

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TEK­NAF, Bangladesh:

The bru­tal gang rape that Habiba and her sis­ter en­dured is a story that is be­com­ing de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar among the thou­sands of Ro­hingya refugees flee­ing to Bangladesh to es­cape the vi­o­lence of Myan­mar’s sol­diers. “They tied both of us to the bed and raped us one by one,” said 20-year-old Habiba, who has now found shel­ter with a Ro­hingya refugee fam­ily a few kilo­me­tres from the Bangladesh-Myan­mar border. “We’re al­most starv­ing here. But at least no one is com­ing here to kill or tor­ture,” said Hashim Ul­lah, Habiba’s older brother who es­caped with his sis­ters.

Habiba and her sis­ter Samira, 18, say they were raped in their home in Udang vil­lage by troops who then burnt down their house. “They torched most of the houses, killed nu­mer­ous peo­ple in­clud­ing our fa­ther and raped many young girls,” said Habiba, who agreed to be iden­ti­fied in this story. “One of the sol­diers told us be­fore leav­ing that they will kill us if they see us around the next time they come here. Then they torched our house.”

Widespread al­le­ga­tions of rape have raised fears that Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forces are sys­tem­at­i­cally us­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence against the state­less Ro­hingya. The vi­o­lence has forced thou­sands to flee, prompt­ing a UN of­fi­cial to ac­cuse Myan­mar of car­ry­ing out “eth­nic cleans­ing” of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity. Ul­lah and his sib­lings es­caped af­ter tak­ing the fam­ily’s $400 sav­ings and walk­ing to the Naf River that sep­a­rates south­ern Bangladesh from Myan­mar’s Rakhine state.

The trio spent four days hid­ing in the hills with hun­dreds of other Ro­hingya fam­i­lies, be­fore they found a boat owner will­ing to take them to Bangladesh. “He asked for all of our money,” Ul­lah said. The boat owner left them on a small is­land near the border. The sib­lings walked across the scrub­land un­til they found a Ro­hingya fam­ily who of­fered them shel­ter.

Rape as War Weapon

Sim­i­lar sto­ries of vi­o­lence and dis­pos­ses­sion fill the rows of plas­tic-roofed shacks that have be­come the only refuge for thou­sands of Ro­hingya Mus­lims who have fled Rakhine state. The es­capees have told of gang rapes, tor­ture and mur­der be­ing car­ried out by Myan­mar troops in the small strip of land that has been un­der mil­i­tary con­trol af­ter deadly raids on po­lice border posts last month. For­eign jour­nal­ists and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors have been barred from en­ter­ing the area.

While the mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment have re­jected the charges, rights groups have long ac­cused the mil­i­tary of us­ing rape as a weapon of war in sev­eral other eth­nic con­flicts which sim­mer in the coun­try’s bor­der­lands. Thai­land-based NGO the Womens League of Burma has doc­u­mented 92 cases of sex­ual vi­o­lence by fight­ers be­tween 2010 and 2015, which they say have been used “as a means of sham­ing and de­stroy­ing eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties”. Fears of Mus­lim men vi­o­lat­ing Bud­dhist women have also long stirred the ha­tred of hard­line na­tion­al­ists in Myan­mar. Al­le­ga­tions Mus­lims raped Bud­dhists sparked sec­tar­ian clashes in 2012 that drove tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya into dis­place­ment camps and ri­ots two years later near Man­dalay. But the vol­ume of rape al­le­ga­tion among the Ro­hingya flee­ing Rakhine sug­gest a pat­tern of abuse by Myan­mar’s army be­yond any­thing doc­u­mented be­fore. —AFP

TEK­NAF, Bangladesh: Mosam­mat Samira, 18, (right) and her sis­ter Mosam­mat Habiba, 20, who were gang-raped by the Myan­mar army in their vil­lage Udang in the north­ern part of Rakhine state a week ago, are seen on Thurs­day. —AFP

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