‘My hus­band blamed me’: Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya aban­doned af­ter rapes

‘They knew I was preg­nant but didn’t care’

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Ro­hingya Mus­lim Aya­mar Bagon has lived on hand­outs since her hus­band left her af­ter she told him she was gang-raped by Myan­mar sol­diers in the fi­nal month of her preg­nancy. She is among scores of women who ac­cuse se­cu­rity forces of sex­ual abuses dur­ing a months-long mil­i­tary ‘clear­ance op­er­a­tion’ so bru­tal the UN fears it may amount to crimes against hu­man­ity.

AFP vis­ited the re­mote re­gion in the north of Rakhine State on a govern­ment-run trip this month, the first time for­eign me­dia have been of­fi­cially al­lowed into the area since the mil­i­tary be­gan hunt­ing mil­i­tants in Oc­to­ber. On the edge of Kyar Gaung Taung vil­lage, away from the govern­ment min­ders, a group of Ro­hingya women de­scribed how their lives were shat­tered the day sol­diers came to their homes late last year.

“I was raped close to my due date, in my ninth month of preg­nancy. They knew I was preg­nant but didn’t care,” Aya­mar Bagon told AFP through a UN trans­la­tor, clutch­ing her baby daugh­ter to her chest. “My hus­band blamed me for let­ting it hap­pen. Be­cause of this, he mar­ried an­other woman and now lives in an­other vil­lage,” the 20-year-old added, ex­plain­ing that she sur­vives on food dona­tions from her neigh­bors.

Mother-of-two Hasin­nar Bay­gon, 20, said her hus­band has also threat­ened to leave af­ter she was raped by three troops in De­cem­ber. They took turns to vi­o­late her while two oth­ers stood watch out­side her hut, she al­leges, adding that she knew they were sol­diers be­cause of their uni­forms and guns. All the Ro­hingya men had al­ready fled the vil­lage out of fear they would be beaten up by troops, leav­ing only the women, chil­dren and el­derly be­hind.

“My hus­band told me he is go­ing to leave me. He blamed me for not run­ning away,” Bay­gon said. The govern­ment de­nies the al­le­ga­tions and AFP has not been able to ver­ify their sto­ries or claims from two other women who said they were raped by sol­diers. But they echo scores of ac­counts col­lected by UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors and rights groups from some of the 74,000 Ro­hingya who have fled to neigh­bor­ing Bangladesh.

‘What can we do?’

The UN be­lieves hun­dreds may have died in what could be the blood­i­est chap­ter of Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar’s years­long per­se­cu­tion of the 1.2 mil­lion Ro­hingya Mus­lims who live in Rakhine. Kyar Gaung Taung vil­lage was caught up in one of the most bru­tal episodes in Novem­ber, when wit­nesses and state me­dia said dozens of Ro­hingya were killed as troops swept through the vil­lages.

Myan­mar’s govern­ment has de­nied al­most all claims of abuses and barred a UN fact-find­ing mis­sion from the area. In­stead they say probes by the mil­i­tary and po­lice, as well as a state-ap­pointed team, are suf­fi­cient. “Cases have been filed re­gard­ing killings af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. They also looked into al­le­ga­tions of rape,” said Brigadier Gen­eral San Lwin, the head of the bor­der guard po­lice in Rakhine state, adding the in­ves­ti­ga­tions were on­go­ing.

Ro­hingya from Kyar Gaung Taung said they had lodged three rape cases out of 15 al­leged as­saults in the vil­lage, but noth­ing has been done. Other women were too scared to re­port what hap­pened to them, fear­ing ret­ri­bu­tion from au­thor­i­ties or be­ing os­tra­cized by their com­mu­nity and hus­bands. “Some women didn’t want to com­plain for the sake of their pride,” said one Ro­hingya vil­lager, who asked not to be named.

Rights groups have long ac­cused Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary of us­ing rape as a weapon of war in sev­eral eth­nic con­flicts sim­mer­ing in the coun­try’s bor­der­lands. Fears of Mus­lim men vi­o­lat­ing Bud­dhist women have also long been used to stir sec­tar­ian ha­tred. Al­le­ga­tions Mus­lims raped Bud­dhists sparked clashes in 2012 that drove more than 120,000 Ro­hingya into dis­place­ment camps, and deadly ri­ots two years later near Man­dalay. Vic­tims of the lat­est cri­sis say they hold lit­tle hope for jus­tice. “I didn’t know them. How can I re­port them?” said Aya­mar Bagon of her rapists. “What can we do?” — AFP

MAUNGDAW: This photo taken on July 15, 2017 shows Aya­mar Bagon (L), 20, Hasamithaya (C), 18, Laila Bagon (3rd R), 35, and Hasin­nar Bagon (R), 20, who claim they were raped by sol­diers dur­ing a clear­ance op­er­a­tion last year, hold­ing their chil­dren as they speak to re­porters near a field in Kyar Gaung Taung vil­lage. — AFP

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