Ro­hingya com­mu­nity pleads for help

Sunday News - - NEWS - AMANDA SAX­TON

ANAYAT Ul­lah’s cousin Mo­hammed died among mango trees last month, shot down by Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary.

His wife and chil­dren had fled across the bor­der to Bangladesh days ear­lier but Mo­hammed stayed in Rakhine State to pro­tect their land.

In Auck­land, 23-year-old Ul­lah has strug­gled to sleep since Au­gust 25, when the most re­cent sys­tem­atic slaugh­ter of Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya be­gan.

‘‘They flee or die,’’ he said. ‘‘My cousin hadn’t re­alised those were the only op­tions.’’

Since then, 380,000 of the 1.1 mil­lion Ro­hingya have fled Myan­mar, and more than 400 have been killed.

Last week the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ap­pealed to Myan­mar’s au­thor­i­ties to halt the per­se­cu­tion; closer to home, Kiwi ac­tor Sam Neill called on Prime Min­is­ter Bill English, via Twit­ter, to take in more Ro­hingya refugees.

Al­though Ro­hingya have lived in western Myan­mar for gen­er­a­tions, they are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship.

For­mer refugee Shah Alam un­der­stands the ex­is­tence. Af­ter the mil­i­tary seized his fam­ily’s prawn farm in 1995, he moved to Yan­gon and lived in fear of his faux-Burmese ac­cent slip­ping.

Alam, 39, at­tended univer­sity but was not al­lowed to sit tests or grad­u­ate. He could rent a room, but only for up to six months. He could work, but only un­of­fi­cially.

Yan­gon be­came too tense for many Ro­hingya af­ter a ter­ror at­tack in 2005. Alam fled to Thai­land and fi­nally ar­rived in New Zealand as a refugee in 2012.

He now op­er­ates a paint­ing business in Auck­land and, along with Ul­lah, runs the Ro­hingya Wel­fare Or­gan­i­sa­tion, which will demon­strate in Auck­land’s Aotea Square to­day, call­ing for the Govern­ment to take in refugees di­rectly from camps in Bangladesh, which has not hap­pened since 2011.

Ul­lah was born in one such camp and ar­rived in New Zealand with his par­ents in 2009. His two eldest sis­ters stayed be­hind, rais­ing their chil­dren un­der tar­pau­lins, on dirt floors. ‘‘They’re grow­ing up ex­actly like me, but our lives will be so dif­fer­ent.’’

Anayat Ul­lah, left, and Shah Alam will demon­strate in Auck­land to­day.

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