Rohingya community pleads for help
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.