NINA YUSTIARTI WRITES – Since August, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh for safety. The Rohingya are one of many ethnic minorities in the country of Myanmar. With around one million people identifying as Rohingya Muslims, they represent the largest percentage of Muslims in the country. They claim to be descendants of Arab traders, and have their own culture and language.
The country of Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist and denies the Rohingya citizenship. The Myanmar government perceives them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
In October 2016, Rohingya men attacked the border posts in the Rakhine State, which resulted in the death of nine police officers. This attack then sparked a vigorous crackdown by the Myanmar military that led to the evacuation of over 87,000 Rohingya back to Bangladesh.
Another attack occurred in August 2017, when 12 security officers were killed by a Rohingya insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The Myanmar Military retaliated by burning down villages, which eventually triggered the mass departure of Rohingya towards Bangladesh.
In the midst of these attacks, the Rohingya women were greatly affected by this exodus. The use of rape and torture by Myanmar’s armed forces is at the center of this ethnic cleanse.
The Associated Press interviewed 21 Rohingya Muslim women and girls who live in different refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet share similar horrific stories. Due to confidentiality concerns, The Associated Press uses pseudonyms. Here are some of their stories.
R was 13 when she witnessed her father being stabbed to death.
In August, 10 soldiers broke into her house and caught two of her brothers. When she tried to run away, they snatched her. They stripped her clothes and ripped out her earrings. One by one, the men raped her. The pain was agonizing. When all 10 of the men were done, she was left unconscious.
N was at home with her parents and siblings when the 17-year-old heard gunfire. Ten men came bursting into her house frantically searching for valuables. The soldiers tied her up and taped her mouth shut. They stripped her clothes and earrings off, while simultaneously holding the rest of her family back. Five men took turns raping her as her parents were forced to watch.
After the soldiers left, her parents washed her. She bled for six days.
Rajuma was squeezing her baby tightly in her arms when the soldiers hit her in the face and grabbed her screaming baby out of her hands. The men threw her baby into the fire and dragged her into the house where they gang raped her.
When it was over, she ran outside covered in blood. She realized that she had lost her son, her brothers, her younger sister, and her mother right in front of her eyes.