Rashida Begum abandoned her home in Myanmar and fled to neighbouring Bangladesh a year ago, escaping an army crackdown that the United Nations has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
She now lives with her family at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest, among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who have taken shelter there since last August. Her eight-month-old son was born in the camp.
“I am now anxious what my son’s future will be like,” she said. “We are afraid. There is no education here and no hope of education there also… I don’t see any future here and there is also no future there.”
Myanmar says it is ready to take back the Rohingya and has built transit centres to receive returnees. But a continued outflow of refugees underlines a lack of progress in addressing the crisis, a year on from the start of the army offensive on Aug. 25, 2017.
Myanmar says its military launched a legitimate counterinsurgency operation in response to a violent campaign from within the Rohingya minority, who are mostly denied citizenship in the southeast Asian nation.
Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali”, which most in the Muslim minority regard as a derogatory term used to suggest they are interlopers from Bangladesh.
The Rohingya exodus has threatened Myanmar’s tense transition to democracy and shattered the image of its leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, outside the country.
Her government has rejected most allegations of atrocities made by refugees against the security forces.
“I am afraid that if we are sent back to Burma, they will kill us,” Begum said. “We will go there to die. If the (Myanmar) government accepts us as Rohingya citizens then we will go, otherwise we will not.”