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Award-winning photographer Abul Kalam, arrested 28 December.

On the morning of 28th December 2020, an award-winning photographer and Rohingya refugee, Abul Kalam, set out to take photographs of buses departing the Kutupalong camps for Bhasan Char. He was apprehended and then taken to the Camp-in-Charge in Camp 2W Block D5 of Kutupalong and subsequently to the Camp-in-Charge of Kutupalong Registered Camp. He was reportedly beaten when he was apprehended.

Abul Kalam was detained at the Kutupalong police barracks until late afternoon of Wednesday 30th December. According to Bangladeshi law, a person in custody should be brought before the courts within 24 hours. This was not the case for Abul Kalam and, at the time of writing, he has been detained for more than 60 hours. This is a clear violation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the directives of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court in BLAST v Bangladesh (55 DLR 363).

Photography is not a crime. Abul Kalam was taking photographs of buses on their way to Bhasan Char. He was doing so in a public place, albeit in a refugee camp. The relocation to Bhasan Char is a widely publicized programme of the Bangladesh government. It is by no means a secret and has been extensively covered in the media. …


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Rohingya refugees bidding goodbye to family members in Kutupalong Camp 1 West, 3 December 2020 (Pic by MUD2020)

Republished in South East Asia Globe

Just two months ago, a flurry of videos about Bhasan Char began appearing in Bangladeshi media. There was a coordinated production of what can only be described as infomercials about the island. The videos all followed a similar script: Reporters, including some well established presenters, would arrive, sniff the sea air, admire the sheep/livestock and watch the waddling geese. Copious amounts of supplied drone footage wowed the viewer. Overall, the idea was to woo the audience with soothing background music and visuals of a rural idyll interspersed with effusive commentary. Indeed in one video, the architect of the place calls Bhasan Char a “paradise” built for the “lucky” Rohingya.

These video reports stood in stark contrast to those which emerged three months ago from Bhasan Char, around the beginning of September 2020. Those depicted wailing women and children begging to be allowed to return to the camps. Another video showed two desperate women wanting to go back with their visiting relatives being manhandled and led away by police. These particular individuals had been rescued from a trafficked boat after failing to berth in Malaysia or Thailand. For months, more than three hundred Rohingya had endured abuse and hunger on their failed voyage. After their rescue, the Bangladesh authorities quarantined them on the island despite the presence of ample facilities in the Ukhiya camps. …


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Mr Enuga Reddy at the Hector Pieterson Museum, Orlando West, Soweto. 2010 ( Copyright: Shafiur Rahman)

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Mr E S Reddy outside Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island ( photo: Shafiur Rahman)

Mr Enuga S. Reddy, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and Chairman of the Special Committee Against Apartheid, passed away on 1 November 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Aside from his pre-eminent role in organising the worldwide campaign against apartheid, Mr Reddy also authored and edited books and articles on the South African liberation movement and many of its prominent figures.

His family released a short statement:

E.S. Reddy, beloved husband of Nilufer Mizanoglu Reddy, father of Mina Reddy and Leyla Tegmo-Reddy, grandfather of Emilio and Manuel Flores, Chris and Nils Tegmo, great grandfather of Rohan Flores, Kai and Charlie Tegmo, passed away today, 1 November. We are so proud of him and his pioneering work in the United Nations and beyond to reverse the ravages of racism and injustices. …


Background to the Registered v Unregistered Kutupalong Refugee Camp violence

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Image by Ro Yassin Abdumonab

A version of this article was published in the Dhaka Tribune

In the first week of October 2020, a certain number of Rohingya refugee camps in Kutupalong became battlegrounds. Around two thousand people left their shelters and sought refuge in nearby camps, away from the violence. Hundreds were injured, and there were 9 recorded deaths. There have also been a number of abductions and disappearances. The local media described the incidents as “factional clashes” between Rohingya groups seeking to establish “control over the contraband drugs trade”. …


How a former Myanmar military man, who converted to Islam & married a Rohingya woman, escaped from Tula Toli. Podcast with Mabia, his widow

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Nojumu and Mabia in Kutupalong, Bangladesh

The carnage that took place in Tula Toli in Myanmar on 30 August 2017 has produced some remarkable stories of survival and defiance. One of these is the story of Nojumu Islam. Born in Yangon, he was a Burmese soldier and lived with his Rakhine wife in Wut Kyein near Tula Toli . …


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Zoom screen capture with participants from Left to Right Dr M Zarni, Dr M Charney, Nay San Lwin, Dr K Southwick, Dr C R Abrar and Sharifah Shakirah

A significant online discussion event took place on 16 July, 2020 addressing the issue of Rakhine and Rohingya reconciliation. Its lofty ambitions were summarised thus by Dr Maung Zarni.

“Our seminar today embarked on the long term program of de-imagining and de-colonizing Myanmar as an internally colonial state and re-imagining a new type of genuinely post-colonial society and a cluster of autonomous regions with a set of inclusive national and regional identities based on common good, multiculturalism, and respect for all faiths”.

The very topic is an extremely sensitive one given the recent history of Northern Rakhine State. Many people in both communities will be highly sceptical of any such rapprochement. However with conflict raging between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military, could there be potential for some kind of reconfiguration of the realities on the ground, including a building of an alliance between the two communities? You can listen to the webinar in the link below. Additionally, we reproduce below the text of the presentation of Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin. …


Podcast with Nay San Lwin

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Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin talks about the coronavirus pandemic (in Rohingya language). He sends a message to his fellow Rohingya in Myanmar, and to the refugees in Bangladesh and Malaysia. He highlights the complete absence of information around Covid-19 in Myanmar, and requests Rohingya to carefully heed the advice given by humanitarian organisations and also by Rohingya doctors based in Europe.

Podcast with Nay San Lwin

Salam, I am Nay San Lwin. I am speaking to you from Germany. There is a new disease in this world. It is called coronavirus or covid19. Many thousands of people have died. To all my Rohingya brothers and sisters, you need to be very alert about this disease. It causes a very high fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Many people will not suffer much. Their symptoms will be mild. But older people are very vulnerable. You all need to be careful. This disease can be passed from one person to another very quickly. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. …


Podcast with Dr Hla Kyaw Khubybe

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Photo by Shafiur Rahman

Update 8th March: 3 cases of confirmed Coronavirus infections found in Bangladesh.

News of the coronavirus or COVID-19 has dominated headlines throughout the world. Yet in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, with internet access barred because of a recent government order, knowledge and information about the virus is very limited. The camps are located in south eastern Bangladesh, a district with fragile public health care facilities. The camps are also overcrowded, and lack proper sanitation and decent healthcare facilities. COVID-19 therefore represents a real risk to the refugee population.

Dr Hla Kyaw Khubybe explains the impact of Coronavirus in the world and implications for refugees. …


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A Rohingya woman from Myanmar holds a SweTinSit photo. Seven of the people pictured were killed in military “clearance operations’’ in northern Rakhine state in August 2017.

Originally published at https://globalvoices.org on February 18, 2020.

Taslima was dreading the day. It was SweTinSit, an annual population census conducted by Myanmar government officials in northern Rakhine state. Military, police and customs officials would be sweeping through, collecting data on Rohingya families — monitoring the birth of children, photographing family members and listing their names. This was in 2016, when tensions in Rakhine were escalating.

For many Rohingya people, like Taslima and others in her village of Tula Toli, the SweTinSit (or “Map Record Check,” in Burmese) was a mandatory and intense audit, and always unpredictable. If one is absent during a SweTinSit, their relatives can be subject to extortion, imprisonment, arbitrary taxation, or worse. …

About

Shafiur Rahman

Documentary filmmaker. Currently working on Rohingya issues. http://srdocs.net Twitter: http://twitter.com/shafiur Instagram: http://instagram.com/shafiur

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