Thousands of Rohingya refugees have marked the second anniversary of their exodus into Bangladesh by rallying and praying as they demand Myanmar grant them citizenship and other rights before they agree to return.
Almost 200,000 Rohingya participated in a peaceful gathering, which was attended by UN officials, at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday, police officer Zakir Hassan told AFP news agency.
Children, hijab-wearing women, and men wearing long lungis shouted: “God is great, long live Rohingya” as they marched in the heart of the world’s largest refugee camp to commemorate what they described as “Genocide Day”.
Some carried placards and banners, reading “Never again! Rohingya genocide remembrance day” and “Restore our citizenship”.
On August 25, 2017, nearly 740,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh – joining 200,000 already there – after Myanmar’s armed forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks on security posts.
Sunday’s rally came days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border.
“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” Mohib Ullah, one of the organisers of Sunday’s protest, told the Associated Press news agency. “Myanmar is our country. We are Rohingya.”
“I have come here to seek justice for the murder of my two sons. I will continue to seek justice till my last breath,” 50-year-old Tayaba Khatun told AFP as tears rolled down her cheeks.
On Saturday, Bangladesh police said they shot dead two refugees during a gunfight in a camp after the pair were accused of killing a ruling party official.
Nearly a million Rohingya live in squalid camps in southeast Bangladesh.