Message to the world from Muhammed Ason, a Rohingya

“We don’t want a religious conflict, we just want to follow our religion in [a peaceful] way.”

Muhammed Ason, 24 [Katie Arnold/Al Jazeera]
Muhammed Ason, 24 [Katie Arnold/Al Jazeera]

Muhammed Ason, 24, comes from Rakhine State, Myanmar, which he fled a few weeks ago.

“Before the crisis, I was studying English and Burmese at a high school in Rakhine State. I wanted to learn English so I could help the Rohingya community and express their problems to the world. I also ran a grocery shop. I was not very happy in Rakhine State; we had no freedom and I was not allowed to procure goods for my shop from other countries. There were so many restrictions that made our life difficult.

I remember when the military came to our village and started shooting, my neighbour could not face the torment so he tried to fight back with a knife. They shot him dead, right in front of my eyes. They have been torturing us for years, beating us and restricting our movement, but now they are shooting us – I could not live that way, so I fled to Bangladesh.

I have no words that can explain how sad I am to have left my village, everything I own is there – the only thing I could carry was a spare longyi (a garment worn about the waist common to Myanmar). But I am more afraid for the Rohingya who remained, who knows what will happen to them.

I do not like it in Bangladesh, we have to sleep by the side of the road, it’s wet and muddy and we have not received enough support. The number of Rohingya here is so huge, the Bangladeshi people are trying to help and some organisations are here but it is too little for the sheer number of Rohingya living in these conditions.

The world needs to put pressure on the Myanmar government to let us go back to our own country. Bangladesh is not our country, the people here tell us that we are Rohingya and that we are Burmese. We are from Rakhine State and that is where we belong.

My request to the world is please help us get our own rights within Myanmar. The Buddhist live in peace, so why can’t we – I want to live like them. The Buddhist can follow Buddhism and we will follow Islam. We don’t want a religious conflict, we just want to follow our religion in the same way they do.”

*As told to Katie Arnold in Kutupalong new shelter camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

*This interview has been edited for clarity.

The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya

Nearly 300,000 Rohingya, mainly women and children, have fled to Bangladesh in the recent weeks as a result of indiscriminate violence against civilian populations carried out by the Myanmar army.

The UN and other human rights organisations have warned that the mass exodus following killings, rapes, and burned villages are signs of “ethnic cleansing“, pleading for the international community to pressure Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to end the violence.

“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Monday, September 11.

INTERACTIVE: Refugee settlements near Cox's Bazar Bangladesh and more maps [Al Jazeera]
INTERACTIVE: Refugee settlements near Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh and more maps [Al Jazeera]

Read more to find out who are Myanmar’s Rohingya

Source: Al Jazeera