Pidie, Indonesia – Formin was pregnant when she boarded a boat from Bangladesh last December, accompanied only by her daughter, two-year-old Adiba. She had taken shelter in Bangladesh along with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya following the 2017 brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military. But life in crowded refugee camps has not been easy, as authorities have imposed increasing restrictions forcing many Rohingya to undertake perilous sea journeys.
The 20-year-old mother did not know where they would end up, or if they would even survive the journey facilitated by smugglers.
“I was just lying down on the boat, I couldn’t urinate, I couldn’t eat. During the boat journey I experienced intense pain,” she said.
“I was sick and unaware of what was happening around me. My child would cry for breastmilk, but unfortunately, I could not breastfeed my child, who was also ill.”
Many of the Rohingya refugees in Pidie told Al Jazeera they finally feel safe, after years of living in impoverished conditions, in crowded and increasingly dangerous camps in Bangladesh. They have been registered as a refugee and receive a stipend from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). They are not allowed to work.
Formin, who only gave one name, and many of the other refugees said they are also traumatised from their lives in Myanmar, years after escaping a campaign of violence against Rohingya people carried out by security forces. Indonesia hosts about 12,000 refugees of which 1,000 are Rohingya.
“They burned our home and forced us to leave. They killed my father as we were leaving. I left the country to save my life, crossing mountains. It was a difficult journey,” Formin said about the 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar.
“And in Bangladesh, we suffered a lot. People in the camps were fighting. People were dragged into the mountains and beaten. That’s why we came here.”
Formin gave birth to her second child, Mohammad Adib in June at a hospital in Aceh.
He is the youngest resident of the temporary shelter in Pidie where 153 Rohingya refugees live. The camp is supported by the UN refugee agency, with assistance from the local government.
They have been living in the facility for six months.
“My hope is for my children to experience the freedom to roam around,” Formin said.
“My life has passed in a certain way. I want my children’s lives to be beautiful. I want my children to know what happiness is.”