August 25, 2022, marks a grim anniversary, five years since the Myanmar military unleashed genocidal attacks against the Rohingya people. It is a day to commemorate those who have suffered and died due to those abuses. But it is also a day to celebrate the Rohingya who continue to Refupersevere and a day to recommit to a better future for the Rohingya people. I am honored to represent Refugees International in making that commitment.
As an advocate for the human rights of displaced people, I have spent the bulk of my career focused on the Rohingya. I have had the opportunity to travel to refugee settlements in Bangladesh and Malaysia and to internally displaced camps in their homeland of Rakhine State. On those trips I have met so many extraordinary people who have expressed a consistent message: a desire for justice and to return home when it is safe and when their rights are respected.
Refugees International has carried out advocacy on behalf of and together with the Rohingya people going back to the early 1990s. We have striven to echo and amplify the calls we hear from the Rohingya community and to bring them to the halls of power in the United States and around the world. I’d like to briefly share a few of those voices.
In the first days following the attacks of August 25, 2017, a 28-year-old mother of three who had just fled to Bangladesh told Refugees International about abuses she said knew no bounds and that she wanted the world to know what was happening. She also wanted the world to know that she wanted to go home, if it were only safe.
In March 2019, Chekufah, a young mother in the camps in Bangladesh expressed a similar sentiment, adding, “We have mothers and sisters still in Myanmar who are victims who need justice…Above all we need justice.” She started a volunteer network that trains women with communication skills to, as she told us, allow “women to raise our voices ourselves.”
Following the genocide determination by the United States in March 2022, a Rohingya man in Bangladesh told Refugees International, “[We are] very happy and hoping for justice and early repatriation.”
And in September 2020, Rezuwan, a young poet living in the camps in Bangladesh, shared a moving piece capturing the anguish of remembering August 25th 2017, but ending with the lines:
“But by tomorrow like Lazarus we shall rise and sprout anew
and our shadows shall grow tall and dark
No more genocide, No more pains!”
Seeking to amplify these messages, Refugees International has called for the creation of conditions conducive to safe returns home. We have called for the rights of the Rohingya to be respected, whether in their homeland or the places in which they’ve sought refuge for the time being. And we have called for accountability, including working with Rohingya diaspora leaders and Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh to take the important initial step to call it genocide.
On this day, we join the many Rohingya refugees, internally displaced, diaspora advocates, and their allies in somberly commemorating the genocide committed against the Rohingya. We also celebrate the Rohingya people, and recommit to their vision for the future: “No more genocide, No more pains!”