Road to Sittwe, Rakhine State. Myanmar. The only way to reach the IDPs camps area is a narrow paved road full of potholes that makes any movement a full day’s work.@Road to Sittwe, Arakan State. Myanmar. The only way to reach the IDPs camps area is a narrow paved road full of potholes that makes any movement a full day’s work.@Road to Sittwe, Arakan State. Myanmar. The only way to reach the IDPs camps area is a narrow paved road full of potholes that makes any movement a full day’s work.
Road to Sittwe, Arakan State. Myanmar. The only way to reach the IDPs camps area is a narrow paved road full of potholes that makes any movement a full day’s work.

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The Rohingya: Exiled in their own country

 

The Rohingya is a Muslim minority group living in Arakan State, a somewhat isolated region in Northwestern Burma, along the border with Bangladesh. The origins of the Rohingya are shrouded in mystery, and the Burmese government refuses to recognize them as one of the 135 “national official races” entitled to full citizenship in the country, despite the fact that most of them can trace their origin in Burma back to several generations.

 

Rendered stateless by a controversial citizenship law passed in 1982 and regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the 800,000 strong community has suffered persecution and apartheid-like policies since the late seventies: The Burmese government has severely curtailed their freedom of movement, block the access to education or imposed laws restricting the number of children the can have for decades.

 

The Rohingya have been described by the UN as “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.” Their plight only got worse when successive waves of sectarian violence between the Rohingya and their Buddhist neighbours, the Arakanese ethnic group, ravaged the State in June and October 2012. Ever since, with the excuse of preventing further sectarian violence, the government has confined the Rohingya population to their villages and designated areas, and has kept at least 140,000 of them inside veritable concentration camps, most of them around Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State.

 

Cramped in overpopulated camps, these Rohingyas have little access to health care, receive insufficient food rations, and are blocked from carrying out virtually any economic activity. As a result, malnutrition and preventable diseases are rife.

 

The government has recently launched a process of registration which could further segregation in Arakan State for the Rohingya population. They have to prove that they have been living in Burma for three generations to be entitled to get registered, something extremely difficult in a country where many lack any document, are not allowed to self-identify as Rohingya, but will only be registered if they accept the term Bengali implying that they are foreigners, and those who refuse will be kept in camps for an indefinite amount of time.

 

Text by Carlos Sardiña

 

Date : 2013
Place : Sittwe, Rakhine State. Myanmar.
   
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