25 August 2021 is the 4-year anniversary of the military “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in Myanmar, which resulted in mass human rights violations against the Rohingya and caused over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Today, well over 800,000 Rohingya continue to reside in overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. The under-resourced camps are ill-equipped to face rising COVID-19, dengue fever, and cholera cases. Moreover, the camps are vulnerable to severe flooding, which in recent days resulted in the death of at least 6 individuals and the displacement of thousands. Meanwhile, back in Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya remain internally displaced, and the country as a whole, since the 1 February 2021 coup, is in a state of crisis. Surging COVID-19 cases are now compounding the political, social, and economic chaos in Myanmar, and with that, the prospect of repatriation for the Rohingya and an end to their statelessness is thrust ever further into the future.
And yet, despite all odds, the Rohingya demonstrate, on a daily basis, their resilience and strength. In the shambles of the camps, they have built a community. They have rebounded from fires, floods, lockdowns, and food shortages, leaning on each other and their own ingenuity to continue to forge a way forward. Many have sought out opportunities for education, livelihood, and growth for themselves and their children. Exhibiting tremendous initiative and drive, some men, women, and youth have formed civil society organizations and informal networks to help support others in their community and to give voice to the needs of the Rohingya before local, national, and international actors. They have navigated complex humanitarian aid systems and ever-evolving bureaucracies to obtain what resources they can. Many have learned difficult concepts related to justice and the international justice mechanisms and are now sharing that knowledge with their family, friends, and neighbours. They tirelessly seek out new ways to improve their circumstances, while continuing to honour their culture and faith.
Together with its partners, AJAR hosted a 14-day campaign to not only commemorate the atrocities suffered by the Rohingya but to highlight the resilience and strength of the Rohingya. Far too often, media portrayals of the Rohingya suggest they are a burden – an unwanted, uneducated people who are a drain on resources. This campaign will seek to shift that narrative, by highlighting the experiences and resilience of the Rohingya and underscoring that the future of Myanmar is brighter #WithTheRohingya. It also will seek to build public understanding of, and advocate for, justice for the Rohingya, emphasizing that AJAR and others stand #WithTheRohingya in the call for accountability. The campaign kicked off on 12 August 2021, which is International Youth Day, and concluded on 25 August 2021, the anniversary of the Rohingya genocide.
For highlights from the campaign, search the hashtag #WithTheRohingya on your preferred social media platform.