Rohingya refugees sheltering in southeastern Bangladesh marked the start of their first Eid-ul-Adha holiday away from Myanmar on Wednesday by recalling how they survived a violent government crackdown that forced them to flee their homes last year.
More than 700,000 Rohingya escaped to Cox’s Bazar and nearby areas in neighboring Bangladesh after the crackdown began on Aug. 25, 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, just days before last year’s celebration of the three-day Islamic holiday.
“We can recollect how we were attacked on the Qurbani Eid days,” Mohammad Foyezu Arakani, a Rohingya leader at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews using another name for the holiday.
Despite being surrounded by thousands of fellow Rohingya in the camps, many found themselves alone this year.
“With whom will I share my Eid joy? I do not have any family. They killed all of my family members,” Amir Ali, a septuagenarian from Maungdaw, told BenarNews before breaking down.
He said the Myanmar military had killed his family.
Others shared similar stories of violence.
“On last year’s first day of the Qurbani Eid, the Burmese military shot dead my two sons and two grandchildren in front of me. My heart bleeds when the incidents come to my mind,” Mariam Begum, a resident of the Jadimura refugee camp in Teknaf sub-district, told BenarNews.
Myanmar security forces launched the crackdown in response to coordinated attacks carried out against police and military outposts in Rakhine by an insurgent group known as the Arakhan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The United Nations and the United States labeled killings, rapes and other atrocities that allegedly took place as a result of the crackdown as “ethnic cleansing” that targeted the stateless Rohingya minority, which is predominantly Muslim.
Fun for children
While many of their elders were melancholic, children in the camp celebrated Eid joyously on Wednesday.
Wearing new clothes, they gathered in the camps’ alley and lanes, blowing whistles and squealing as they witnessed the traditional slaughtering of cows in preparation for the Feast of Sacrifice, which honors Abrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God.
District official Mohammad Ashraful Afsar said the Cox’s Bazar administration had distributed the animals that were received as donations from NGOs and individuals to the Rohingya camps in Ukhia and Teknaf.
“We used to sacrifice animals on Eid days in our country. But here we are completely dependent on the government,” Rafiq Majhi, a former resident of Maungdaw who is living in the Madhurchhara camp, told BenarNews.
Within the camps, different organizations made special arrangements, including a special fair.
“The fair for children will last for three days,” organizer Mohammad Hashem told BenarNews.
“We will roam all day long and eat chocolate and ice cream,” Ruhul, the 10-year-old son of Rohingya Rashid Ahmed told BenarNews.
Abdur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar contributed to this report.