Slain Rohingya Leader’s Relatives in Bangladesh Say They Are Being Threatened

Ahammad Foyez and Sunil Barua
Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Slain Rohingya Leader’s Relatives in Bangladesh Say They Are Being Threatened Unidentified relatives of a Rohingya Muslim leader react after he was gunned down on Sept. 29, 2021, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Family members of a Rohingya refugee leader, who was gunned down in his Cox’s Bazar office last week, said Wednesday they have been receiving threatening phone calls asking them to withdraw a case they filed on the killing.

The relatives of slain leader Muhib Ullah have been receiving these phone calls and messages since his brother filed a case with police two days after the Sept. 29 killing, said a relative, Md. Syed Alam.

“Since filing the murder case, Muhib’s wife Nasima Khatun and younger brother Habib Ullah have been receiving threats through text and voice messages from unknown phone numbers,” Alam, the uncle of the slain leader, told BenarNews.

“Muhib’s family members and relatives are not moving freely because of fear.”

Alam said the callers had also told the family members to stop talking to the media about the killing. Khatun and Ullah declined to talk BenarNews on Tuesday.

“We are passing our days amid serious fear because we are receiving threats repeatedly,” said Md. Rashid Ullah, Muhib Ullah's nephew.

Police have deployed officers to provide security to Muhib Ullah’s family members, and said they were investigating the threats.

“We have already collected some text and voice messages that were sent to Muhibs family by unknown senders,” Naimul Haque, commanding officer of the Armed Police Battalion Unit-14 at Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews.

“The investigators are working to find the senders of the messages.”

Unidentified assailants killed Muhib Ullah, who headed the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar on the night of Sept. 29.

The 50-year-old refugee had been a leading champion for Rohingya rights, and represented his community internationally, including in visits to the United Nations and the White House. He had been advocating for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar.

Around 740,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into southeastern Bangladesh after fleeing a brutal anti-Rohingya offensive launched by Myanmar's military in August 2017 in their home state of Rakhine.

Meanwhile, Md. Hasanuzzaman, superintendent of Coxs Bazar district police, claimed Wednesday that the authorities had uncovered the motive behind the murder and know who orchestrated it, but they did not disclose details.

“We are hopeful of arresting the main culprits shortly,” the police officer told reporters.

Since the killing, police have arrested five men as suspects but not released details about them. The suspects are in police custody and being interrogated.

‘Mistrust has also increased’

Separately, international watchdog Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Rohingya community leaders and volunteer workers had said they were being targeted by “armed Islamist groups.”

“At least a dozen activists have come forward to seek protection from the [United Nations] refugee agency, UNHCR, and Bangladesh officials since Muhib Ullahs killing because of renewed threats from armed groups and other risks of violence,” the New York-based rights group said.

HRW urged the Bangladesh government and U.N. officials to take urgent measures to protect Rohingya facing threats and violence in the camps.

From August 2017 until July 2021, at least 228 Rohingya refugees have been killed in the camps, according to the Bangladesh Peace Observatory, a research organization at the University of Dhaka’s Center for Genocide Studies.

Of those slain, 108 were killed in internal feuds, Md. Humaun Kabir, a research manager at the observatory, told BenarNews.

Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor and the centers director, said violence in the camps had increased in recent years as factionalism has grown.

“Mistrust has also increased for various reasons among the forcibly displaced people, which has become a major reason for internal feuds,” he told BenarNews.

ARSPH’s secretary, Md. Zubayer, said the camps were even more tense since Muhib Ullah’s killing.

“We are not sure if we can carry out the activities of our organization,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said the government would identify the Rohingya leader’s killers and bring them to justice.

“We do not want any unrest in the camps” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“The government is very sincere in ensuring the necessary security of the Rohingya people.”

Abdur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar contributed to the report.


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