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Home / World / "I try to bury this pain": Rohingya refugees about the trauma they carry Global Development

"I try to bury this pain": Rohingya refugees about the trauma they carry Global Development

O One of life's biggest misconceptions is that time is a healer. A year ago, the "ethnic cleansing" of the Burmese military against the Rohingya triggered a massive refugee crisis. Nearly a million Rohingya – those who have escaped the flames and executions ̵

1; now live in camps in Bangladesh. Many were raped, most saw fatalities, and thousands were injured. This monsooned corner of Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated people with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Here the time has not yet healed.

Flaming flames and bullets, the Rohingya had little time to collect their possessions. They crossed Montsun waves and drifted through sucking mud, what they held were their very young, very old, their wounded and their religion.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Buddhist Myanmar. Their religion and the fact that they speak another language have contributed to their being foreigners or illegal immigrants. After decades of marginalization and persecution, they have clung to their beliefs.

  Johura Begum

Johura Begum, 12, lost 14 of her 16 family members when Myanmar's military attacked her village.
All photos: Robin Hammond / witness change / MSF

Mosques were built in the Bangladesh refugee camp, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live. So have Islamic schools. 12-year-old Johura Begum sits in an empty white world food program, reading the Koran in this bamboo-clad Madrasa and reciting in Arabic. She sits a bit apart from the other girls, who giggle when they set up a camera to take their picture. Johura does not laugh with them. This kind of laugh is not part of their life. Not since she killed 14 of her 16 family members.

Nightmares return her to the execution of her parents and siblings. But her most common dream is to eat with her mother and sister in her village in Myanmar.

Which food do you like? "I'm not hungry." Always? "When I'm very hungry, I have some rice." Why do not you enjoy eating? "When I think about my parents, I do not feel good about eating." Do you often think of her? "Yes, I do, with every breath I take."

"I do not feel peaceful," says Johura.

"Mental illness" does not translate into the Rohingya language. Instead, they speak of a peaceful state of mind to express well-being. Unruly minds are worried, depressed, anxious, traumatized.

The Rohingya have more reason than most who do not feel at peace.

The severity of the violence they were subjected to is difficult to understand. There were many reports that men were rounded up and killed. Women were raped. Some women and children have also been killed.

"Every single moment I remember"

Rohima Khatun's story is typical. After encircling her village, the military began burning houses in Myanmar. Through the smoke and heat, the uniformed executioners and rapists trod. They went from house to house and shot the men. Rohima saw her husband killed. The women were gathered in the village school. Rohima, who was five months pregnant, was holding her four-year-old by her breast and her six-year-olds by her side. The older of the two screamed. A soldier marched forward, picking him up and throwing him into the burning flames of a house.

  Rohima Khatun comforts her son who has a fever

Rohima Khatun comforts her son who has a fever

Then the rape started.

Somehow Rohima was in a state of shock, hatching through the smoke and into the jungle. She saved herself, her four-year-old and her unborn child.

"Every single moment I remember," she says. "And I become emotional because I've lost my neighbor, my husband, my child, my relatives."

While the physical wounds of the surviving Rohingya are healed, the psychological scars have remained. Only a few remained unscathed.

Refugee camps refer to some organizations that work in mental health as disabling environments. "It's really hard when they live in the camp to cope with it," says Jodi Nelan, head of Mental Health at MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). "That's how many people find it difficult to move forward."

  A group of Rohingya children

A group of Rohingya children

Nelan leads a team to help people get back on their feet. "They can learn to reassemble their lives," she says. "They do so by relying on coping strategies and we can help them." A team of MSF consultants has conducted 5,700 individual consultations and nearly 12,000 group sessions.

In recent months, MSF psychologist Shariful Islam has experienced a shift from symptoms ranging from trauma to "depression, anxiety, hopelessness and domestic violence".

"They say, 'I have no hope, and most of the time, the landscape comes to my mind, how they tortured me and how they killed my mother, how they killed my very little child And if I remember all that, I can not keep control of myself and my behavior, sometimes I beating my family member. "We notice that this type of patient is significantly increasing."

  A Football Post

Some families have been in the camp since 1991 and despite the difficulties, aspects of normal life continue

Increased aggression is associated with PTSD, and some victims of violence develop mental health problems that abuse them. When societies and the connections that bind them are torn apart, the joining rarely leads to full harmony.

  Abdul Hafez

Abdul Hafez, 47, fled the Burmese military's attacks in September 2017

The situation is different for men and women. Women can still be caregivers and mothers and lead affairs in the home. In this conservative culture, men are expected to be protectors and providers. Unable to work and watch their families live from handouts, many feel useless – their role and identity are taken away from them.

Abdul Hafez, 47, was once a farmer, but his life was turned upside down. "I can not deliver the things my wives and children are looking for," he says.

The loss of his sense of self has contributed to the trauma he is living with. "I often remember what happened, I try not to be angry, sad, frustrated – I try to bury this pain and sleep more."

The suffering here is immense, but as you walk through the camp, it's obvious how much life there is left. Children are born, couples marry, boys play football, girls wear make-up. The vegetable market is busy, the call to prayer reminds the faithful to go to the mosque, small children throughout the camp hunt foreigners who shout "goodbye" and laugh as if it were the funniest thing ever. The resilience of humanity, the ability to find light and peace even in the darkest places, is shown.

  Children dance

Children dance at a pre wedding party in the camp

Johura can not see much light. She thinks a great deal about the night her family was murdered to plunge into the river, climb the muddy bank of the river bank, and find the body of her sister lying in the shallow grave she had to dig before she was shot in the face. As Johura stood over the muddy hole, in shock and blood loss from a gunshot wound on her hip, she collapsed.

The trip from there to Bangladesh, where she was carried by survivors from her village, was a hazy half-consciousness. In this nightmare luck seemed short on her. She shook herself awake as they passed a few boys – from the shoulder of the man who wore them, she recognized her 10-year-old brother – her only surviving brother.

That's their glimmer of hope. Neither food, nor friends, nor play, nor pretty clothes make you happy. "But if my brother is happy it can make me happy, here he is the only one who can."

  Johura Begum and her brother Hyrul Amin

Johura Begum and her 10-year-old brother Hyrul Amin are now living with her aunt and uncle in the expansive camp

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