The Planet in Bangladesh: Rohingya tales of terror emerge from hospital wards

The 13-month-old infant was blistered with burns after soldiers put on fire the house where he had been napping. The 12-year-old boy was shot while he ran, his foot pierced through with a bullet. The 24-year-old dad’s body became so weakened from seven days of hiding in the jungle with no food he could no longer walk. Along with the 75-year-old grandfather was thrown into the floor and knocked out by a land mine that exploded only a few metres in front ofnbsp;him.

For at least two weeks, a wave of desperation and fear has crossed into Bangladesh, as 370,000 Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar have fled houses caught up in a horrifying convulsion ofnbsp;violence.

Many, however, were not able to walk themselves out. They had been transported, some over great distances by relatives that brought them to safety from what one Bangladeshi leader has called a “genocide,” human-rights activists have termed “crimes against humanity” and the United Nations secretary-general has labelled a “humanitarian catastrophe” — one that continues to unfold in Myanmar’s Rakhinenbsp;state.

In the cramped wards of the District Sadar Hospital at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, they lie with intravenous drips and burn dressings, hoping they could physically recover from a hellish ordeal they barelynbsp;escaped.

Their accounts are impossible to confirm, because Myanmar has shut their home areas off to independent reporting. However, their damaged bodies provide vivid testimony to what they havenbsp;suffered.

The Rohingya’s accidents add evidence to calls on Tuesday from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for the United Nations Security Council to demand an end to the “ethnic cleansing” on a largenbsp;scale.

Mohammad Hossen, 75, was almost out of Myanmar when police and border guards gave chase, forcing him along with a group of about 200 other people to run to a channel between barbed wire fences, in a place close to the border between the twonbsp;states.

Two people running in front of him stepped on a land mine, barely four arms lengths away. They died in the blast, which sent Mr. Hossen crashing into the ground. The force left handed himnbsp;unconscious.

“We didn’t understand that the mine was there, but the authorities knew,” the rice farmer told The Globe and Mail onnbsp;Tuesday.

Days before he crossed into Bangladesh, Myanmar army officers had surrounded his little farming village of Zulla Hali and opened fire, from the ground and out of a helicopter overhead, Mr. Hossen remembered. Grenades murdered two of his grandsons, aged 5 andnbsp;7.

When the Rohingya started to run, about 200 local Buddhists started to hack at them with extended machete-like knives, ” he said, murdering infants and slashing at pregnant women who had no weapons to fightnbsp;back.

“The army started shooting and, when people began running, the Buddhists began pruning,” henbsp;stated.

Tensions and violence involving local Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya, who are largely denied citizenship in Myanmar, date back decades. Myanmar has said its army is acting to suppress a Rohingya-backed terrorist insurgency that assaulted two dozen military and police outposts in latenbsp;August.

The consequent violence, and the flood of people it’s unleashed, has made the Rohingya a subject of international focus, and cast a critical new light on Myanmar under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi. Critics have called for the Nobel winner to be stripped of her peace prize and honorary Canadian citizenship, although defenders say the Myanmar political arrangement gives her little power to stop a campaign by a army with excellent latitude to act on itsnbsp;possess.

For Mr. Hossen, that effort felt like an effort to push his peoplenbsp;out.

As he and his acquaintances escaped, they could hear their attackers yelling. “Get out of Myanmar. Leave our location,” they jeered. “Why are you farming this property? It is not yournbsp;land{}”

When the army arrived in Boli Bazar, 24-year-old cattle herder Jamal Hossen had only come home for breakfast. He ran when soldiers started shooting at his residence. He crashed through jungle before, about five kilometres away, he discovered a little depression beside a tree where he could conceal behindnbsp;brush.

For 24 hours, he sat listening to the sound of gunfire. A married man with a daughter, he remained hidden beside the tree for seven days, plunged in dread and notnbsp;eating.

“I was thinking, how will I ever survive? What will I do without my family or my parents?” he said. By the time local villagers found him he was too feeble to walk. Two brothers carried him for three days, across several rivers, to get to the boundary withnbsp;Bangladesh.

In Tami, another Myanmar village, Khurshida Begum was at her house when the army lit it on fire. She hurried out with her husband, three daughters and two sons as flames engulfed the straw structure. In the panic, they left behind their 13-month-old son, Hares, who’d been sleeping. From the time her husband returned, he’d beennbsp;scorched.

Ms. Begum, 30, wrapped him in cloth and tied him across her breast as she and her family started their trip to Bangladesh. They walked for fournbsp;days.

“I thought he was dead because he wasn’t taking milk, he had a high fever and his eyes were always closed,” shenbsp;stated.

Somehow, Ms. Begum managed to send her son alive to Room 222, a children’s ward in the Cox’s Bazar hospital, where he lay Tuesday night on a hospital bed, the whites of his eyes blankly observable under half-open lids. The sheet which covered his motionless body was stained from the regions where the burns hadnbsp;wept.

“I feel like he is a tiny bit better,” Ms. Begum said. “He opens his eyes anbsp;bit.”

For the medical team of a busy public association, what happened to Hares is tough to process. “If you see him, you may cry,” said Samson Naher, 25, a senior staff nurse who worked a late shift on Tuesday without pay to take care of Rohingya hurt with gunshots, burns and slashnbsp;wounds.

She, also, has cried over his plight. “It is terrible — when he sees us, he gets so much dread. He believes we’ll all killnbsp;him{}”

But Hares isn’t the only one in Room 222 who needed to be raised from Myanmar. In the bed next to his, Abdur Rahim, 12, lifts a sheet to demonstrate his right foot, where a bullet hole is clearly visible, extending from the only to thenbsp;ankle.

The army shot him as he ran away, but he had been so overwhelmed by fear he only noticed that the blood when he stopped for water. His dad then carried him tonbsp;Bangladesh.

But even people able walk from Myanmar themselves brought with them heavynbsp;burdens.

Khaleda Begum sought refuge in her home once the army opened fire, only to have soldiers kick open the door and take two of her sons, 16 andnbsp;20.

“Whoever they could catch, they chased them and took away to be killed,” she said. Soldiers grabbed earrings and other valuables from girls, she said, and “those looked great, they raped in front ofnbsp;everybody.”

When the 55-year-old mother managed to flee, she passed with a girl lying naked in the street, blood pooling around her by a violent sexualnbsp;attack.

Neighbours later told her both of her sons had died. They identified the bodies by their own clothes. The young men had beennbsp;beheaded.

Tears streaked Ms. Begum’s face as she talked in Room 222 with her six-year-old grandson, Faisal, who broke his arm when he fell during theirnbsp;escape.

“I won’t go to Burma again,” she said, with the former name fornbsp;Myanmar.

“If you guys want to kill us, simply kill us {}. I won’t return to Burmanbsp;again.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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