KUTUPALONG CAMP, Bangladesh – After long and arduous journeys, thousands of Rohingya refugees have now found refuge in makeshift shanties in Bangladesh, where they face an uncertain future.
And yet, none of them would entertain the thought of going back to the horror that their so-called homeland has become.
“They told me very clearly, either we go or they kill us,” Abby Sallam, a farmer from Fakira Bazaar in the Rakhine state in northwestern Myanmar, told EFE.
The farmer, with grizzly hair and a short beard, a week back left behind his land, his house and the only life he has ever known, toward an uncertain future in Bangladesh.
However, not before two of his children were killed by the army.
“If we return we die,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner, his voice devoid of any emotion, his face stoic.
Sallam is not alone in his resolve to never return to Myanmar.
Most Rohingyas, who fled Rakhine for Bangladesh to escape an aggressive military offensive by the Myanmar army that has killed at least 414 people – mostly Rohingyas –, cannot even imagine going back to their former lives in Rakhine.
“Go back?” Rokki Mullah is horrified at the question.
“I will never go back!” the 30-year-old says with vehemence in front of his wife and two of his three children.
However, Dhaka has already been reeling under the ever-growing influx of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this week her country has been sheltering the Rohingyas only on humanitarian grounds and that Myanmar will have to address the crisis and accept them back.
Pariahs in the land they were born in and forced to flee to one that reluctantly accepts them, the Rohingyas are a burden on both sides of the border and have no long term future in Bangladesh.
For instance, Elias Khan, now 24, had arrived at the Kutupalong Camp holding his father’s hand when he was 12 years old in another Rohingya exodus.
Since then, he has lived there and attended school.
But he feels strongly that he should be able to return to his homeland.
“I have the right to return to Myanmar, it is my land and if the government recognizes my nationality I would return,” he said.