Thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees have rallied in Bangladesh, calling for justice on the anniversary of Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on the persecuted ethnic minority group.
The refugees marched outside refugee camps in Bangladesh’s coastal region of Cox’s Bazar on Saturday, marking the first anniversary of Myanmar’s atrocities that sparked a mass exodus of some 700,000 to camps in Bangladesh.
“We are Rohingya, we want justice,” people chanted in the Kutupalong camp, where a giant banner read, “Never Again: Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day. 25 August, 2018.”
Marking what they called the Black Day and wearing bandanas emblazoned with the slogan “Save Rohingya,” the refugees said that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the crackdown.
In a different part of the camp, scores of women and children marched behind a huge poster that declared, “365 days of crying. Now I am angry.”
“We are here to remember August 25. We want justice. We want them to recognize us as Rohingya,” Mohammad Hossain, a 40-year-old protester at Kutupalong, said.
“We are very sad because we are not in our native land. Everyone wants justice. We are complaining about this to the world.”
“We faced genocide. Last year, August 25, we faced genocide in Myanmar. We want justice for that,” Noor Kamal, another protester, said.
The Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.
Their former communities in Myanmar have been razed. Reports say Buddhists have been shuttled and settled there in newly-built structures to repopulate the area.
International Red Cross Committee president Peter Maurer, who visited the camps and Rakhine in July, said in an anniversary statement that Rohingya in both places were “living in misery.”
“Unfortunately, since my visit we have not seen tangible improvements for those displaced or the few who remain in Rakhine,” the Red Cross chief said, calling for urgent “sustainable solutions” for “safe, dignified and voluntary returns as soon as possible.”
He said this must include “political steps” in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees by 2020, followed up by an agreement with the UN last month.
Experts and Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh say a recent deal falls short of guaranteeing the Muslims’ safe return to Myanmar.