Come From Away: Bangladeshi student: ‘We need someone to help us’

    (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

    Since the attack on Aug. 25, 58,000 Rohingya have escaped from Myanmar across the border to Bangladesh. Another 10,000 Rohingya have disappeared in no man’s land between the two countries.

    Rizvan Shakhawat, a first-year St. Thomas University student from Bangladesh, is concerned about how this migration process affects Bangladesh. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest population densities and unemployment rates.

    The United Nations office in Bangladesh says that in one year, 87,000 refugees have escaped to Bangladesh.

    “Our economy isn’t good right now,” Shakhawat says. “There’s already many people who don’t have a job [in Bangladesh], and we cannot take more people. We are a poor country.”

    The United Nations has accused the government of Myanmar (previously known as Burma) of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority that has lived in Myanmar for three generations.

    The Rohingya people are one of the most targeted groups for ethnic cleansing.

    Despite how long the Rohingya people have been living in Myanmar, they are not considered part of the official 135 ethnic groups in the country, meaning they don’t have the right to vote.

    The military in Myanmar, a Buddhist country, has been sieging a Rohingya community located in Rajine, west Myanmar, since Oct. 9, 2016.

    Bangladesh has been sending the refugees to Thengar Char Island.

    “[Even though] in this situation it is hard for Bangladesh to take people, they are trying,” Shakhawat says.

    The United Nations has criticized the measure taken by Bangladesh because they say Thengar Char Island doesn’t have habitable conditions.

    Shakhawat says there are some charity organizations that have donated money to help Bangladesh with the issue, but this is a short-term solution.

    “In my country, there are still many who cannot eat if they don’t work because they don’t have enough money,” he says.

    Shakhawat said India, a country that also borders Myanmar, cannot take the Rohingya because it also has a high population density.

    He believes a long-term solution could be achieved if the international community worked together and came up with a resolution to help Bangladesh.

    “We need someone to help us,” he says.

    Even though Shakhawat doesn’t personally know a Rohingya who has gone through this situation, he mentions he watched a documentary that showed a toddler watching his parents being killed in front of him. The boy, who was around five years old, was left with nothing.

    “If you put yourself in their shoes, you’ll realize how much the Rohingya have lost,” he says. “Some people have lost their whole family, and have nothing now.”


    Come From Away is The Aquinian’s column about world issues and events, told through the perspective of students watching their homes from afar.