Rohingya children: Raped, kidnapped, orphaned

Rohingya children: Raped, kidnapped, orphaned by Jan Tomes and John Owens

Shot and stabbed

Since August, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh. “The day the military came, they burnt down the village and shot my mother as she was trying to escape. My father couldn’t walk, so they stabbed him. I saw this with my own eyes,” says 10-year-old Mohammed Belal who managed to run away from his village.

Haunted by the trauma

Mohammed’s sister Nur also watched the slaughter. She and her brother now live in a shelter for unaccompanied children in Bangladesh. She can play there and gets regular meals, a stark contrast to her journey from Myanmar where she and her brother nearly starved. But she is still haunted by the trauma of the recent weeks. “I miss my parents, my home, my country,” she says.

Deep-rooted conflict

The conflict, which has been going on for 70 years and is rooted in the post-World War II social organization of the country, has claimed more than 2,000 victims since 2016, including the mother of 12-year-old Rahman, above. “They set fire to my home, and my mother was ill, so she could not leave,” he says.

Save the children

Dilu-Aara, 5, came to the camp with her sister Rojina after she witnessed her parents being murdered by the military. “I was crying all the time and the bullets were flying over our heads. I escaped somehow.” The international aid agency Save the Children is helping minors who come to Kutupalong without parents. Children make up to 60 percent of all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Hunted like animals

Jaded Alam is among the hundreds of kids who came to Kutupalong without parents. Fortunately, his aunt cares for him — and very well, he admits. Jaded grew up in a village called Mandi Para where he used to love playing football, but everything changed when the military attacked. “They told us to leave our home. When I was running with my parents, they shot them. They died on the spot,” he says.

Child abductions

Not all families have been separated during their plight, however. Rahman Ali has been scouring the refugee camp for weeks now after his 10-year-old son Zifad disappeared. Rumors of child abductions have swirled around the camp for years, and Rahman fears his son has fallen prey to human traffickers. “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I’m so upset! It’s like I’ve gone mad.”

“My mind is not normal”

When the shooting started, Sokina Khatun did all she could to protect her children — but she couldn’t save Yasmine,15, and Jamalita, 20, who were in a neighboring village at the time. “Their throats were cut in front of their grandparents,” she says. “I was numb, I couldn’t feel the pain. Right now my mind is not normal,” she says. She managed to rescue nine of her offspring.

Attacked, raped and robbed

Yasmine thinks she might be 15 but looks considerably younger. In her village, she used to play with marbles and run in the nearby fields, but different memories haunt her now: The attack by Myanmar forces, the beating and murder of her beloved father and brothers, and the rape by a group of Burmese soldiers who also robbed her. “I felt lots of pain in my body,” she says.