Sayed Akber, 51, has spent almost his whole life suffering from physical and mental health issues after being tortured by Myanmar armed forces in Buthidaung, a town in Rakhine state.
It happened when he was a teenager. Akber, 17, was working at his parents’ cultivation land when some soldiers came to his village and set him a laborious task. He refused, and was beaten up and tortured. Akber received severe injuries on his head and body, which left him mentally stunted and physically traumatised.
It was 1991 when that incident occurred. At that time, his parents held white identity cards with “Bengali” written on the back. They, and many other Rohingya, had suffered increased persecution after Myanmar’s Citizenship Law was passed in 1982, which did not recognise the Rohingya as citizens.
In 1992, 228,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. In the following years, the Bangladesh government forced more than 208,000 to be repatriated back to Myanmar, while thousands of Rohingya died in Bangladesh due to the lack of medical care and food. It is estimated that Bangladesh has more than 1 million Rohingya refugees today.
A 2017 report titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience” documented the persecution of over 1 million Rohingya, while 114,000 others had been beaten. The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
Akber was later brought to Bangladesh by his family members. They walked for a day to the Myanmar border, and ended up at the makeshift Marisha Tal camp in Cox's Bazar. But even in Bangladesh, he was not able to receive the health care that he needed.
Akber has lost all the memories of Myanmar and even in Bangladesh. He cannot tell of his parents or siblings’ names. Sometimes he would cry, and be aggressive towards his family members. He is very much afraid of the authorities in Bangladesh. He has no ability to work or provide a good future for himself and his family. The trauma has stayed with him for years, and likely for the rest of his life.
He does not share his feelings with others, and displays no interest in most things. He feels more comfortable staying at home in the Bangladesh refugee camp as he always feels stressed out when there are people around him. He only received some minor medical attention recently.
When UNHCR began resettling the Rohingya in Bangladesh between 2006 to 2011, his case was not submitted under the Survivors of Violence and/or Torture category, as well as the Refugees with Medical Needs.
With the Gambia’s genocide suit against the Myanmar government, Ziaur hopes that justice will be brought by the international community. There are still many Rohingya people who live in Myanmar, and face persecution and discrimination daily. Many of them are also locked up in internally displaced camps. Our (Rohingya), hope is that the International Court of Justice case will allow us to return home one day, safely and with dignity.