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A new virtual exhibition explores the identity of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar living in the world’s largest refugee camp, through the lens of Rohingya photographers.
About 900,000 Rohingya refugees live in the Cox’s Bazar area of southeast Bangladesh after fleeing neighboring Myanmar, where they have long been persecuted by the government. More than half of them are under 18, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Their future remains uncertain years after the largest exodus in 2017, when Myanmar security forces were accused of driving Rohingya out of the country with a large-scale campaign of killings, mass rape and arson. The military denies the allegations, which the U.S. government declared a genocide earlier this year.
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The virtual exhibition, which launched in June on World Refugee Day, gives young Rohingya an opportunity to express themselves around themes such as memory, loss, love and hope, organizers say.
“With this exhibition, we want the world to see the Rohingya refugee community through our own eyes,” Sahat Zia Hero, founder of Rohingyatographer magazine and one of the curators of the exhibition, said in a news release. “We want people to see us as human beings, just like everyone else and to share our hopes and dreams, our sadness and our grief with others, to make connections.” Shaiful, 22, says he was coming back from fishing at a nearby lake when he saw military forces surrounding his village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Aug. 25, 2017. Houses had been set on fire, and he was scared for his parents and siblings.
“I wanted to help, but I was afraid for my own life,” he said. “A soldier saw me and shot me in the back.”
Shaiful fell down and the soldiers thought he was dead. When he opened his eyes, he said, he was bleeding and couldn’t move. Neighbors helped him flee to Bangladesh, where he received hospital treatment.
“I want justice for myself and those who were murdered in my community,” he said.