The visiting Nobel Peace laureates have promised Rohingya women to be their voice and pursue justice on their behalf.
They made the promise after hearing from many Rohingya women about the harrowing tales of torture they had endured in Myanmar.
“We are your voice and we will fight for justice for you,” said Nobel Women Initiative’s Media Consultant Veronica Pedrosa, quoting two of the three visiting laureates as saying to the Rohingya women at Ghundhum of Naikkhangchari in Bandarban.
Over 6500 Rohingya people took shelter in the no-man’s land close to Ghundhum, while nearly 700,000 other Rohingyas are staying in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Fearing persecution in their homeland Myanmar, they started entering Bangladesh late last year.
Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland said to the Rohingyas in the no-man’s land: “You should be proud to say ‘I come from Rakhine State and I come from an area of Burma. I am a Rohingya’”.
“The Nobel laureates were able to communicate very powerful messages to the Rohingya women,” said Veronica, who accompanied the trio to Ghundhum yesterday morning.
Myanmar military and locals have been accused of carrying out massacres against Rohingyas, raping Rohingya women and children, and looting and burning down their villages. Several rights bodies term the incident ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’.
On completion of six months of the Rohingya crisis, three Nobel Peace Prize winners — Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi of Iran — came to Bangladesh to highlight the crisis and raise their voice for the Rohingya, one of the most persecuted minorities of the world.
Nobel Women’s Initiative, a platform of six female Nobel Peace Prize winners, in partnership with Bangladeshi NGO, Naripokkho, organised the visit that began on Sunday.
On Sunday and Monday, the trio visited Rohingya camps in Kutupalong, Balukhali and Thyangkhali. On the last day of the camp visit yesterday, Tawakkol Karman and Mairead Maguire listened to the Rohingya women and children of the no-man’s land from around 10:00am.
As the news of their arrival spread, over a hundred of Rohingya female and children refugees crossed a small creek into Bangladesh territory in Konapara village, reports our correspondent from Cox’s Bazar.
Encircling the laureates, they shared the stories of atrocities they faced before fleeing to the no-man’s land.
Thirteen-year old Ayesha, who along with her five siblings fled her village of Kachubunia in Rakhine, alleged that Myanmar soldiers killed her mother in front of her and then picked up her father six months back. Her father has been missing since then.
Another woman Hosne Ara, 35, said Myanmar security forces killed her husband and snatched her two-year-old son and then threw the baby into a fire. She then fled her home and took shelter in no-man’s land.
During their two-hour stay in the no-man’s land, the Nobel laureates became emotional. They cried and hugged the women, and assured them of raising their voice in the global arena for justice.
“We witnessed the manifestation of this crisis: stateless, disposable people deprived of rights at home, the crimes they suffered not recognised,” tweeted Nobel Women’s Initiative Director Liz Bernstein, who also accompanied the laureates.
She said they heard harrowing tales from women whose husbands were murdered, from women who were raped and whose houses burned, and also about the generosity of Bangladeshi villagers.
“The laureates shouted support and solidarity for Rohingya people and promised to pursue justice,” Liz Bernstein said.
During their visits to the Rohingya camps on Sunday and Monday, the laureates vented anger at Aung San Suu Kyi, asking her to speak out and stop the “genocide” against the Rohingya.
“If she [Suu Kyi] could not stop all this crime, she has to resign now,” Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman told reporters on Monday.
Mairead Maguire demanded that the international community works effectively to stop the genocide and take Myanmar military to the International Criminal Court.
“As a human family, we cannot allow genocide of a whole people. The world must act,” she said on Monday.
Shirin Ebadi said they were working to pave the way for taking Myanmar military to the ICC, and sought cooperation from Bangladesh.
The Nobel laureates, who returned to Dhaka yesterday, are scheduled to hold a press conference on the Rohingya crisis today and attend a discussion on their movements for peace and human rights in their native lands and beyond.