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Shivering in the Sun: Genocide's 11th Stage

 Having been cast into the wilderness after their homes were burnt and their families slaughtered nearly a million Rohingya became refugees in Bangladesh, settling in sprawling camps that they built overnight. This road used to be a rainforest. The rainforest was cut down by the refugees and was transformed into this desert like camp from which are confined to.

Having been cast into the wilderness after their homes were burnt and their families slaughtered nearly a million Rohingya became refugees in Bangladesh, settling in sprawling camps that they built overnight. This road used to be a rainforest. The rainforest was cut down by the refugees and was transformed into this desert like camp from which are confined to.

Today, August 25, marks the one year anniversary of when the genocide against the Rohingya population by the Myanmar government began. During my time spent with the refugees in Bangladesh I came to the conclusion that this was indeed a genocide as the severity of the crimes warranted this weighty designation—I do not use the term genocide lightly. In researching what a genocide is, it's generally considered that there are 10 stages that determine a genocide all of which apply to the crimes committed against the Rohingya population.

As I walked through the camps and spent hours listening to people in humid and sweltering tents, tents that were as hot as 45C (aprox 115F), I thought that there should be an 11th genocide stage added and that is death due to displacement. Consider that nearly a million people still only are living on the basics to sustain them. Before fleeing, the wounded and traumatized left without food, medicine or clothing (with the exception of what they were wearing) as they were driven into the wilderness, left to die while the perpetrators looked away. Thus, as the victims embarked into the wilderness, the perpetrators embarked on the 10th stage of genocide: denial.

Although the Bangladeshi government and dedicated NGOs have done what they can to aid the those who made it out of the wilderness and across the border, the survivors are still at risk of death due to disease, a harsh monsoon season that has washed away homes perched on de-forested hills and death due to lack of medicine and nutrition—all things that they would not have been faced with had they not had to flee to refugee camps across the border.

While they are not physically there in the camps, the perpetrators' hand still has a long reach. As the 11th stage of genocide slowly continues to unfold, and will for many more years, the killing is far from over.

***

A note on the photos: these are collected Instagram Posts which were initially shared in March 2018 when I was in Bangladesh, personal photos I took as I worked in the camps. (A second portrait series will be released soon.)

 Rohingya update #1  I arrived in Cox’s Bazaar yesterday and spent the day listening to in-depth testimony about the atrocities committed against the Rohingya population as they fled their homes in neighboring Burma.   The dire life threatening initial circumstances that the refugees had has subsided, however the population here is extremely traumatized. Not one person of the near 800,000 has not been affected by the most inhumane treatment committed against them. Presently they have only the most basic of necessities and life in the camps is a daily struggle. Located on terraced hills that once used to be a forest, there is great concern that the rainy season will be devastating for the hundreds of thousands of people who now call this home.  #refugee , #rohingya    — at  Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar .

Rohingya update #1

I arrived in Cox’s Bazaar yesterday and spent the day listening to in-depth testimony about the atrocities committed against the Rohingya population as they fled their homes in neighboring Burma. 

The dire life threatening initial circumstances that the refugees had has subsided, however the population here is extremely traumatized. Not one person of the near 800,000 has not been affected by the most inhumane treatment committed against them. Presently they have only the most basic of necessities and life in the camps is a daily struggle. Located on terraced hills that once used to be a forest, there is great concern that the rainy season will be devastating for the hundreds of thousands of people who now call this home. #refugee,#rohingya

 — at Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar.

    Rohingya update #2  At the end of the day on the main road into the Balukhali camp the tenor of life changes as evening sets in. Rush hour takes on a significantly different meaning here as nobody wants to remain outside in the dark. But with children to take home and essentials obtained time becomes short, the tension displayed on people’s faces as the light wanes and the pace picks up to return to a home that is, if not safe, at least the safest place to be at night. — at  Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar .  

 

Rohingya update #2

At the end of the day on the main road into the Balukhali camp the tenor of life changes as evening sets in. Rush hour takes on a significantly different meaning here as nobody wants to remain outside in the dark. But with children to take home and essentials obtained time becomes short, the tension displayed on people’s faces as the light wanes and the pace picks up to return to a home that is, if not safe, at least the safest place to be at night. — at Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar.
 

 Rohingya update #3  Every day preparations are being urgently made here as the monsoon season approaches. Nearly 800,000 people are at risk as the looming wet season threatens to turn the camps into waterlogged and muddy hills and valleys. Once a forest, this land is now a barren and dusty desert that cannot contain the mass flow of water to come.   With time short, all throughout the day, an end... See More    — at  Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar .

Rohingya update #3

Every day preparations are being urgently made here as the monsoon season approaches. Nearly 800,000 people are at risk as the looming wet season threatens to turn the camps into waterlogged and muddy hills and valleys. Once a forest, this land is now a barren and dusty desert that cannot contain the mass flow of water to come. 

With time short, all throughout the day, an end...See More

 — at Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar.

  #Rohingya  update #4  This is Shomina Khatun, a young  #refugee  from Burma who fled the  #ethniccleansing  along with her family, many of whom did not live long enough to make it across the border.   I spent much of the afternoon listening to her cousin speak of the atrocities committed against their family and community. Watching her with her young sisters and brothers take in all details was not easy. They will be affected their entire lives and hearing the stories again is a constant in their existence. And yet, as the interview progressed and I looked over to her, I could not help but be taken with the abundant life she exuded thinking she deserves so much better as do the women in the sprawling camps now home to 800,000 human beings. It is this life within her that I hope inspires us all to keep pushing for a more humane world and to keep fighting for her.   #internationalwomensday    — at  Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar .

#Rohingya update #4

This is Shomina Khatun, a young #refugee from Burma who fled the #ethniccleansing along with her family, many of whom did not live long enough to make it across the border. 

I spent much of the afternoon listening to her cousin speak of the atrocities committed against their family and community. Watching her with her young sisters and brothers take in all details was not easy. They will be affected their entire lives and hearing the stories again is a constant in their existence. And yet, as the interview progressed and I looked over to her, I could not help but be taken with the abundant life she exuded thinking she deserves so much better as do the women in the sprawling camps now home to 800,000 human beings. It is this life within her that I hope inspires us all to keep pushing for a more humane world and to keep fighting for her.

#internationalwomensday

 — at Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar.

  #rohingya  update #5  Building codes and  #refugee  camps may not seem like they’d be associated, but there are rules to how people build their shelters and a logic to how the camps are laid out. There are blocks and rows, main streets that are being paved and smaller paths that are left as earth. As for the shelters, they must be built with impermanent tarps and supports. However, tellingly, their foundations are concrete which suggests a much greater permanence than authorities and the international community are willing to admit. Neighboring camps that saw refugees fill into them from years past have now become shanty towns. For the newly arrived 800,000 who are living under tarps, the rainy season and cyclone season is in their thoughts daily. The steep barren treeless hills threaten to unleash torrents of water that will flow down with great force taking all and everything in its path.  Pictured here, men are constructing a lake. The camps are filled with farmers and business owners who lost everything only to become labeled as generic refugees. With the lake they will be able to farm fish and the stones that are being unearthed will be used for construction of possible administrative and mosque structures.   — at  Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar .

#rohingya update #5

Building codes and #refugee camps may not seem like they’d be associated, but there are rules to how people build their shelters and a logic to how the camps are laid out. There are blocks and rows, main streets that are being paved and smaller paths that are left as earth. As for the shelters, they must be built with impermanent tarps and supports. However, tellingly, their foundations are concrete which suggests a much greater permanence than authorities and the international community are willing to admit. Neighboring camps that saw refugees fill into them from years past have now become shanty towns. For the newly arrived 800,000 who are living under tarps, the rainy season and cyclone season is in their thoughts daily. The steep barren treeless hills threaten to unleash torrents of water that will flow down with great force taking all and everything in its path.

Pictured here, men are constructing a lake. The camps are filled with farmers and business owners who lost everything only to become labeled as generic refugees. With the lake they will be able to farm fish and the stones that are being unearthed will be used for construction of possible administrative and mosque structures.

 — at Balukhali Refugee Camp Cox's Bazar.

 Rohingya update #6  The need for clean drinking water and healthy sanitary conditions in the camps cannot be understated. Nothing more needs to be said.

Rohingya update #6

The need for clean drinking water and healthy sanitary conditions in the camps cannot be understated. Nothing more needs to be said.

  #Rohingya  update #7   The near 800,000 refugees who came streaming over the border terrified of being murdered by the brutal Myanmar government have created a great strain for Bangladesh, already strained for resources for its own population.  Another consequence stemming from Myanmar’s war crimes is that the refugee crisis has been immensely destructive to the environment. In a matter of days a lush forest filled with birdsong was transformed into a barren like desert more akin to South Sudan than South East Asia. This tree is one of the only left and this land used to be a rain forest filled with life. Elephants used to roam here and some have returned to see their habitat completely eviscerated, one of the results of their confusion was that they trampled and killed the displaced who now live here.  This barren landscape torn violently apart become a symbol for the violence done to the people here for me. It will take decades to heal and sadly much of it, just as those who will never be with their families again, will never come back

#Rohingya update #7

The near 800,000 refugees who came streaming over the border terrified of being murdered by the brutal Myanmar government have created a great strain for Bangladesh, already strained for resources for its own population.

Another consequence stemming from Myanmar’s war crimes is that the refugee crisis has been immensely destructive to the environment. In a matter of days a lush forest filled with birdsong was transformed into a barren like desert more akin to South Sudan than South East Asia. This tree is one of the only left and this land used to be a rain forest filled with life. Elephants used to roam here and some have returned to see their habitat completely eviscerated, one of the results of their confusion was that they trampled and killed the displaced who now live here.

This barren landscape torn violently apart become a symbol for the violence done to the people here for me. It will take decades to heal and sadly much of it, just as those who will never be with their families again, will never come back

  #Rohingya  update #8  By the time this will have posted I’ll have landed back at JFK. One of the last photos I took in the camps, this one has stayed on my mind as I descend over the white landscape of Connecticut below.  Over the course of listening to hours of testimony in Bangladesh it’s clear that the attempt to expel the Rohingya was nothing more than eradication of an entire group of people-in essence and by definition a genocide. And from the painful stories I heard it was a largely successful one as the world and its institutions failed, as if on que, when the Rohingya people (and like the Kosovars and Rwandans before them) needed them the most.   As I listened to testimony, time and again I heard people, mostly farmers, say that they just wanted to most basic of identity which in turn would give them the rights and thus protections that anyone belonging to a state has. Without these rights no progress will ever be made for this population.  As it stands now, nearly 800,000 people are now left stranded in sprawling camps in a country that is sympathetic to them, but unable to offer much in the way of aid. Deeply traumatized because of the systematic atrocities committed against them what the people need now is access to physical and mental health and healthy living conditions - in other words the bare basics. In the larger picture they need access to land and the ability to produce as they have done for thousands of years before the crimes recently committed against them -otherwise the camps will continue to grow, their dependence deepen, the burden for those trying to help them become heavier.   Pictured here, a young woman draws a horse on a makeshift elementary school high above one of the sprawling camps. Many people helped paint these walls as the sun set-a moment that transcended their status of refugees in constant need.

#Rohingya update #8

By the time this will have posted I’ll have landed back at JFK. One of the last photos I took in the camps, this one has stayed on my mind as I descend over the white landscape of Connecticut below.

Over the course of listening to hours of testimony in Bangladesh it’s clear that the attempt to expel the Rohingya was nothing more than eradication of an entire group of people-in essence and by definition a genocide. And from the painful stories I heard it was a largely successful one as the world and its institutions failed, as if on que, when the Rohingya people (and like the Kosovars and Rwandans before them) needed them the most. 

As I listened to testimony, time and again I heard people, mostly farmers, say that they just wanted to most basic of identity which in turn would give them the rights and thus protections that anyone belonging to a state has. Without these rights no progress will ever be made for this population.

As it stands now, nearly 800,000 people are now left stranded in sprawling camps in a country that is sympathetic to them, but unable to offer much in the way of aid. Deeply traumatized because of the systematic atrocities committed against them what the people need now is access to physical and mental health and healthy living conditions - in other words the bare basics. In the larger picture they need access to land and the ability to produce as they have done for thousands of years before the crimes recently committed against them -otherwise the camps will continue to grow, their dependence deepen, the burden for those trying to help them become heavier. 

Pictured here, a young woman draws a horse on a makeshift elementary school high above one of the sprawling camps. Many people helped paint these walls as the sun set-a moment that transcended their status of refugees in constant need.

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