AROUK organised the webinar on 25th of August to mark the 4th years anniversary of Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day, aiming to “remind the world not to forget the Rohingya and what is happening to Rohingya people”.
The Rohingya genocide refers to ongoing persecutions against the Rohingya ethnic group – we are the are indigenous to the south-east Asian country of Myanmar – by the Myanmar military.
The second and current phase of this genocide began in August 2017, with our webinar coinciding with its fourth anniversary.
AROUK, Co-founder Mohammed Amin, who grew up in a refugee camp in Bangladesh and found sanctuary in Bradford in 2012, said the Rohingya community in Bradford is the now largest in Europe – with around 600 Rohingya people living in the district.
Lord Mayor of Bradford Shabir Hussain, Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe and Labour MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain all attended the event and were joined by a number of community figures from across the district.
These included Charles Dacres, the director of Bradford Hate Crime Alliance, Canon Mandy Coutts of Bradford Cathedral and Rabea Sultana, a student from Bradford’s Rohingya community who recently excelled in her GCSEs.
Mohammed Amin said: “Many Rohingya people in Bradford are survivors of another genocide which took place in the 1990s. Many of us lived over a decade in dire conditions in refugee camps, with many horror stories to tell.”
Amin, 33, who still has relatives living in refugee camps back home, added: “The Rohingya have faced a long history of violence, denial of citizenship and restrictions in Myanmar. They have faced mass killings, rape, and the burning down of their villages. They are mostly targeted simply because they are Muslim.
“Being a refugee is not a choice – we were forced to flee our homes. I cannot imagine anyone would choose to leave their homes to be a refugee and live in dire and desperate circumstances.
“Refugees are people like you and me, but they are traumatised due to violence and injustice. It would be difficult for anyone to understand what it is like to be a refugee unless you have been in that situation.
“When I was in a camp, I had to depend on fortnightly rations from UN agencies, which were very limited – you could only just survive.
“We were not allowed to go outside the camp, not allowed to work and what we called home was a tiny, makeshift shed.
“But now, we feel very honoured to be welcomed in Bradford and to have the opportunities here to rebuild our lives. Living in Bradford is like having the chance to breathe again.
“It has given us our identity and dignity back. It is a place to call a safe home, which is very important to us as Rohingya. We are very honoured and privileged to be here in a safe country, especially a city like Bradford.
“But there is a still lack of awareness – many people in Bradford don’t know a lot about us.”
Amin has also called on the UK Government to do more to “ensure justice” for the Rohingya, adding: “The perpetrators of this genocide must be punished, so that it cannot be repeated anywhere else in the world.”