Social cohesion versus propaganda against Rohingya

Experts call for promoting social engagement between Rohingya, Bangladeshi host community to counter propaganda and facilitate repatriation.

Social cohesion versus propaganda against Rohingya

Human rights experts called for steps to promote social cohesion between Rohingya and the host community amid growing propaganda against the persecuted Muslims in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

Bangladesh is currently providing shelter to 1.2 million Rohingya refugees on its southeast coast of Cox’s Bazar since a refugee influx in 2017 in the wake of a Myanmar military crackdown.

The repatriation process is stalled due to the genocidal regime in Myanmar and the failure of the UN, causing frustration among refugees, said rights activists on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Rohingya exodus on Aug. 25.

The refugees also brave poor law and order as some 100 incidents of kidnapping happened in the camps in the last year.

Khin Maung, a Rohingya youth, told Anadolu Agency that when he fled to Bangladesh it was scary for him to come out of the shabby shelter and meet people outside as he was traumatized by the memories he and his fellow Rohingya experienced in Myanmar.

“But after five years of the exodus, 80% of Rohingya adolescents and youths don’t have access to education or open learning and playing opportunities. The frustration grows when we learn about some negative narrative outside the camps against Rohingya,” he added.

Propaganda to halt repatriation effort

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, head of Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), a non-profit organization working for the Rohingya, said Rohingya people have been deprived of formal education, basic citizen rights and modern-day facilities of living.

“Rohingya people have been struggling to run some religious schools to continue the learning process, and pass on their thoughts and culture to young generations in Myanmar amid a tough objection from successive regimes,” Chowdhury told Anadolu Agency.

The experts urged authorities to allow refugees the right to form unions and political groups as they believe these steps can counter the so-called criminal activities in the camps.

They also alleged that there are some agents of the Myanmar Junta in the refugee camps who want to label Rohingya as villains in an effort to halt the repatriation process.

C. R. Abrar, a professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, hinted at systematic propaganda portraying refugees as a burden and threat to law and order.

These hostile narratives have already disrupted some community services and schools in the camps, and mounted mental pressure on the persecuted people, he informed.

UN-supported social clubs offer coexistence

The UN-supported social centers or clubs in Cox's Bazar refugee camps provide hope in the face of the false narrative about Rohingya.

These clubs offer an extraordinary friendship-building opportunity between Rohingya and host community teenagers. Several host community teenagers visited their Rohingya friends’ homes to understand their plight and share it with others, according to UNICEF Bangladesh.

It helps remove some delusions about the persecuted Muslims and fight against the growing propaganda against the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. Over 20,500 Rohingya and Bangladeshi adolescents and youth will benefit from learning opportunities and skills development as part of this project supported by the European Union.

Maung, who is also executive director of Rohingya Youth Association, said: “It (the UN clubs) is a great initiative. We want to build a good friendship with the host community and work with such club organizers to make a better environment in the camps.”

Shafiur Rahman, a documentary filmmaker working in the camps since the refugee exodus, observed that refugee youths would love it. “But it would be fruitful if refugees could engage with the host community and participate in sports and games outside the camps.”

Chowdhury said if Rohingya youths are encouraged to engage in positive social activities, they would not join extremism and create law and order problems.