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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Prominent Rohingya leader shot dead in Bangladesh refugee camp

The Guardian
Rebecca Ratcliffe
agencies in Cox's Bazar
Thu 30 Sep 2021

Calls for an investigation after Mohib Ullah was killed by unidentified assailants 

Mohib Ullah was chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARPSH). The UNHCR said it was ‘deeply saddened’ by his killing. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Imag

Rights groups have called for an urgent investigation after a prominent Rohingya community leader was shot dead at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, after months of worsening violence in the settlement.

Mohib Ullah, who was chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARPSH), was killed by gunmen on Wednesday evening as he spoke with other community leaders outside his office, according to police.

He was a leading advocate for the Rohingya, a minority that has long suffered persecution in Myanmar, and was subjected to a brutal military crackdown in 2017, when hundreds of thousands were forced to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh.


Mohib Ullah documented abuses perpetrated by the Myanmar military, and campaigned for greater protection of refugees. He had spoken internationally about Rohingya rights, travelling to the White House to meet former president Donald Trump, and speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2019.

In his address to UNHRC, he said: “Imagine you have no identity, no ethnicity, no country. Nobody wants you. How would you feel? This is how we feel today as Rohingya …”

“For decades we faced a systematic genocide in Myanmar. They took our citizenship. They took our land. They destroyed our mosques. No travel, no higher education, no healthcare, no jobs … We are not stateless. Stop calling us that. We have a state. It is Myanmar.”

No one has claimed responsibility for his murder, but a Rohingya leader claimed that Ullah was killed by the extremist group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which was behind several attacks on Myanmar security posts in recent years.

“It is a work of ARSA,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Mohib Ullah, who had criticised violence in the camps, had been threatened by various armed groups.

Yasmin Ullah, a Rohingya rights activist, said that agencies had been warned many times that Mohib Ullah was not safe. If the international community and the Bangladeshi authorities do not take action, she said: “The simple message that the rest of the community will be receiving is that our lives don’t matter. Even if we become refugees, even if there have been real threats, and we have informed various parties and actors to do something about it, it’s not enough,” she said.

“People who are working for the community are now going to have to walk on eggshells because they don’t know if there is going to be an attempt to silence them,” she added.

It was a sign of misplaced priorities among agencies in Bangladesh that “human rights defenders are not even afforded the simple basic protection for the work they do”, said Ullah. “Let’s face it, the international community are not going to do that work …we have to do that work ourselves so make it safe for us.”

“UNHCR and the Bangladesh authorities have been securitising the camp but not in a way that empowers people, not in a way that keeps people safe,” said Ullah.

She pointed to barbed wire that surrounds the settlements, an apparent security measure. It had failed to prevent Mohib Ullah’s death, or to ensure safety for women who are too afraid to go to the toilet at night, but had become “a symbol of division between the rest of Bangladesh, where people are treated like people, and refugees, who are treated as subhuman.”

Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, added that Mohib Ullah’s killing would send “a chilling effect across the entire community”. “The onus is now on the Bangladeshi authorities to expedite an investigation into his murder and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials,” said Hamaadi.

Violence in Cox’s Bazaar has become a growing problem, with armed groups committing murders and abductions as they compete for control of the settlement, which is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, hosting nearly 900,000 Rohingya.

Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights, said Mohib Ullah’s death was “a tremendous loss for Myanmar, the Rohingya people, and the human rights movement more broadly.”

“Mohib Ullah was committed to truth, justice, and human rights. He had been facing serious and sustained threats in Bangladesh and needed protection. The Government of Bangladesh must immediately investigate anyone who may have been involved in this heinous crime and ensure justice.”

Read More : ‘A sample of hell’: Rohingya forced to rebuild camps again after deadly floods


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