We're close to release a short documentary on Kuchnia Konfliktu, which helps shed light on what is unfortunately a very unique program. The following are some excerpts from our interviews with founders Jarmiła, Piotr and refugees Sultan and Liza who work here on a daily basis.
ARTS & ED WORKSHOPS IN ROHINGYA CAMPS
At the beginning of 2018, @1976km visited the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. Starting from August 25th 2017, almost 700,000 people escaped ethnic cleansing in Myanmar (Burma) and settled in the Cox’s Bazar region of southern Bangladesh. The scale of this crisis is truly shocking, and the Bangladesh government and humanitarian organizations unable to help everyone. Kids constitute 50% of the population in the camps, which do not offer formal education.
Our team organized artistic workshops and reading lessons for little children as well as photography and video classes for teenagers. Thanks to our partnership with @Mastul Foundation, which built a school in Kutupalong camp, kids could benefit from primary education and had a place to develop their artistic skills. Nowhere prior have we been so welcomed with such high hopes, and parents kept underlining education as the key to improving their situation.
Through our “refocus” project, we hope to return in the coming months with more tools and resources and establish more permanent arts and education programming for young Rohingya refugees. For more on the situation in Bangladesh, visit our Rohingya page for a Special Report on the crisis and excerpts from our documentary series “Still Stateless.”
PHOTOS: @SONIANANDZIK @DFHERMAN
Smartphone Photography Workshops
An amazing group of eager, dedicated and creative young men from ten different nations has formed to be part of a month-long series of Photography Workshops. Rough cut media, a nonprofit from Philadelphia, USA, is dedicated to increasing access to media creation tools and professional instruction both locally and globally.
Young, single men are consistently de-prioritized in this crisis, and are significantly impacted by fear campaigns sweeping Europe on mainstream and social media. As a result, older teenage boys and single men are left behind in camps throughout Greece and the Balkans. On lesvos, Greece, they are forced to call moria refugee camp an indefinite home. One look and you can see why they consider it a prison.
Despite the deplorable conditions they live in each day, young men brave the heat and walk over an hour each way to be with us at One Happy Family Community Center (@OHFLesvos). Here they have a chance to take language classes and study media creation with rough cut to ensure they have an artistic outlet and develop tangible and modern communication skills.
From Composition techniques to Exposure, Focal Elements, Basics of Lighting and Color Theory, these dedicated students have absorbed so much and have put it all into daily practice. The past three weeks have flown by so quickly, and with the time remaining we've already kicked into creating photo essays and are bridging into documentary video.
The work doesn't end when class lets out each day, and our What's App is regularly blowing up with images from inside MOria and on the road to and from camp. Our first exhibition, open to the public here on Lesvos, is on Fri, July 28th, and A full gallery of their work will live on www.1976km.com as well as our Instagram @1976km.
In the meantime, here are some Behind-The-Scenes shots and a little taste of what these guys have already produced.
FRESH RESPONSE SERBIA
FRESH RESPONSE IS AN INDEPENDENT VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION BASED IN SUBOTICA, SERBIA THAT DISTRIBUTES FRESH INGREDIENTS FOR REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS TO COOK AS WELL AS CLOTHES AND OTHER AID. THEir AIM- TO SUPPLEMENT THE INADEQUATE FOOD PROVIDED IN REFUGEE CAMPS AROUND THE SERBIAN-HUNGARIAN BORDER- helps provide FRESH AND NUTRITIOUS INGREDIENTS FROM LOCAL DISTRIBUTORS and ensure some sense of AGENCY AND DIGNITY as PEOPLE PREPARE MEALS THEY WANT FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES.
in 2016 Fresh Response OPERATEd IN THE OFFICIAL CAMP IN SUBOTICA AND IN THE TWO TRANSIT ZONE CAMPS IN KELEBIJA AND HORGOŠ. TOGETHER, THESE AREAS HAVE 1000+ REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS HOPING TO CROSS THE BORDER.
In late autumn and winter 2016, the group engaged in a human rights project by collecting testimonies of refugees tortured at the border by hungarian police and appointed "border hunters". they helped hundreds of refugees and migrants survive a bitter cold serbian winter, provided food and basic NFi (Non-Food Items) products to the population living in abandoned buildings who live in fear of being illegally deported from the camps.
LEARN MORE ON FACEBOOK @FRESHRESPONSESERBIA and http://freshresponse.org/category/testimonials/
PHOTO & VIDEO: @DFHERMAN
LIFEGUARD HELLAS SWIMMING LESSONS
lifeguards who rescued countless refugees on the shores of Lesvos saw THE horror IN THEIR EYES AS THEY WITNESSED DROWNINGS AND fearED THE SAME FOR THEMSELVES. We RECOGNIZE that for them the water is NOW something to fear. BUT WE WANT THEM TO FEEL AND EXPERIENCE What the sea means to us- The pleasure and happiness it can provide. Our aim THROUGH LESSONS IS TO FREE THEM OF THESE FEARS AND HELP THEM FIND A BRIEF DAILY RELEASE FROM THEIR SITUATION.
LIFEGUARD HELLas is a lifeguard training organization funded purely out of our own pockets and the support of people who understand our work. Our team ethos has always been to volunteer and be “filotimoi” (honourable friends). Through this, we believe that if we do good, good will come to us.
Program COordinators: Lia Stavropoulou and Isidoros Lapsatis
Photography by: Hassan- Rough Cut media Photography Workshop: One Happy Family Community Center- Lesvos, GREECE
our main project takes place every day with partnership from swisscross.help at One Happy Family Community Center (@OHFLesvos). We started with just 5 young people, but this doubled within a day, and a week later we have over 75 daily participants of ranging backgrounds and swimming abilities.
now that we have an average number of 30 people per lesson we need more equipment to support our eager students.
We require swimming wear for males ranging from mid-teens to adults. Goggles for adults, floating devices (both lifesaving and teaching equipment), as well as tennis balls, beach rackets, and a net for volley ball. We also require a range of gardening tools which we will use with the refugees to clean the beach we can use.
WOMEN'S CONFERENCE & DIALOGUE EVENT
refugee women, half the population, are often marginalized, their challenges overlooked and their specific needs not taken into consideration by governments as well as political and humanitarian institutions. migration and asylum policy in europe is predominantly gender-blind and not enough is being done to bridge the existing gap between refugee women and service providers.
Although seemingly invisible, refugee women carry the potential to move forward as actors of change. they should feel empowered, build skills and courage ot speak up and address their needs by claiming a gender mainstreamed migration policy.
The Women Refugee Route (WRR) Dialogue Event is not confined to simple analysis of existing problems. Rather it aims to look for solutions and connect people by building a support network for every woman to succeed.
Photography by Saeed, Gauthier, Eric, Henock, Girmay and hassan- Rough Cut Media Photography Workshop Students
A WEEK-LONG CONFERENCE WAS HELD AT ONE HAPPY FAMILY COMMUNITY CENTER ON LESVOS, GREECE FROM JULY 17-21, 2017 TO DEVELOP COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIES FOR GENDER-BASED RIGHTS AND SUPPORT PLANS. THE WEEK OF INTENSIVE HANDS-ON WORKSHOP SESSIONS CULMINATED IN A PUBLIC PANEL DISCUSSION AND "WORLD CAFE" ROUND TABLE DIALOGUE CENTERED ON MAIN ISSUE SUCH AS SAFETY, FEMALE SPACES, GENDER-BASED RIGHTS AND MOVING TOWARD A GENDER MAINSTREAM POLICY.
MINA JAF- A REFUGEE FROM KURDISTAN , FOUNDED WOMEN REFUGEE ROUTE IN 2015 TO TRAIN FEMALE TRANSLATORS AND PROVIDE CRITICAL INFORMATION FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS ALONG THEIR DANGEROUS JOURNEY SEEKING ASYLUM. OTHER WORKSHOP LEADERS AND PANELISTS INCLUDED SARAH MARDINI- A PROFESSIONAL SWIMMER WHO FLED DAMASCUS IN 2015 AND ALONG WITH HER SISTER RESCUED 18 FELLOW REFUGEES. SARAH NOW WORKS WITH ERCI, THE GREEK COAST GUARD AND FRONTEX IN FIRST RESPONDER EFFORTS OFF THE GREEK COAST; ALICE LUCAS- SENIOR PROGRAMME OFFICER AT REFUGEE RIGHTS DATA PROJECT (UK), AND WORKS IN INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC POLICY; MARJA BIJL- MEMBER OF DUTCH LABOR PARTY (PVDA) AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF AN NGO WORKING WITH VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING; MARCHU GIRMA- GRASSROOTS COORDINATOR OF WOMEN FOR REFUGEE WOMEN, WHICH ADVOCATES FOR RIGHTS OF REFUGEE ASYLUM-SEEKING WOMEN.
learn more about this initiative on facebook @WRRoute
PHOTOJOURNALISM AND DOCUMENTARY FILM
REZA ADIB & JAVAD MOUSAVI
“Journalists come to Greece to report on the refugee crisis and they always ask what it is like inside Moria? What is it like to live here? I can say many things, but put simply Moria is Hell! Even one day inside Moria is one day too many.”- Reza Adib
This type of conviction was on immediate display when we met reza and javad on the first day our refocus classes on lesvos, greece. dead serious about reclaiming their former professional lives, they both worked daily to develop new skills to tell the world about the realities they and thousands of other refugees face each day inside european camps.
Reza and Javad are attached at the hip, and have been for nearly two decades. They worked together, lived together and fled together when it became clear it was no longer safe for their families in afghanistan. after months of a journey to turkey where they hoped their status as journalists would be respected, the muslim ban in america destroyed their chances of being resettled. the conditions in the camps in turkey were so severe they once again felt no choice but to risk it all on the sea and cross to lesvos.
”we have been on Lesvos, Greece with our families for the past seven months waiting for our asylum claims to be processed. Back in Afghanistan we were journalists and had to flee because it was no longer safe for us and our families. we were part of a documentary about children being sexually abused by the military. Threats to our lives were made so we had no choice but to flee.” - javad mousavi
Through our program Reza and Javad started documenting the conditions inside Moria and in the wild camps in the olive Groves just outside. At the height of the summer there were over 10,000 refugees here in a space with a capacity of less than 2000.
We caught wind of a unique film festival in France- MObile Film Fest, which challenged filmmakers to create 1-minute films about human rights shot on their mobile phones. Reza and Javad immediately took up the challenge and we helped them produce two shorts for consideration. “Children of Moria” and “Blinded by Hope”each tell an under-reported aspect of life in a refugee camp. “Children of moria”, which was a top 50 Finalist out of 900 submitted films, centers on the dangers thousands of children face each day inside Moria.
“The last thing we thought we would find here in Europe is more of the same. There is no safety inside Moria, and every day we see thousands of children in danger of sexual abuse, violence, social well-being and loss of education. we needed to put our skills into action and tell their story because no one is speaking on behalf of these children, and no one is changing the situation inside Moria. we chose to tell this story from the perspective of a child and show the dangers in the world they must navigate every day. Even when they think they are safe in their tent, they are not. There is no security here. No one, especially a child should live like this. We know first hand why so many children consider suicide.”
- Javad Mousavi
“Blinded by hope”- another film produced specifically for the Mobile FIlm Festival in Paris, France- centers on the lack of services available to refugees with significant physical impairments and disabilities.
”I have lived inside the European Union’s Moria refugee camp for months now. There are thousands of vulnerable people of all ages who do not have access to medical, physical and mental services. I work as a translator for a doctor in an eye clinic, so I interact with nearly all of the people who come from Moria seeking support for their vision. It is estimated by the directors of this eye clinic that nearly 10% of Moria have significant vision impairments and need regular support, but there is just one doctor and this is the only project on the island. I chose to make this film to tell a story that literally no one sees. Living inside Moria is life-threatening for an able-bodied, healthy man. I cannot fathom how I could survive this place if I were to lose my vision.”-Reza Adib
Reza and Javad were lucky enough to get their families out of Moria and into Kara Tepe, a smaller camp for more vulnerable individuals. Speaks volumes of their character that they would voluntarily move back into Moria to document the conditions so the world can see what is truly unfolding.
Their work was recently showcased at the Rethinking Refugees: Knowledge and Action Conference in Crakow, Poland and soon will be up in a new exhibition “Wandering Eyes” showcasing refugee artists in Philadelphia, USA. The following is just a small sample of their powerful series.
along with fellow refugee and journalist Ahmad Ebrahimi, Reza and Javad produced “Moria is Hell” a short screened at the Rethinking Refugees: Knowledge and Action conference in crakow, Poland.
having fnally been relocated to the mainland, The pair currently document the equally appalling conditions in the malakasa camp they have been forced to live. more photography and films coming very soon from these two dedicated voices.
PHOTOGRAPHY - FILMMAKING - SOUND DESIGN
Ahmad lives for the studio. Whether it is making a podcast, editing documentary film or teaching photography, Ahmad is most comfortable producing media that moves you. He’s also a talented teacher and has a heart of gold. Ahmad has been instrumental in the success of our Refocus Media labs program on Lesvos in Greece, and the media presence of one happy family refugee community center is possible because of Ahmad’s passion, dedication, humor and creative spirit.
ahmad’s recent film series “lucky vulnerables” which won a top prize at Cine15 Film Fest on Instagram, forces you to connect with the people living in Moria- the harshest refugee camp in the world. Moria Camp, on the Greek island of Lesvos, has been over capacity ever since it was created as a transit center and refugees can be stuck in the most inhumane, deplorable and life-threatening conditions imaginable for months if not years at a time.
Ahmad Ebrahimi has been documenting the conditions here because he too lives through them and knows them better than anyone. But anyone who comes here can see within 15 seconds that no one should be forced to live like this.
On a daily basis ahmad’s camera is firing. documenting the deplorable conditions of moria has become a personal mission and responsibility. the lives of those in moria, just like ahmad, are worth more than this, and through his photography he hopes to bring lasting change to a situation most in europe do not know is unfolding.
PHOTOGRAPHY GRAPHIC DESIGN
WE MET ABDULAZEZ IN ATHENS LAST YEAR AND IMMEDIATELY FELT HIS PASSION FOR LIFE AND USING HIS NEWLY HONED SKILLS WITH A CAMERA. AS YOU WILL SEE HE IS USING THEM TO INCREASE AWARENESS of the plight of SYRIAn people, AND THERE IS NO BETTER EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE FIGHTING THROUGH ADVERSITY BY UTILIZING ACCESS TO THE TOOLS OF THE MODERN ERA.
WE'RE HONORED TO ANNOUNCE THAT ABDULAZEZ WILL BE ONE OF OUR TEACHING-ARTISTS IN OUR REFOCUS REFUGEE MEDIA LAB ON LESVOS, GREECE. WHO BETTER TO TRAIN REFUGEES ON HOW TO PROFESSIONALLY TELL THEIR STORIES AND SURVIVE THIS STRUGGLE THAN SOMEONE ACTIVELY DOING SO.
HERE IS HIS STORY...
When the war started, we had no other option but to leave our homes, a decision that was truly difficult to make. After 3 years of war, we left to Turkey and in January 2016, we left to Greece. I found myself in a refugee camp with thousands of people living without knowing what the next day holds for us all.
We faced the cold and hot weathers in tents, waited for food in lines, and watched the time slowly pass by without being able to change the situation. Despite the harsh conditions, hopes and smiles filled the camps. Seeing the way European media presented refugees as hopeless, dangerous and ignorant people was really frustrating and got me thinking of ways to change this image they have of us.
I decided to approach this with my camera lens, taking shots of the smiles and hope that were always present in the camps and never left regardless of the conditions. It was the smiles that I would see on children and adult's faces that truly inspired me to start photography. I felt like that would be the best way to show the real image of the refugees.
When I first held the camera and decided to start photography, my goal was to break the walls of misunderstanding between refugees and the world. These walls built on misrepresentations in the media, which ended up creating fear and hate and "us" versus "them".
My message to the world is this: People need to understand that before they judge us by color, religion, or ethnicity and label us as refugees, that we are simply humans. We are human beings before being anything else, and labels should not be dividing us.
Everyone in the world was an immigrant or a refugee at some point, the refugee crisis did not begin yesterday and will not end tomorrow. Rather than focusing on the problem, we should all be actively looking for solutions.
Two months ago, I arrived in Belgium and started studying the language. I'm also hoping to start university soon, and pursue a degree in computer science. I've always dreamed in Syria about being free, being able to learn and continue to grow and develop my skills.
I have only been here for a short period of time, and so I still don't know what people think of us, but I hope that people understand that in every population in the world, there are the good people and the bad people.
It's not just the refugee population that has bad people, it's in every society in the world. The media choose to focus on the bad side....Do not blindly follow what they say, go and meet refugees, and then decide which side you want to take.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today and will show my appreciation by contributing to the society, and working hand in hand with members of the community to further develop the community.
Of course, there is nothing like home and I would love to go back to Syria and rebuild it when things settle down... I miss my home but until then I will continue to strive to create positive change and contribute to the communities I live in.
Written by Abdulazez Dukhan
"SENT TO THEIR DEATH"
A FILM BY
Aug 1, 2017
Fridoon Joinda, a young and talented filmmaker we met on Lesvos at One Happy Family Refugee Community Center, is also a refugee from afghanistan and has been on the island for over a year. FRIDOON WAS CONSTANTLY DOCUMENTING the GENERAL CONDITIONS ON LESVOS and was also reporting on the hunger strike here in Lesovs, which recently reached DAY 35.
While FRIDOON was granted asylum in greece AT THE TIME OF REPORTING, HE WAS unable to travel or secure a spot in university in EuroPE. BUT while On lesvos, he has put his flowering talents to use BY tellING the real story of life on lesvos from a refugee's perspective and experience. THIS WORK EVENTUALLY BECAME THE INDEPENDENTLY PRODUCED DOCUMENTARY "SENT TO THEIR DEATH." Watch the entire film here.
1976KM IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT FRIDOON WILL BE RETURNING TO LESVOS AS A TEACHING-ARTIST IN OUR REFOCUS REFUGEE MEDIA LABS INITIATIVE. WHO BETTER TO TRAIN REFUGEES ON HOW TO professionally TELL THEIR STORies AND SHOW THEM THE VALUE OF THESE MODERN SKILLS THAN SOMEONE WHO is living IT. YOU CAN CONNECT WITH FRIDOON and check out his new media ON FACEBOOK @joindaProduciton
HUNGER STRIKE ON LESVOS, GREECE REACHES 35th DAY
(35 DZIEŃ STRAJKU GŁODOWEGO NA LESVOS)
Aug 1, 2017
EN- BAHROOZ ARASH AND KOZHIN HUSSEIN ARE NOW ON DAY 35 OF THEIR HUNGER STRIKE IN "SECTION B" DETENTION CENTER INSIDE MORIA REFUGEE CAMP. FELLOW REFUGEE AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARASH HAMPAY HAS JOINED THEM FOR 34 DAYS IN A HUNGER STRIKE AND VIGIL IN THE CITY CENTER OF MYTILINI. HIS BROTHER, AMIR HAMPAY, who WAS JUST RELEASED LAST WEEK ON HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS FOLLOWING HIS OWN HUNGER STRIKE INSIDE SECTION B, STILL FACES IMMINENT DANGER AND ARBITRARY DEPORTATION.
THE HUNGER STRIKERS DEMAND AN END:
-BRUTAL VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS- DEPRIVATION, HUMILIATION, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE FACED BY REFUGEES ON A DAILY BASIS INSIDE MORIA CAMP.
-THE ILLICIT AND ARBITRARY DETENTION OF REFUGEES FOR MONTHS WITHOUT TRIAL WHILE ASYLUM APPLICATIONS ARE BEING PROCESSED
-THE EUROPEAN BORDE REGIME, WHICH IS SYSTEMATICALLY DEPORTING REFUGEES TO FACE PERSECUTION, TORTURE AND DEATH BACK IN TURKEY OR THEIR NATIVE COUNTRIES.
For weeks, hunger strikers inside Moria camp have been denied access to basic medical care. They have been systematically blocked from communications with their legal team, friends and supporters outside. Arash, who has been staging his hunger strike in Sappho Square in Mytilini port, has faced regular police harassment and abuse from greek government officials including the deputy mayor or Mytilini.
In their native Iran, several of the hunger strikers were imprisoned and tortured for their human rights activities, and their families were assassinated by government agents for similar actions. for these reasons they fled, seeking asylum in Europe, but now face similar conditions and treatment in Moria camp. Bahrooz Arash has dropped from 60 to 43kg (132-94lbs), losing a third of his body mass over the past month. This severe weight loss has exacerbated serious pre-existing conditions, and doctors urge that he be immediately transferred to a hospital to save his life. at current, authorities in Moria camp are not allowing him access to medical services.
Overcrowding and inadequate shelter have condemned at least five (5) refugees to death inside Moria refugee camp. A recent report by MSF- Medecins Sans Frontieres- found self-harm within Moria had increased 600%, alongside multiple suicide attempts since EU-Turkey deal closed borders, trapping tens of thousands of refugees in Greece, Italy and the Balkans. following protests last week police have been reported roaming through the camp assaulting and arresting indiscriminately. refugees report random beatings, being pelted with stones, beatings with batons and boots while handcuffed, racist abuses and manhandling of pregnant women. The hunger strikers are inside "Section B, a notorious detention center within Moria where refugees are kept isolated and denied access to basic human rights and legal support.
EN- Arash spoke with us for several hours on Day 16 of his hunger strike. While in high spirits regarding the chance of their release, Arash stated, "I have been on hunger strike many times in Iran and have always been successful." He followed that if he was unsuccessful that it would not happen in the shadows. "If we die it will not be invisible. We will die right in front of everyone here in Mytilini. And we will not stop until they are all released." His brother, Amir Hampay, was released on his 25th day, but Arash refused to end his strike until all three men were released. " Bahrooz and Kozhin do not want to commit suicide. They are not crazy, They are two young Kurdish men. They are smart and they are handsome. They are in love with life. They understand and appreciate the essence of beauty and the joy of life. This is the very reason why they do not kneel and submit to oppression and injustice."
A recent petition on change.org has circled urging the current Greek Minister for Migration- Ioannis Mouzalas- to release the Hunger Strikers and effectively address the regular conditions refugees endure inside Moria and other camps like it throughout Greece. In the petition Arash speaks of his mother's thoughts and confidence for her sons' decision to leave Iran and claim asylum. "I remember my mother. My pure-minded mother who said goodbye to me with an ease of mind. 'I am sure the people and the State won't hurt you. They won't imprison or torture you.' In this you were wrong my dear mother, my beloved angel."
Shortly after Arash started his vigil and hunger strike in port, The UK's Independent posted a report by Arash in their VOICES section. At the outset, Germany's International broadcaster- DW (Deutsche Welle) also reported on the seemingly permanent daily conditions inside Moria and on Lesvos. Yet a month into the Strike and the international media has gone silent.
Meanwhile a young filmmaker Fridoon Joinda, 23- also a refugee from Afghanistan who has been living on Lesvos for over a year, recently produced the documentary "Sent To Their Death" chronicling the refugee experience in Moria and on Lesvos. The film features Arash and the Hunger Strikers in their protest of the conditions inside Moria and arbitrary deportations sending people back to Turkey or their home countries regardless of conditions there. You can watch it here on 1976km, and on Fridoon's Facebook page- @Joinda production.
1976km will provide regular updates on this situation via Facebook and on Instagram (@1976km), and a spotlight video and special podcast is coming soon. Check back and stay engaged.
Video: "Sent To Their Death" Documentary- @FridoonJoinda
AYS- SPECIAL REPORT
Just one section of the massive expansion to Kutupalong refugee camp. Prior to over 660,000 new arrivals since Aug 25th, this camp had 34,000 registered refugees. This section alone now has 15,000 new arrivals.
Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
January 23, 2018
The Bangladesh government planned to start a repatriation process of returning Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. The controversial bi-lateral deal, which plans to send 750 000 Rohingya back to Rahkine State, was due to start on January 23rd, but was postponed at the last moment. The reasons for the delay are are logistical. According to the government, not enough hot spots have been prepared along the way to secure and support the passage of refugees. Although a protest led by refugees against the repatriation deal happened few days ago, most residents of the camps were completely unaware of the plan to send them back. According to the UN over 900,000 Rohingya refugees now live in the Cox’s Bazar region, with new arrivals continuing to force daily camp expansion. Government actions have been criticized by many international organizations who stress that repatriation can only happen on a voluntary basis, and authorities didn’t consult or even inform the population about their plans.
HAP- Humanitarian Assistance Program food distribution. Waiting on long lines is a daily reality for all in these camps.
Despite multiple public statements honoring a voluntary process by several officials with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) the Bangladeshi government has already declared the plan will cover everyone who fled Myanmar since October 2016. This leaves no doubt that many would be forced to move against their will. None of the refugees we spoke to in the area of Kutupalong camp, where almost 550 000 refugees currently live, would consider returning to Myanmar any time soon.
Still traumatized after unimaginable physical and psychological violence faced by the Myanmar army, almost everyone stressed the necessity of having their basic rights guaranteed before returning. These rights include freedom of movement, right to formal education, which has been legally denied since 2012, and legal rights to secure jobs within official local and national structures.
An entire generation of Rohingya has been born here. 34,000 Rohingya refugees have been in Kutupalong since the 1990s.
Generations of Statelessness
Given the history of relations with Rohingya and the political situation in Myanmar, it seems unlikely any of these demands will be met any time soon. For decades, Rohingya muslims have been without representation or advocacy within State structures. The Council on Foreign Relations has reported that the Myanmar government has effectively institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya through restrictions on marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement.
For example, Rohingya couples in the northern towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung are only allow to have two children. Rohingya must also seek permission to marry, which may require them to bribe authorities and provide photographs of the bride without a headscarf and the groom with a clean-shaven face. To move to a new home or travel outside their townships, Rohingya must gain government approval.
Rohingya are not legally allowed to work or pursue formal education in Bangladesh. Distributions are far from adequate, so an intense and nonstop market informal economy has evolved. Each bundle of wood costs 50 Taka ($0.60), and an average home needs at least 2 per day for cooking and heat.
After major crackdowns on Rohingya civilians by the Army, two major influxes of refugees fled to Bangladesh in the 1970s and 1990s. Despite receiving official asylum status, most who fled to Bangladesh continue to live in the camps built upon their arrival, with an entire generation having been born in exile. The biggest wave of Rohingya refugees to date finds its roots in events of last Autumn. On August 25th 2017, Myanmar State media reported that 12 security officers had been killed by an armed raid led by ARSA- Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a small guerrilla group numbering in the hundreds. In response, the Myanmar Army claimed justification for an ongoing military operation in Rakhine State, which killed roughly 400 in early September. While the army claimed all were rebels, Doctors Without Borders reported 6,700 killed by September 24th. Whole villages have been burned to the ground, unarmed civilians were shot dead and rape has been commonly used as a war tactic by the army. Those that survived fled out of fear with many dying of wounds and hunger on their journey to Bangladesh. It is seemingly impossible to find anyone in the refugee camps who has not experienced violence or witnessed family members being killed. French President Emmanuel Macron, who flatly called it “a genocide” at the UN General Assembly meeting in September, stated he would work with other members of the UN Security Council. He furthered, “we must condemn this ethnic purification which is underway and act.” Lately Bangladesh’s foreign minister agreed with Macron’s statement, however the repatriation plan has only been postponed, not cancelled.
80% Rohingya are relying on life-saving assistance. World Food Program is providing food and vouchers to more than 700,000 refugees in the area of Cox’s Bazar. Food distributions consist of rice, vegetable oil and lentils.
From an economic point of view, Bangladesh simply can’t handle more than 660 000 new Rohingya to enter the labor market of a country that can’t secure stable employment for its own citizens. Local NGO leaders, who have been building structures and providing services since September, believe the government has denied refugee status to avoid Rohingya from feeling that Bangladesh will host them for a longer time.
Despite the need for more sustainable building that will withstand the coming monsoon season, current policies do not allow for any permanent structures to be built in the camps or surrounding areas.Despite the presence of many international and local organizations, services in the camps are still very basic. Many of the shelters built a few months ago are already partly destroyed and most will not endure the approaching monsoon and typhoon season. About 700 000 Rohingya depend completely on food aid provided by the World Food Program. Rations are not big enough and consist of only rice, lentils and vegetable oil. Currently, some 90,000 people have been enrolled in WFP’s new e-voucher programme, under which they receive a monthly amount on a pre-paid debit card for use in allocated shops. Card holders can buy 19 different foods, including rice, lentils, fresh vegetables, chillies, eggs and dried fish. Meanwhile, most who manage to secure some savings buy food items at local markets or rent small shops inside the camps to earn as little as 100 Taka (1,25$) a day to feed the family.
Just one section of the massive expansion to Kutupalong refugee camp. Prior to over 660,000 new arrivals since Aug 25th, this camp had 34,000 registered refugees. This section alone now has 15,000 new arrivals.
Few opportunities are available for Rohingya in the camp. Sadly, the luckiest are those who have grown up here as registered refugees. Still not allowed in the Bangladeshi school system, they at least have enough education to work as translators and workers for international organizations. Young men can find temporary employment building clinics, community centers and shelters of other use commissioned by NGOs. Meanwhile, women and children who make up over 50% of the population, depend completely on humanitarian aid, which means daily waits in gigantic, chaotic lines for pre-determined support that most say isn’t even close to sufficient.
As the camp expands, basic emergency shelters made of flimsy tarps and thin bamboo have taken over the countryside. This house, which also isn't prepared for the Monsoon season, represents what a permanent structure looks like in Kutupalong.
With all the challenges and uncertainty in the camps considered, no one we have spoken with wants to return to Myanmar at this moment. Without a guarantee that the persecution has stopped, and without clearly defined national rights in hand, the Rohingya will simply not agree to voluntary repatriation. As Charmain Mohamed, Amnesty International’s Director for Refugees and Migrant Rights put it, “there can be no safe or dignified returns of Rohingya to Myanmar while a system of apartheid remains in country, and thousands are held there in conditions that amount to concentration camps.”
Each day young children, who make up over 50% of the camp population, head off outside the expansion camps to forage for fire wood. With nearly 900,000 refugees now here and more arriving each day, the supply is dwindling and the land is more susceptible to landslides once the Monsoons arrive.
New reports, sneak peeks from documentary series "Still Stateless" and photo reports from front line forth coming.
by Sonia Nandzik & Douglas Herman: Cofounders- @1976km
Reporting from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
AYS- Are You Syrious Special Report
Photos- @dfherman @1976km
Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Since August 25, 2017 over 660,000 Rohingya refugees fled extreme physical and psychological violence by the Myanmar army. Interviews conducted with survivors reveal widespread reports of rape, executions and entire villages being burned to the ground.
Five months later, Rohingya muslims remain stateless inside Bangladesh without the legal right to work or pursue formal education. This new massive wave join an existing population that fled similar violence in recent decades. An entire generation of Rohingya were born in these camps and have known nothing but a refugee's life.
Written by Sonia Nandzik- @sonianandzik
Photography and Editing by Douglas Herman- @dfherman
"Constance: The Descent"
Score by Kevin MacLeod
"One-take on Thaing Khali camp" excerpt from "Still Stateless" Docu Series
Rohingya Camps, Southern Bangladesh.
Photography and Editing by Douglas Herman- @dfherman
"One-take on approaching monsoon impact" excerpt from "Still Stateless" Docu Series
Rohingya Camps, Southern Bangladesh
Written by Sonia Nandzik- @sonianadzik
Photography and editing by Douglas Herman- @dfherman
Music: "Dark Toys" by SYBS
We Stand in solidarity with all the women who refuse to give up!
On International Women's Day 2018, over 11 million women and girls are currently refugees. Over 3 million have experienced sexual violence, many of which are forced into prostitution and sex slavery.
Data by Sonia Nandzik- @sonianandzik
Photography and editing by Douglas Herman- @dfherman
Music: "Digital Memories" by Unicorn Heads