‘Rohingya must be rooted in their identity to successfully repatriate’

Attribution: European Union 2018

On anniversary of start of Rohingya exodus, rights experts emphasize practicing of culture, education in native language

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Educating Rohingya in their native language and helping them practice their culture should be among the major focuses for facilitating the sustainable repatriation and reintegration of persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, according to rights activists and policy analysts.

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar to be observed on Aug. 25, they emphasized the practicing of culture and language and the preservation of Rohingya history, including the narration of the genocide that took place in August 2017.

In line with the experts’ observations and concern from the Bangladesh government, UN agencies and rights groups have started facilitating such initiatives by working formally and informally in the refugee camps of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

Bangladesh is hosting over one million Rohingya in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar following the Myanmar military’s crackdown in August 2017.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) along with the Rohingya community in Cox’s Bazar also recently set up a multidisciplinary initiative, the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre.

It provides an online community space, interactive gallery, digital archive and web-based exhibition of cultural artefacts and artwork researched and produced by Rohingya refugee artists living in the camps.

It is one of the first significant attempts to comprehensively document and preserve the heritage of the Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Cultural practices inspire Rohingya to return to home country

The Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre will inspire the Rohingya community to return to Myanmar, their home country, Khin Maung, founder of the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Youth Association, told Anadolu Agency.

“Such initiatives are keeping Rohingya people in touch with our history and culture. Culture depends on history, religion and traditional behavior. Therefore, UN agencies and others should also hold discussions with culturally educated Rohingya living in the refugee camps in order to precisely preserve the history of what we had faced in Rakhine state.”

Surely practicing their own culture in daily life will inspire and keep young Rohingya aware of their future and destination, he said.

“As we, Rohingya, are always accused by the government, military and people of Myanmar of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, every Rohingya must learn their own history,” said Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition.

He noted that in this critical time, initiatives like launching the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre are good, and as this initiative is a joint effort by Rohingya survivors, continuously empowering Rohingya is very important.

Education in native language, Myanmar curriculum’

“My fellow Rohingya — Myanmar genocide survivors — have been in the refugee camps in Bangladesh for four years now. Children are growing up without a formal education. Youths have no chance to join universities or colleges,” Lwin continued.

“Education in one’s native language is very important. International organizations based in the camps should help the Rohingya youths, educators to have a curriculum in the Rohingya language,” he underlined.

Imtiaz Ahmed, a foreign policy analyst, echoed his sentiments.

Ahmed, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said that “practicing their culture and education under the Myanmar education curriculum should be among the major focuses as Bangladesh is working for Rohingya repatriation.”

“If Rohingya people are not given an education in their own language and lack historical knowledge, it will ultimately affect the reintegration process after their repatriation to Myanmar. And this ‘Rohingya’ identity is very much important for the persecuted people to be repatriated,” he said.

The Bangladesh government is aware of the issue, so it has already placed an emphasis on Rohingya education through the Myanmar curriculum and conveyed it to the UN and donor countries, he added.

Bangladesh sees native language, Myanmar curriculum as path for durable repatriation

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen recently said that Bangladesh welcomed the initiative to educate Rohingya children sheltered in the country, but “this must be done in the Rohingya language, under a Myanmar curriculum so that once they return, they can be reintegrated in Myanmar.”

Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat said “there are initiatives from different groups in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to keep the Rohingya people in touch with their own culture, history and language.”

The Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre is a welcomed and formal initiative having a different approach. It is designed to keep young Rohingya, including those who were children or born after the Rohingya exodus in 2017, attached to their own culture and history, as Bangladesh is not their home country.

“Having the same purpose in mind, Rohingya children are being given an ‘informal’ education in refugee camps in their own language, and we are emphasizing on extending further Rohingya education under Myanmar’s curriculum as it needs to facilitate a durable repatriation and Rohingya reintegration in Myanmar,” Hayat added.

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