“We feel vulnerable and scared”, say women Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char island


FILE PHOTO: Rohingya people board on a three wheeler after collecting relief material in Kutupalong refugee camp, in Ukhia on August 24, 2020.  (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Rohingya people board on a three wheeler after collecting relief material in Kutupalong refugee camp, in Ukhia on August 24, 2020. (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By Pramod Thomas



A group of more than 300 Rohingya refugees allege rape, sexual assault and ‘jail-like’ conditions on Bangladeshi island.

In April, they were taken to Bhasan Char, an uninhabited island in the Bay of the Bengal, when they were trying to go to Malaysia.

Sitara, 28, one of the refugees said that the Bangladeshi police “lied’ to them that they will be kept in the island just for two weeks.



“We feel cheated. There is no one to help relieve our miseries. We are so helpless,” she told The Guardian.

Many women in the group allege rape and sexual assault by police guards.

“One or two security personnel were caught by the Rohingya men after they raped a young, unmarried girl. The girl cried out badly and alerted the Rohingya men who lived in the same area,” one woman told the newspaper.



According to victims, they feel scared during the night as only male officers were on duty.

“We feel vulnerable. Sometimes we feel as scared as we used to feel with the violent Burmese soldiers, before we fled our homeland,” they said.

An Amnesty International report published last week also alleged sexual assault against Rohingya women on the island. They called for authorities to open an investigation.



However, the Bangladesh government has strongly denied the allegations.

“These allegations are utterly false. There is not a shred of truth in these allegations,” Md Mohsin, secretary of the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry that oversees the Rohingya crisis, told Dhaka Tribune.

“Neither I nor any of my officials have heard anything like that.”

He said that there are 69 police personnel including women on the island to protect the refugees along with the Bangladesh Navy.

Bangladesh has built housing for 100,000 people on Bhasan Char and wants to relocate some of the million Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar.

In the first week of September, about 40 Rohingya leaders were invited on a “guided tour” of Bhasan Char to view the facilities for themselves. Two of the leaders who took the tour told the Guardian they would not support any Rohingya being moved to the island or agree to bring their families there.