‘We want to go home for Eid, but we don’t want to be killed’

Rohingya-raya

KUALA LUMPUR: It is an enduring fear that keeps many of the Myanmar Muslim Rohingya refugees living at the Taman Wilayah Selayang flats from going home to Myanmar to celebrate Hari Raya, or Eid.

Rohingya community chief Mohamad Sultan, 68, said that he still remembers with sadness the fate of his family members who died from the bloody conflict between the radical Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan, where he hails from.

He said that although he deeply wishes to return to Arakan, his fear of being killed by the radical Buddhists there keeps him here in Malaysia.

“This year, Raya will go on as usual without celebrations for the Muslim Rohingya refugees living here.

“We only dress in our everyday clothes and eat whatever food we already have on Raya.

“We usually just stay home after our prayers,” he told FMT when met at his home.

Teary-eyed, Mohamad recalled the memory of his sister’s death when she fell to the violence in Arakan.

Mohamad said that the long-time conflict between the two groups would certainly end in tragedy, a situation that has forced him to live here in Malaysia for the past 14 years.

“My family is still fighting for their lives there, living in fear. For me, what is important is that I save my wife and four children so that we can live on here.”

According to Mohamad, there were 300 Muslim Rohingya refugee families living at the Taman Wilayah flats, many of them having come here to escape the bloody violence in their homes in Myanmar.

Most of them have passes from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that allows them to look for jobs here.

They have taken jobs with salaries of around RM900 a month, such as street sweepers, tailors and selling vegetables at the Selayang wholesale market.

According to Mohamad, the pay is enough to cover the cost of their rent, food and schooling for their children here.

Anti-Muslim sentiments have spread across Myanmar in recent years, with the worst violence happening in the country’s central provinces and in the Rakhine state, which is largely occupied by the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The extremist monks and Buddhist nationalists to this day refuse to acknowledge the Rohingya, calling them refugees from Bangladesh who do not deserve mercy.

Long-time human rights and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has also been criticised for her lack of action to aid the Rohingya.