Mohib Ullah and his family walked for eight days before they could reach Bangladesh. The former Rakhine State schoolteacher lived, lived amid constant death threats for a week, when the Tatmadaw launched their scorched earth campaign to wipe out the existence of Myanmar’s Rohingya in 2017.
Once in Bangladesh, Mohib and his family may have breathed a sigh of relief at having escaped Myanmar’s military repression. Unfortunately, the feeling of relief was not supposed to last long. Mohib was brutally murdered in the Rohingya camp in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, on the evening of September 29, 2021. Assassins shot Mohib at close range while he was talking with people outside his office.
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Mohib’s family suspects the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for his murder. Mohib’s brother informed the media that he had recently received several death threats – from numerous unknown phone numbers – and he suspects ARSA of having committed the atrocious act. But what made Mohib a target for ARSA?
Mohib was a leader who had taken a proactive role in promoting the cause of his community. In recent years, he has become one of the few members of the Rohingya refugee community who has boldly raised the concerns of the Rohingya community and worked to ensure a safer and more respectable life for them. Mohib has spoken on international platforms, including the United Nations Human Rights Meeting in Geneva, and met with the US President, to highlight the cause of the Rohingya refugees.
Mohib also created the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), an advocacy group, which unearthed and documented the suffering of Rohingya refugees at the hands of the Burmese military.
However, it was Mohib’s unwavering commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Rohingya refugee crisis that could have made him a potential target for ARSA. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army is known for its ruthless terrorist activities. Fortify Rights had previously suspected the militant group of being behind the kidnapping and torture of at least five Rohingya refugees. And Mohib’s determination to take a peaceful path to advance the Rohingya cause angered the ARSA, which threatened him even earlier this month. Nur Khan Liton, a Rohingya rights activist, told AFP: “His [Mohib’s] peaceful activism angered ARSA. ARSA could just as easily have followed through on their threats.
However, Mohib was a threat to many others. Mohib was also known for his activism against any kind of repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, until an environment conducive to their return was assured. Mohib led a peaceful protest in 2019 when a repatriation process was announced. It has also made him an enemy of neighborhoods – even within the Rohingya community – which were and continue to push for a so-called repatriation of refugees.
And there are many other actors in the Rohingya camps who could have been at the origin of the murder of Mohib. Violence is a common scenario in the Rohingya camps. The October 2020 gang violence that erupted in the Rohingya camps as different factions tried to establish their dominance in the drug trade which resulted in the deaths of seven people and left many behind is perhaps remembered. homeless families. There is also speculation that people within Mohib’s own organization could be behind this, due to differing opinions. Or the other factions that felt threatened by Mohib’s growing popularity and greater acceptability among refugees.
Police arrested a suspect — a man named Mohammad Selim aka Lomba Selim, was arrested in Ukhiya on October 2. Bazaar, Rafiqul Islam, was quoted by Reuters. However, the murder of Mohib raised multiple questions about the security situation in the Rohingya camps. If the ARSA indeed committed this crime, also in public view, then the possibility of their active presence and operations in the camps cannot be ruled out. If so, it is high time the government reviewed its security strategy in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. ARSA’s presence in the Rohingya camps is not only a threat to the security of the Rohingya, it is a threat to the security of the country and the region.
Although another neighborhood carried out the attack on Mohib, this incident nonetheless highlighted the lack of security in the camps. How can murderers just kill a man in public and get away with it?
As of this writing, police have informed the media that they are investigating the murder. The bullet shells are examined to trace them back to the killers. Witnesses are questioned. Police initially suggested that witnesses saw four to five men shoot Mohib before fleeing the scene. Considering the heightened security that is supposed to be in place in the Rohingya camps, how could this have happened?
The current state of security in the Rohingya camps does not reflect well the living conditions in the camps. While human trafficking, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking have remained constant threats in the Rohingya camps, the killings of various people in the camps over the years have exposed security loopholes in the region. Unfortunately, not much has been done, it seems to rectify the situation. As a result, an honest man, father of nine, activist, died for supporting a good cause. According to a Reuters report, in view of the threats, Mohib had previously requested security support from the Bangladeshi authorities and the United Nations. But he didn’t, it seems. Why?
Rafiqul Islam suggested that Mohib had not filed any official complaint. “If he did, we could have considered it,” Islam said, as quoted by Reuters.
In the Rohingya refugee crisis, Myanmar is looking out for its own interests and is therefore unwilling to take the refugees back. While Bangladesh does its best to welcome refugees, it cannot continue to welcome them for long at Cox’s Bazar. And even if the refugees are transferred to Bhashan Char, it will not be a lasting solution. Sadly, Bangladesh has not been able to secure international support to force Myanmar to take back its people under peaceful conditions. And the international community, due to the various economic and political interests in Myanmar from many influential countries, is also not helping the cause of the Rohingya refugees. For them, economic and political gains may take precedence over human rights.
So the refugees are caught in limbo. They have nowhere to go and have no voice of their own. As Mohib was once quoted by The Guardian: “Imagine you have no identity, no ethnicity, no country. Nobody wants you. How would you feel? This is how we feel today. as a Rohingya. ” Today the Rohingya are an undesirable people, and their only voice was Mohib. And now that voice has been taken from them.
Who will speak for the Rohingya refugees from now on? Who will be their voice?
Mohib was more than just a Rohingya refugee. Mohib was an influencer and he could also have played a constructive role in aligning and promoting Rohingya concerns in the years to come. He could also have played a key role in the safe repatriation of refugees.
“For decades we have faced systematic genocide in Myanmar. They took our citizenship. They took our land. They destroyed our mosques. No travel, no higher education, no health care, no job… We are not stateless. have a state. It’s Myanmar, ”Mohib said. And at the end of the day, he wanted to return to his state, provided the conditions were favorable to his people.
Mohib’s murder is not only a major loss for the Rohingya community, but also for the government of Bangladesh as he lost the one person who could have helped to mobilize support for the safe repatriation of the Rohingya. While Mohib’s assassination left a void in the leadership space for the Rohingya, it also sent… a very alarming message to those working to support the refugee cause through peaceful means.
While the void cannot be filled so easily, Mohib’s killers should be immediately apprehended and brought to justice. The security situation in the camps must be reassessed. Further bloodshed in the Rohingya camps must be avoided at all costs.
Tasneem Tayeb is a columnist for The Daily Star. His Twitter handle is @tasneem_tayeb