Rohingya exodus

Shortlist 2018

K M Asad

K. M. Asad is a Dhaka-based Bangladeshi documentary photographer and Journalist. He started his photography career in 2005 and is now a photo journalist at the Zuma press news agency and a contributing photographer at Getty Images.

The Conflict

Rohingya exodus

"It hurts to walk for three days straight without food and water, but it's more heart-wrenching when I think about my home, my things left behind," says an old Rohingya woman, a refugee from Myanmar, as she gulps down a cup of water. She is not the only one to flee from there.

Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya people have made or are still making their way to Bangladesh because of the brutal situation in Myanmar. "Rohingya": the word itself is taboo in Myanmar. Buddhist leaders refer to Rohingya as Bengali, immigrants to be rooted out. Rohingya are not included among the 135 ethnic minorities officially recognized by the state and do not qualify for Myanmar citizenship. Many reports on Rohingya persecution and marginalization begin with Myanmar's 1982 citizenship law, which stripped the country's 1 million Rohingya of citizenship, leaving them without access to health care and education. Waves of violence soon followed. The army calls the campaign a stamping-out of an insurgent terrorist military group. Observers say that though armed Rohingya insurgents exist, their overall numbers are small and they are poorly equipped. The crackdown came hard on the entire ethnic group. In what has quickly evolved into a humanitarian disaster of historic proportions villages have been burned to the ground. There are also reports that the army has set up mines along the Bangladesh border to ensure that those who flee do not return. The army insists they are interlopers from across the border. Rohingya point out they have lived in Myanmar for generations. They are surely not a people from a no man's land. Then just who are they?