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Rohingya: We Prefer to Call it Burma

keith harmon snow | Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh

A Rohingya girl stands on the fringe of the world's largest refugee camp, known as the Balukhali-Kutapalong expansion site. In 2017 more than 730,000 Rohingya, mostly Muslim, were forced out of Burma and into neighboring Bangladesh. This was a huge and unprecedented exodus, where the newer Rohingya refugees joined some 250,000 Rohingya that over the previous 15 to 20 years had fled Burma and established themselves in far eastern Bangladesh. Some 13 camps have evolved, with approximately 1 million Rohingya refugees effectively declared 'stateless' by the military government in Burma.

The indigenous Rohingya people traditionally lived in the region comprised of Rakhine State, in Burma, and several large districts in eastern Bangladesh, including Cox's Bazaar, Chittagong, and Bandarban districts. The Burmese government has revoked their citizenship and declared them occupiers and land-grabbers claiming that they all historically lived in Bangladesh, though there is a long and well-documented history of the Rohingya's traditional ethnocultural history on both sides of the international boundary delineated in the colonial era.

"We Prefer to Call it Burma" examines the plight of 'stateless' Rohingya refugees trapped in the Cox's Bazaar and Tecnaf districts of Bangladesh. Many Rohingyas call their country Burma, rejecting Myanmar (assigned by the military in 1989).

Photographs depict conditions in the camps, and provide documentary evidence and testmonials of genocide committed against Rohingya people by the Burmese military. They also juxtapose and situate the Rohingya in relation to the host community and surrounding areas.

Some one million Rohingyas struggle to survive in heavily popluated Bangladesh. This has caused conflict with Bangladeshis, esp. due to the uneven distribution of resources by the charity & aid complex. As more resources are depleted by the joint populations, these problems continue to grow. 

Violence in Burma continues. Rohingyas are being trafficked out of the camps�"and fleeing Burma by boat�"sometimes trapped at sea, held ransom, or killed. Talk is cheap and ubiquitous, but there has been little substantive international action or committment to truly help the Rohingya people.

As of May 5, 2020, CIVID-19 had no substantive impact on the Rohingya refugee camps. 

This project involved many people whose courage, resilience, kindness and determination cannot be overstated. Some of the names are changed, some redacted, to protect them from possible targeting by agents of the Burmese government. Along with the images of survivors I have gathered testmonials about the vioelnce, including dates of military operations, and the results of them; forensice evidence; the dates and places where atrocities occurred, and sometimes the names, ranks, or official positions of some of the perpetrators of atrocities.   

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