Syaitara Longing for Her Mother

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Syaitara, a 10 years old Rohingya girl has been longing for her family since she was separated from her mother Khonsuma (34) and her two siblings Imam Husein (8) and Nurul Amin (6). The boat carrying her was stranded on the coast of Aceh Tamiang, while the other boat carrying her family was stranded on Pusong Telaga Tujuh Island, Langsa and then towed to Kuala Langsa. Syaitara is now staying at SKB Kuala Simpang Camp while her mother and siblings stay at Kuala Langsa Camp, about 38km apart.

Syaitara and her family left Rakhine Myanmar to reunite with the father, who is now in Malaysia. They travelled together from Myanmar to the border of Myanmar-Thailand with a cargo boat, then planed to travel by land through Thailand. But they were refused to enter the country by the Thailand authorities then loaded onto some fishing boats and directed towards the Indonesian shore until they got stranded on the east coast of Aceh on May 11, 2015.

At the port of Kuala Langsa, there are now 678 displaced people who occupy two warehouses. It is very hot during the day due to lack of air circulation. When JRS showed Syaitara’s picture to Khonsuma, she was very happy. Clasping hands on her chest and repeating her daughter’s name, “Syaitara… Syaitara,” Khonsuma expressed how excited she was to finally hear about her daughter again. Then she called her other two children to show Syaitara’s picture on the JRS’ camera. Because of language limitation, JRS could only said, “Syaitara is ok” and raised thumb to hint the good news.

Syaitara now stays at SKB Kuala Simpang Camp with 8 adult females and 4 girls. There are also 35 males, including 11 men from Bangladesh. Her camp has quite decent facilities. Normally used as accommodation for teacher training in Aceh Tamiang district, there were rooms with beds for the refugees. Some activist from a local NGO, Hijabers Tamiang, Dira and Liza TanƟana accompany refugees in this camp. When JRS visited on Friday (29/5), Liza and Dira were chatting with Syaitara using a mix of languages, including sign language and Indonesian. Syaitara shyly expressed that she wanted to see her mother. She could only say “Bibi, bibi” which means mother.

Hijabers had tried to find Syaitara’s mother in Kuala Langsa Camp and showed Syaitara’s picture through a smartphone. They were hoping to reunite them but it didn’t get any further than that due to some permit restriction. According to Dira, she already contacted Langsa City Social Agency, Red Cross, and Immigration to either transfer Syaitara to her mother’s camp or the other way around. Tahir, a fisherman from Pusong Telaga Tujuh Island had tried to help them too. He printed a picture of Syaitara and gave it to her mother. But he couldn’t do anything further than wait until the relevant authorities will approve the transfer. Tahir told JRS his story in helping the boat people.

While helping two boats towed to Kuala Langsa port on May 13, Tahir and his friends were initially stopped before entering Kuala Langsa port. However Tahir insisted and reminded port authorities that he was carrying people who needed help, and according to Aceh’s local marine law it is obligatory to help other human beings drifting in the sea. Finally the boat people, including Syaitara’s mother and her siblings were pulled to the port and got helped by the locals.

JRS had reported Syaitara’s situation to international organizations and local authorities, but until JRS left on May 30, it was still not clear when she would be reunited with her family. The last update JRS received from Hijabers was still the same. Dira and her friends are still hopeful to soon reunite Syaitara with her mother and siblings.

Rohingya children playing around the campDaryadi & Indrayanto

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