I don’t Want To Be Punished Anymore Just Because of My Looks and My Religion

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

That afternoon my cell phone rang. “Hello sir, at the moment the situation in Myanmar has become worse. Rohingyas are experiencing many more difficulties. The latest news is very bad. When can we meet?”, Mohammad Amir[1] said in worry. The 27 year old Rohingyan refugee had left Myanmar almost 8 years ago.

Mohammad Amir’s life was never easy but during the last months he is growing more and more concerned and sad. Since the violence in Myanmar last June, Mohammad has lost contact with his family. “I do not know whether my family is still alive. One thing for sure is that one of my siblings was able to reach Bangladesh,” he explained. Then the Embassy of Australia rejected his resettlement application. He started to suffer from extreme fatigue, confusion and from insomnia.


In Myanmar, most of the Rohingya people would not be able to get education. “Rohingya peopIe, like myself, would have to struggle in order to be able to enjoy school. I only went to school until the 4th grade. Even that started when I was 10 years old,” he said. As a Rohingya teenager one has to face difficulties and discrimination. “When I was 15 years old, I was forced by the government to work as an repairman in an office building with no pay,” he recalls with a sad face. “During the week, I was forced to do that for 4 days, starting in the morning till the evening,” he continued. “The break time was only half an hour, and whenever they found me resting between the work due of the tiredness or found out I was being less productive, I would get hit.”

“When my body is tired from the labor during the day, I was still often forced by the head of the village to night-guard at a security post in the borders until morning,” Mohammad Amir complained. It is the responsibility of the security forces to keep the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh clear, but they often force the Rohingya people to replace them to guard the border. “There was one night when I was so tired. I fell asleep during guarding shifts. I got caught and my entire body was beaten with wood. They even hit me in the face and my head was bleeding. It was really painful,” he said with sadness and anger. “I do not want to be treated like this anymore. Therefore I decided to leave”.

“I can’t return to Myanmar. There are only two choices for me if I return which are getting killed or be imprisoned for the rest of my life,” he said. Mohammad feels lucky to be in Indonesia even though his biggest wish is to find a country that is willing to accept him as a citizen. “I have fled to several countries such as Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Malaysia. I took the boat, bus, and even walked to cross these countries. In all of those countries, I have always felt threatened even though I could get a job secretly. If I were ever to get caught by the security, I would be put into prison or be banished. I feel better in Indonesia. Indonesian people are good-natured, they care for the Rohingyas, they sent help to Myanmar, and are willing to talk from heart to heart”, he states.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya’s are one the worlds most persecuted minorities in the world. They are part of 12 million people that are not recognized, as citizens of any country in the world after Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law did not include Rohingya as an ethnic group in Myanmar. With no citizenship status it is impossible for people like Mohammad Amir to obtain a passport, travel or work legally in their own or other countries, it is as if they are denied to be living in this world.

In the anxiety, confusion and fatigue that saddens him after his resettlement application got rejected by the Embassy of Australia, Mohammad Amir keeps trying to rebuild his hope. “I’ve written a letter to the UNHCR stating that I want to live in New Zealand.” This process of course will require an uncertain amount of time. While waiting in uncertainty, he tries to protect the only hope of living his life in dignity. “I really long for the life that people have in general and to have a safe future.” In order to make the best of his time in waiting he learns English as a preparation for his future. I hope the near future will give him the chance for a safe to hope and dream again.

Indro Suprobo

[1] For the purpose of protection we don’t use his real name.

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