July 10, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR: While Muslims around the world eagerly anticipate the coming of Ramadhan with their beloved families, Annuar Begum Mohd Hassan, 40, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar has accepted her fate of having to go through the fasting month without her seven children and husband by her side.
This Ramadhan would be her first one on foreign soil, and things are made tougher for her when she looks back on the fate of her fellow Rohingyans back in Myanmar.
However Annuar Begum can be considered lucky as she is now a refugee placed under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNhCR) and is being looked after by the Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM) in Ampang.
“I feel sad when I think about what has happened to us, since last October, it’s as though only our physical self are alive, the rest feels dead.
“After arriving on Langkawi island, I was separated from my husband and until today I have no idea where or how he is,” she told mD.
Annuar Begum was detained at the Immigrations Depot in Ajil, Terengganu before she was handed over to the UNHCR and RSM.
“All of us are constantly reminiscing on the past Ramadhan, filled with the laughter of our children and relatives, but now we have to depend on the charity of others just to make sure we have enough to eat for breaking fast,” she said.
Annuar Begum is among thousands of Rohingya refugees suffering from the turmoil that has befallen the Arakan (Rakhine) territory after the killing of Buddhists in the area.
It is believed that about 15,000 refugees are currently in Malaysia since 1982 after the Myanmar government pulled back the citizenship of Rohingyans, making them refugees in their own country.
This was reiterated by Annuar Begum who believes that the turmoil in Rakhine is brutal to the point that they were not allowed to leave their own areas. Their lands were also confiscated and they were not allowed to practice Islam freely there.
“How are we supposed to celebrate Ramadhan when our mosques over there have been demolished? Our rights taken away from us?
“However we are thankful that we have been accepted here. We have food to break fast with here, although we do miss our own cuisine ‘Semai’, ‘Suki’ and ‘Lurifida’ that was our staple dish for breaking fast back home,” she said whilst wiping away tears.
For young mother, Amunah Khatub Rabiullah, 22, she feels especially lonely this time around after being separated from her husband as a result of the turmoil.
The situation is made worse for her as she is 9-months pregnant.
“I don’t know where my husband is, we were separated after landing on Langkawi Island recently,” she said.
However, Aminah who was previously taking shelter at the Refugee Camp in Switte for a month is still optimistic about celebrating Ramadhan despite not having her husband by her side coupled with the fact that she is due to deliver her baby soon.
“I am grateful that I am still alive today. I have enough to eat and drink although the sorrow in my heart still hasn’t gone away,” she said.
Howeveer things are a little different for a young male refugee who arrived here last Mei after months of wandering around seeking for shelter from other places.
“This Ramadhan will be the best one ever for me after years of living in turmoil in my own land,” said Mohd Rafiq Mohd Hamid.
The 36-year-old from Arakan said his dream is to do the tarawih prayers in Ramadhan, something that he has been longing to do for so long.
“Here, there are mosques and we can pray anywhere compared to Arakan where our mosque was demolished by the Myanmar army,” he said.
Mohd Rafiq who is still in the process of getting a refugee status here, continuously uttered his gratitued for being able to enjoy Ramadhan this year.
“If I was still in Myanmar, I don’t think I can truly feel the joys of fasting,” he told mD.
“They are very brutal, look at what they did to me,” he said showing his bandaged left hand.
A few months ago, while he was looking for food for himself, three Rakhine men approached him and tried to stab him with a machete, however he managed to deflect their attack, but his hand took a hit.
“They wanted to kill me because I am a Rohingya. For 50 years our people have suffered and now they want to entirely eliminate all Muslims in Myanmar. That is why we have been victimised.
“Last January 25th, after the attack, I ran off to Bangladesh to get treatment but the hospital refused to accept me. After that I headed to Malaysia via boat. I went through Thailand before arriving in Penang,” he said.
Upon arrival in Penang, Mohd Rafiq was handed over to the United Nations (UN) for protection.
Meanwhile, RSM president, Dr Abdul Hamid Musa Ali said the society are acting as a medium that was appointed by UNHCR to protect these refugees before they are handed over to their relatives who are already here.
“They are also provided with education so they are better prepared to face the world outside. Most of them have no direction, which is why we are here to give them help and motivation to carry on,” he said.
Since April, an estimated 900 refugees have been given protection by RSM before they move into the homes of relatives already residing in the country.