and recalled the last time she saw her husband. He was among more than 600
Rohingya Muslim men thrown in jail in this remote corner of Myanmar during a
ruthless security crackdown that followed sectarian violence, and among one in
10 who didn’t make it out alive.
were crammed with men, hands chained behind their backs, several stripped
naked. Many showed signs of torture. Her husband, Mohammad Yasim, was doubled over, vomiting
blood, his hip bone shattered.
collapsed,” the 40-year-old widow said.
Her account was corroborated by her father, her 10-year-old son and a neighbor.
“Other prisoners told us soldiers took his corpse and threw it in
nation of 60 million in the last 16 months has been most intense in the western
state of Rakhine, where 200 people have been killed in rioting and another
140,000 forced to flee their homes. Three-quarters of the victims have been
Muslims — most of them members of the minority Rohingya community — but it is
they who have suffered most at the hands of security forces.
in connection with mob violence across Rakhine state, roughly four Rohingya
went to prison, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.
severely punished, even when there is little or no evidence of wrongdoing. For
example, Amnesty International says Dr. Tun Aung
was summoned by authorities to try to help ease tensions but could not quiet
the agitated crowd. He was arrested a week later, labeled an agitator and is
serving nine years in prison. The human-rights group calls the doctor a
prisoner of conscience.
religious minorities in the world — been more zealously pursued than in
northern Rakhine, which sits along the coast of the Bay of Bengal and is cut
off from the rest of the country by a parallel running mountain range.
from families that have been here for generations. Others arrived more recently
from neighboring Bangladesh. All have been denied citizenship, rendering them
stateless. For decades, they have been unable to travel freely, practice their
religion, or work as teachers or doctors. They need special approval to marry
and are the only people in the country barred from having more than
ended when President Thein Sein‘s quasi-civilian government took
power in 2011. But in northern Rakhine, where Buddhist security forces have
been allowed to operate with impunity, many say life has only gotten worse
even been questioned,” said the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in
Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, calling on the state to investigate allegations
of official brutality.
its people, that there has to be some accountability.”
and email, presidential spokesman Ye Htutrefused to comment about allegations of
abuse by soldiers, police and security forces linked to
granted access to northern Rakhine, which has been under a government crackdown
since ethnic violence erupted there on June 8, 2012.
of Maungdaw, killing 10 Buddhists, including a monk, and torching more than 460
Buddhist homes, according to state advocate general Hla Thein. The violence
came in reaction to a deadly Buddhist attack on Muslim pilgrims in southern
Rakhine that was sparked by rumors of a gang rape by Muslim men.
village of 8,000 and home to Jaan and dozens of others interviewed by
dusty foot paths. Residents peered cautiously through the slats of tall bamboo
fences, then eagerly beckoned the journalists through their gates. Some pulled
out pictures of sons, brothers or fathers who have been imprisoned since their
arrests in the weeks that followed the violence.
border security unit known as Nasaka showed up at homes, hauling in more than
how small. Men with tired, weathered faces dragged out plastic buckets filled
with broken glasses, dishes, picture frames — belongings wrecked when security
forces ransacked their houses.
valuables and raped women.
64-year-old woman who alleges she and her two daughters were raped by members
of Nasaka. Her voice trembling, she asked not to be named, saying she
said, shrouding much of her face with a light blue headscarf so that she could
speak on camera.
nothing,” she said.
said security forces arrested relatives who had done nothing wrong. Some said
people who were not even in the area at the time of the riots were
even leave a single plate we were using,” said Zura Khatun, 50. “And
then … they took my 30-year-old son, Baseer.”
arrest from his home.
him with a gun many times, as his mother and wife begged them to stop,”
the 67-year-old said. “They grabbed both his hands on one side, and his
two legs on the other, and threw him onto the truck like trash.”
was interviewed. It was taken shortly after he was detained and shows him
squatting on the ground, looking up at the camera with glazed,
was taken 25 kilometers (14 miles) away to Buthidaung, where a larger jail is
reserved for more hardened criminals.
tears. “But when I got there, less than two weeks later, they turned me
away. They said he was dead.”
independent humanitarian-based research group that has spent nearly a decade
documenting abuses in the region, said 966 Rohingya from northern Rakhine were
jailed after the riots: 611 in northern Rakhine jails, where 62 inmates died
(all in Buthidaung), and another 287 at the jail in the state capital, Sittwe,
where she tallied another six prisoner deaths.
inmates. Lewa said many inmates were denied lifesaving medical treatment for
injuries sustained during arrest or from torture and beatings in jail — both by
wardens and Buddhist Rakhine inmates.
similar to Lewa’s. He said jail conditions appeared to have improved by the
time he last visited northern Rakhine in August, but he added that there were
credible reports that sick, elderly and underage inmates had been temporarily
moved to other locations before his visit.
main targets of mob violence, and the only place in the country where most
people are Muslim. Hla Thein said that across Rakhine state, at least 147
Muslims and 58 Buddhists were killed.
majority of suspects. Data collected from rights groups, courts, police and
other officials indicate that at least 1,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims and 260
Buddhists were arrested following the statewide riots.
Rohingya, according to Lewa. Three were sentenced to life in prison in August
for the killing of the monk, she said, and many others got up to 17 years
behind bars. Those accused of lesser crimes such as arson got between three and
said. There were no translators or family members present. Some were tried
collectively, according to Quintana.
of law or judicial guarantees,” he said. “In many cases, it’s not
clear what charges have been filed against each of these prisoners.”
the sectarian crisis flared has been to disband Nasaka in July, largely over
fears the U.S. was preparing to slap it with sanctions.
has made no effort to explain what happened to its former members. Human-rights
activists and Rohingya speculate that they were simply transferred to
dignitaries carried a gun with a Nasaka insignia. And officials said a new
security force made up of police and immigration officers, operating out of the
old Nasaka camp, has assumed many of the responsibilities that the former,
feared border security unity held.
freedom.” Ba Thun Aung, the Buddhist Rakhine administrator of Ba Gone Nar,
told Rohingya villagers, according to his own account.
keeping much-hated family lists in which Rohingya are registered or “blacklisted.”
Children born to unwed parents, or those who have already met a two-child limit
imposed only on Rohingya, are not recognized by the government and are not
eligible for such basics as public education and health care.
Rohingya say security forces aren’t as brutal as they once were.
that the persecution of their people will ever end.
In this Sept. 12, 2013 photo, a Muslim woman records her movements at a security checkpoint as a man and a child wait for their turn in Kyark Pan Du village, Maungdaw, Rakhine state, Myanmar. A state of emergency declared after last year’s sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims, meant that Rohingya were barred from traveling, even from one village to the next. Rohingya still can’t go outside northern Rakhine, not even for emergency medical care. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe, AP