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A Rohingya Prisoner’s Account

By Zahida Begum

A story of a person from Buthidaung about his life in Buthidaung prison. As he said in his word “I am a very small and uneducated person. I am not a representative of any Rohingya organization. I am Siraj, a person from Buthidaung – Burma.” 

I was in prison for 12 years. In August 2011, I was serving in Buthidaung Prison. There was an ethnic cleansing in June 2012 as you know already about it where Burmese military had played the cruelty game with extreme level. During this time, the military have planned by pretending that “There is a big problem between Rohingya and Rakhine. This is a big problem between you two ethnic groups and fighting will not going to solve your problem. You both can live together. Just come to the table talk seriously.”

They have arranged meeting in government schools and everyone was invited to attend this meeting. After that all Rohingya people came to schools in their respective area in order to solve the problem by discussing rather than fighting. Rohingya people have gathered in the schools while the authority have informed already to the military in order to do mass arrest of Rohingya people from the schools of every village. The military have come and surrounded the schools and arrested nearly 554 Rohingya educated, teenage and scholars from the several schools in the same day. Military have taken off their clothes and put them in trucks as animals. They have arrested them from all villages of Maungdaw, Zetidaung, Ruama, Puinyele, Yengshong.

After mass arrest, military have quickly transfered these innocent Rohingya people to Buthidaung prison from the well known entrance of the Buthidaung’s prison “Red Gate” this gate is pronounced by Rakhine as “Bua”.

I was in the prison since 2011 and I am the eyewitness of this cruelty of military. I am saying what I have seen with my own eyes. As soon as they have arrived in the prison and I have seen it was like a doomsday, all 554 people were naked and the prison guards have started beating them non-stop. We always watched whole scene from the top in prison. We just saw that people were coming inside and heard their howling as they were beaten by bamboo while they were naked. After that they were transfered to the 2nd road called “Naisong”. Old prisoners always observed that these helpless and naked people were never served food and water.

In Buthidaung prison, we were approximately 1100 Rohingya people while Rakhine and Samoa were 60 in total. This was a daily routine of prison’s guards that first they used to beat on fingers and broke the fingers of everyone. They used to beat these naked Rohingya people time to time. When they used to get tired then they used to invite Rakhine and Samoa prisoners to beat these helpless Rohingya people for the sake of some foods from the prison’s guards.

Every morning of the prison starts with a parade of naked Rohingya people. We can watch this scene from the top of the prison easily. Military used to ask the relationship of them. There were son-in-laws and father-in-laws who were forced to walk together as humiliation. An extreme level of naked and public humiliation happens in the prison of Buthidaung everyday.

The teenage Rohingya prisoners age of 12 or 14 were forced to sleep with the guards of prison. If they deny to do that then they were never served food on that day. No one can bear hunger more than two or three days. Rest of people who never accepted the guard’s demands are never served food and they used to beat them till death. So, guards of prison used to throw 3 to 4 dead bodies rolling with blanket daily every night and used to bury them in the near mountain of Buthidaung prison.

This is very hard for someone to meet their loved ones in the prison. Any how if some one get chance to meet their loved ones then he/she has to pay heavy bribes and one security guard is always follow their meeting and keep constant eye on them as they know our Rohingya language very well then no body can share their real feelings with their relatives. So they are always obliged to say, “we are fine, we have food and the guards are taking good care of us”. Some of the relatives didn’t get chance to meet even after paying the bribes.

Furthermore, the head of prison used to inform to the guards of prisoners regarding the top level inspections which is a routine check in order to maintain the prison living standards from the state and this inspection used to be happened in six months or one year. So, the guards used to intimidate the prisoners in order to reply satisfactory and positive to the inspection team. If someone doesn’t follow the instruction then he is tortured until dead as the complete inspection is recorded by head of prison for the punishment after the departure of the inspection team. It means nobody can share their real expression as there is no guaranty the life security of that person. One of prisoner from Shab Bazar Mr. Zain Alam, he was beaten nearly death for daring to say the real situation of the prison.

I was sentenced in 2011. I have seen the prison treatment of June 2012 and they had transfered me into Akyab (Sittwe) in 2014 and I was imprisoned there for 2 years and 8 months. The prison of Akyab was better than Buthidaung. They at least allow us to take bath but the bribe system was same. If the authority gets the information about the visit of any prisoner’s relatives then they used to beat him a lot until they get the bribe from their relative for the visit. I was released from that hell finally on 8th February 2016.

This is my painful story of my prison life. I worry the Rohingya prisoners remain behind the prison walls who continue to suffer humiliation, torture, hunger and even death for being Rohingya Muslims.