“We could hear them screaming from the paddy field”
I’ve been documenting the horrors that the Rohingya people have endured at the hands of the Myanmar army. This Muslim minority has faced oppression for decades, but the battle to liquidate them has spiked this year. Those who have managed to escape have fled to Bangladesh and have started to speak about what happened when the army raided their villages.
The details from Myanmar’s “clearance operation” of the Rohingya will make anyone cringe and cry. Officers raping girls over and over, slitting their throats afterwards. They also set fire to villages and shot indiscriminately at those who ran out of the buildings.
The London Times published an article on Friday that provided testimonies from women who were raped by Myanmar soldiers. Doctors have treated these women at a clinic in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and have reported “evidence of mass sexual assault and are struggling to cope with the numbers.” The Times continued:
Armed with pistols and machetes, the soldiers stormed into Amina’s home, killing her husband with a shot to the head as they came in. When her two-month-old son began crying one soldier seized the child and dashed him against a wall. “My heart shattered into a thousand pieces,” Amina wept.
Two soldiers then held her down as a third man raped her. When she screamed they choked her until finally she endured the attack in silence. “When they pressed my face to a side,” she said, “I saw my son’s lifeless body lying there on the ground.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Rahma recounted how the soldiers separated the men and the women in her village. The soldiers then took the men into a hut at gunpoint and proceeded to set the hut on fire. Then they turned their attention to the women:
The women were forced to strip naked and herded together like cattle. Soldiers handpicked the youngest girls and dragged them away.
One of them was Saba, a 12-year-old girl who lived next door to Rahma. “We could hear them screaming from the paddy field,” Rahma said. They found the girls’ naked bodies floating in a muddy ravine the next day.
The clinic has had to provide many of these women with “emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV.” More from The London Times:
Mumtaz, 20, said that she was raped by five soldiers and walked to Bangladesh with dried blood still caked on her legs. The makeshift clinic in Cox’s Bazar stitched her up but could only offer paracetamol for the pain.
Nearby was Lena, 26, who describes how the women in her village of Pyaung Pyit were rounded up. “They gathered all the women and started beating us with bamboo sticks,” she said.
“After beating us the military took me and nine other women into a nearby hut. They cursed us in Burmese and told us we did not belong here. Then they started raping us. They slit four of the girl’s throats.”
Another young woman said she and her sister Yasmin, 18, were dragged by their hair and made to strip in a courtyard by soldiers, who tied them up and took it in turns to rape them. When Yasmin spat in one soldier’s face, her sister says she was smashed repeatedly in the face with a rifle butt until she was dead.
Other refugees have told stories of mass murder in their villages. The Myanmar soldiers arrived, ready to kill. They first shot their guns in the air and then turned on the residents. From The Washington Post:
Mohammed Roshid, a rice farmer, heard the gunfire and fled with his wife and children, but his 80-year-old father, who walks with a stick, wasn’t as nimble. Roshid said he saw a soldier grab Yusuf Ali and slit his throat with such ferocity the old man was nearly decapitated.
“I wanted to go back and save him, but some relatives stopped me because there was so many military,” Roshid, 55, said. “It’s the saddest thing in my life that I could not do anything for my father.”
One rights group said at least 150 people died in three villages:
“I can’t count how many,” said Soe Win, a 10th-grade teacher. “We were all watching what the military did. They slaughtered them one by one. And the blood flowed in the streets.”
When soldiers arrived in the villages, some told the people that they could not stay at home. Mohammad Showife, 23, said soldiers announced “their arrival with a strafe of machine-gun fire.” The Washington Post continued:
He and his family members scattered, and he stopped to help his neighbor Mohammed Rafique, 17, whose right hip had been run clean through by a bullet, back to front. They ran through a mob looting homes and soldiers setting fire to other dwellings with shoulder-fired rocket launchers. Many took refuge in the jungle, where the dense foliage, thick after the monsoon, provided cover.
Once there, some of the women sat silently weeping. Others just looked at each other: What would they do now? They tried to attend to Rafique’s wound with boiled water and torn strips of clothing.
The first night came, an uneasy darkness settled in, the sky flickering with fire and shadows. They did not know then there would be five nights more.
Then the military demanded Mohammed Zubair, 40, hand over his boats. He did so to save his life, but “watched in horror as the military began stacking dead bodies on the boat, one after the other, like lumber, including two 13-year-old boys he knew well.”
From The Independent:
Another man from the same village, named as Sultan Ahmed, 27, told the charity: “Some people were beheaded, and many were cut. We were in the house hiding when [armed residents from a neighbouring village] were beheading people.
“When we saw that, we just ran out the back of the house.”
Survivors from other villages in the region also described seeing people being beheaded or having their throats cut.
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