None agreed to go back before citizenship: Rohingya leaders
Thousands of Rohingya refugees observed the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh on Sunday by holding a grand rally where they placed their five-point demands including citizenship and other basic rights in the country they fled from.
The event was organised days after the failure of second attempt to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingyas as none agreed to go back their homeland voluntarily. Myanmar had fixed August 22 for the beginning of the process. The first attempt of repatriation was failed in November last year.
On Sunday morning, more than 200,000 Rohingyas gathered at a playground in Kutupalong camp. Some carried placards and banners reading "Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day," and "Restore our citizenship."
A prayer session is also scheduled for the victims of the killings, rape and arson attacks by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist militias. Security was tightened in the camps despite the Rohingya groups' pledge that they would protest peacefully.
Around 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar's Rakhine state escaped in August 2017 during the brutal offensive, joining another 200,000 who fled earlier persecution in vast camps in southeast Bangladesh.
Children, hijab-wearing women, and men in long-skirt lungis shouted "God is Great, Long Live Rohingya" as they marched at the heart of the world's largest refugee camp to commemorate what they described as "Genocide Day".
Under the scorching sun, thousands joined in a popular song with the lyrics "the world does not listen to the woes of Rohingya".
"I have come here to seek justice for the murder of my two sons. I will continue to seek justice till my last breath," 50-year-old Tayaba Khatun said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Myanmar had said they were conducting counter-insurgency operations against Rohingya extremists after they attacked police posts, but the UN last year called for Myanmar's top generals to be prosecuted for genocide over the crisis.
Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah said the stateless minority wanted to return home, but only after they were granted citizenship, their security was ensured and they were allowed to settle back in their villages.
"We have asked the Myanmar government for dialogues. But we haven't got any response from them yet," Ullah told the rally.
"We were beaten, killed and raped in Rakhine. But still that is our home. And we want to go back."
AFP reports, Police officer Zakir Hassan said, some 200,000 Rohingya took part in the peaceful gathering.
Security has been tight across Kutupalang camp, the world's largest refugee settlement and home to more than 600,000 Rohingya.
"Hundreds of police, army and border guards have been deployed to prevent any violence," local police chief Abul Monsur told AFP.
The rally came three days after the failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border.
On Saturday, Bangladesh police said they shot dead two refugees during a gunfight in a camp after the pair were accused of killing a ruling party official.
The Rohingya are not recognised as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in the country for generations.