Sunday, March 26, 2017

Young Rohingya Mothers Flee Persecution...

Sanwara Begum, 20, holds her 25-day-old daughter Aasma. She fled to Bangladesh from Khyeri Prang village in Myanmar, with her husband around two and a half months ago. "No one wants to leave their own home. We have come to Bangladesh only to save our lives. Myanmar is our home, we will move to Myanmar immediately if the situation becomes stable," Sanwara Begum said.
The babies' delicate features present a sharp contrast with the squalid conditions of the makeshift refugee camp, where a skipped meal or food poisoning can mean the difference between survival or death.
The Myanmar army launched its "clearance operation" after Rohingya insurgents attacked border guard posts in northwestern Rakhine state in October.
The United Nations said it had committed mass killings and gang rapes and burned villages in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
"One-and-a-half months ago the military came to our village and kept firing their guns," said Amina, one of the refugees, as she cradled her 16-day-old daughter, Sumaiya.
"You see us alive only because god was so kind," added Amina, 30. "They caught my uncle and my younger brother and we don't know whether they are dead or alive."
Rajuma Begum, 28, holds her one-month-old son Raihan. “I fled to Bangladesh because of fear, because I needed to save my children. I was pregnant and suffering from fever while crossing the border. I also have an 11-month-old boy, so it was very difficult to reach the border from our village Wabek in Myanmar. I had to rest frequently. After six hours of horrible walking finally we reached the border at 2am and crossed the border after paying the broker,” Rajuma Begum said.
The military calls its crackdown on the Muslim minority a lawful counterinsurgency operation to defend the country and has denied the allegations. Myanmar launched several investigations into the alleged abuse, but human rights monitors say they lack credibility and independence.
Amina is one of about 75,000 refugees to have successfully made an often perilous crossing through the fields, eventually fording a river boundary to reach Bangladesh.
Marijaan, 20, holds her 25-day-old daughter Noor Habi as her son stands behind her. “I reached the border at night and crossed by the boat. I paid the boatman to cross the Naf River,” she said.
Some starved for weeks, while others gave everything they had to pay off people smugglers. Many never made it, drowning or getting shot by Myanmar security forces on the journey.
Survivors, who rely on shelters of bamboo sticks and black plastic sheets for protection from a scorching sun, face a major challenge in keeping their newborns alive.
Aarafa Begum, 20, tends to her two-month-old daughter Noor Kayes. “My daughter is suffering from fever since last night but I don’t know where the clinic is," she said.
The camps often lack medical facilities and running water, leading aid agency workers to worry about an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera.
Jamalida, 30, holds her two-month-old daughter Shahida. She came to Bangladesh with her husband from Nasha Phuru village in Myanmar.
"People are living in tough circumstances. Most don’t have access to regular medical services and are not getting enough food," said Azmat Ulla, an official of the International Federation of Red Cross in Bangladesh, launching an emergency appeal for help on Monday.
Noor Kayes, 18, holds her 26-day-old unnamed daughter. Noor Kayes fled to Bangladesh with her parents from Poachong village in Myanmar two months ago after her husband was killed by the military.
Many women struggle for funds, having lost male relations, the sole breadwinners in most families. They rely on handouts from the World Food Program and other agencies.
Clinics run by non-government bodies and the U.N. are overrun, scrambling to treat thousands of patients each month.
Minara Begum, 22, calms her crying one-month-old son, Ayub, as she tells of fleeing from her village of Nasha Phuru with her husband and mother-in-law.
"My child doesn't get enough breast milk as I don't eat enough nutritious food," she said. "I have to buy milk powder, though it's not very good for my son."
Many women said they survived or witnessed acts of gang rape by soldiers.
Ramida Begum, 35, holds her 10-day-old unnamed daughter. “The military caught my husband and burnt our house down a week before I left Myanmar. Since then I don’t know whether my husband is dead or alive,” she said.
An official of a large Western aid agency told Reuters it had distributed more than 660 "dignity kits" for assault victims, besides counselling nearly 200 women who suffered trauma after the killing of a family member, usually male.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said the worker, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Fatema, 25, sits beside her one-day-old daughter Aasma. Fatema fled to Bangladesh from Jambuinna village in Myanmar two months ago after her house was burnt down by the military. She crossed Naf River by boat during the night. “Our situation is better than many other refugees here as my husband Mohammad Alom works here as a day labourer. Many of the new refugees have no work here, so they have to rely on relief,” Fatema said.
The quiet of Cox's Bazar, a beachside resort town, makes for a jarring contrast with the temporary camps amid rice paddies and salt flats just an hour's drive away.
Large groups of desperate women line the roads, begging for money from passing cars, often well after sunset.
A red blanket spread on the earthen floor of her shelter, Rehana Begum, 25, cares for her one-day-old daughter.
"We were in our home and suddenly the military came to our village and started shooting," said Rehana Begum, who fled her village of Jambuinna in Myanmar three months ago.
"When we heard the sound of gun shots we immediately went to our relatives. We walked for four hours without any food and water to reach the border at 1 a.m. We paid $18 to a broker to cross."
The figure is equivalent to 25,000 Myanmar kyat.
Intercepted by Bangladesh border guards, Rehana Begum's family narrowly escaped being sent home.
"They wanted to send us back, but then we heard gunshots from the Myanmar side and the guards released us, saying, 'Stay in Bangladesh and save your lives'," she said.
Noor Begum, 26, sits next to her one-day-old daughter Sumaiya. Noor Begum came to the camp one-and-a-half months ago from Nagpura village with her husband Jahangir Alom.
*https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/young-rohingya-mothers-flee-persecution

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Women Of Panjshambe Bazaar...

A strikingly dressed Bandari woman at her stall in Iran’s Panjshambe Bazaar. African and Indian influences are evident throughout the Gulf Coast region. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Each week, Panjshambe Bazaar attracts visitors from all over the region who come to experience the vibrant mix of African, Asian and Arab influences that make up the local tribes, known as the Bandari, which means ‘people of the port’ in Persian.
An Australian photographer captured these amazing images of Minab in Iran. Photo: Brook Mitchell
An Australian photographer captured these amazing images of Minab in Iran. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
Here, in stark contrast to the plain black burqas and niqabs seen elsewhere in the Middle East, the women are draped in colour and wear a decorative face mask — made of metal and covered in cloth. The mask dates back to the days of Portuguese colonial rule and was originally worn to deflect the attentions of slave masters, who were always on the hunt for the prettiest girls.
A Bandari woman in the Panjshambe Bazaar (Thursday Market). Photo: Brook Mitchell
A Bandari woman in the Panjshambe Bazaar (Thursday Market). Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
Australian-born, Bali-based photographer Brook Mitchell was given the opportunity to document this remarkable place, in all its colourful glory.
“Each mask’s design is determined by the different tribal groups, and the wearing of it is considered a sign of a girl coming of age,” Mitchell told news.com.au. “It apparently helps in a dust storm as well — which are frequent in the area.
A Bandari women in the livestock section of the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A Bandari women in the livestock section of the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
“It’s not considered by the locals as oppressive. It’s a legal requirement in Iran for women to wear the head scarf and full length clothing, though these masks are unique to the southern region and small pockets in other Gulf countries. As far as I understand it they have strong cultural significance.”
Sellers at the 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Sellers at the 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
Mitchell said Minab was becoming increasingly difficult for international travellers to access because of the current religious and political unrest in the region.
“Good people suffering under an oppressive government is what I think of my time there,” he said.
Goats aplenty at the 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Goats aplenty at the 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
“People I met across the country were overwhelmingly open, friendly and curious towards me, especially in the south where tourists are not common. I hope things improve for them soon.
“It’s not so often as a photographer you get to visit a place so visually rewarding that’s also been little visited by outsiders, at least in recent times. I was pretty lucky to get in and see what I did.”
A local Bandari man. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A local Bandari man. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
A Bandari woman wearing a distinctive red mask. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A Bandari woman wearing a distinctive red mask. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
A mural depicting local customs on the island of Hormuz, Persian Gulf. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A mural depicting local customs on the island of Hormuz, Persian Gulf. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
A Bandari woman in the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. After sharing a simple breakfast of fruit and tea with the photographer this woman was happy for her picture to be taken, something of a rare occurrence in conservative Islamic areas. The bright masks worn by the Bandari are unique to this part of Iran and are said to be a cultural adornment rather than a religious one. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A Bandari woman in the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar'. After sharing a simple breakfast of fruit and tea with the photographer this woman was happy for her picture to be taken, something of a rare occurrence in conservative Islamic areas. The bright masks worn by the Bandari are unique to this part of Iran and are said to be a cultural adornment rather than a religious one. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
Even the local artwork captures the Bandari’s striking masks. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Even the local artwork captures the Bandari’s striking masks. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
A carpet seller at the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar', Minab, Iran. Photo: Brook Mitchell
A carpet seller at the weekly 'Panjshambe Bazaar', Minab, Iran. Photo: Brook MitchellSource:Diimex
*www.news.com.au/travel/travel-ideas/adventure/iran-like-youve-never-seen-it/news-story/9e6dcbbe6b201c96e2dc6b033b468776