By Dildar Baykan
NEW YORK (AA) - Two Rohingya rights activists who fled persecution in Myanmar's Rakhine State narrated their stories to Anadolu Agency.
Yasmin Ullah, director of the Canada-based Rohingya Human Rights Network, fled her hometown Buthidaung to Thailand as a toddler in 1995.
"We stayed there almost illegally but you know statelessness is being illegal," she said.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Yasmin said her family left for Canada in 2011.
“And after 2017, when the August 25 massacre happened, you know, we, the world sort of saw genocide unfold very, very quickly. Even though it has been ongoing for some time, I started to feel like it was hitting home […],” she added.
“I would thank my mom for saving me from all those heartaches because one thing -- that motivated her to actually took me on the ship filled with military men who are ready to jump and rape her -- was because she wanted me to be able to access education,” she added.
In Thailand, she said, her parents lived in refugee camps for sometime.
But because schools were far away from the camps, she said her parent decided to find ways to move out.
Her parents got her and her mother a fake identity.
“So like I would get scared if anytime my teacher calls and ask me to go somewhere,” she said, recalling a childhood overshadowed by intense fear.
She said she was scared every time she passed a police checkpoint in Thailand.
- Fleeing to Bangladesh
A lawyer and writer of two reports on abuses against Rohingya Muslims, Razia Sultana said she was born in Rakhine State and moved to Bangladesh when she was six months old.
Her father was doing business in Bangladesh and later got the nationality.
Sultana said persecution against Rohingya Muslims began in the 60s when Gen. Ne Win staged a coup and took control of the government.
“He kicked from every sector of political level the Muslims, especially the Rohingya,” she added.
She has been involved with the Rohingya community since 2014, she says, but the year 2016, when she interviewed refugee women, changed her life.
“I saw many women just without any reason they were crying, they were screaming,” she said.
Many of them had suffered abuse and rape, she added.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
The UN also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In its report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.