Sunday, April 27, 2014

"When she awoke, her brother was gone"

The (true) story of Mhd. Husein (15 years) and Senwara Begum (9 years) facing the horrors of the actual sea (and also a sea of inhumanity), separated from their parents.....perhaps forever.

So...we are experiencing in real-time the impact of yet another 2 nation policy...this time by devotees of a Great Soul who instructed that even plants and animals are to be treated with kindness. 

It is perhaps churlish to ask at such a sad moment, but when will the history of children displaced by the partitions in South Asia be written, many of whom are still rotting away in so many slums? If we the browns will not take responsibility, will the white man (Associated Press) launch an investigation and write the report? The theories of competitive grievances tend to drown out the reality of all the grief and misery.

The powerful epigraph in Jyoti Grewal's book on the Sikh riot victims (1984) comes to mind: ‘I write so I am not written out; I write so I am not written about.’
Their small boat was packed with 63 people, including 14 children and 10 women. They baked in the sun and vomited from the waves. Nearly two weeks passed, and then a boat with at least a dozen Myanmar soldiers approached. They kicked and bludgeoned the Rohingya men with wooden planks and iron rods, several passengers said.
They tied Mohamad’s hands and lit a match, laughing as the smell of burnt flesh wafted from his blistering arm. Senwara watched helplessly. The beatings finally stopped after Mohamad suspected money changed hands, and the soldiers ordered the boat to leave. The government said the Navy denied seizing any ships during that period.

“Tell us, do you have your Allah?” one Rohingya survivor quoted the soldiers as saying. “There is no Allah!”

The ship plodded on, but it was falling apart. A sarong stuffed in a hole could not stop water from bubbling through, and Senwara’s sticky rice and bits of bread were gone. 

When they finally floated ashore in Thailand, she had no idea where she was.

On shore, Mohamad and Senwara were given rice and dry fish and then put on another small boat without an engine. Thai troops pulled them far out to sea, cut the rope and left them to drift without food or water, survivors said. Senwara got sick after drinking sea water and eating ground-up wood.

The next day, they spotted a fishing boat. It was from Indonesia.
Once in Indonesia, after nearly a month at sea, Mohamad and Senwara were transferred to a filthy detention center with about 300 people, double its capacity.  
A riot soon broke out there between the Rohingya and illegal Buddhist fishermen from Myanmar, and eight Buddhists were beaten to death. 

Senwara slept through the brawl in another area. When she awoke, her brother was gone.

After a few months in jail with other Rohingya arrested from the fight, Mohamad was released due to his age and left for neighboring Malaysia. Mohamad found illegal work as a street sweeper, earning about $70 a month, and now lives in a tiny hovel with about 17 other Rohingya men. He remains tortured with guilt for leaving his little sister behind.

Soon after the detention center riot, Senwara was registered as an asylum seeker. She was moved to temporary U.N. housing in Medan, Indonesia, and taken in by a Rohingya woman. She remains hurt and angry for being left alone, and her heart aches for home.

Senwara’s parents didn’t learn the children were safe until more than eight months after their village was burned. On that awful night, their mother, Anowar Begum, and father, Mohamad Idris, fled with two babies into a lake. Later, they searched frantically and found five more of their nine children. The family ended up in a squalid camp with tens of thousands of other homeless Rohingya near Rakhine state’s capital, Sittwe. They had given up hope on Senwara and Mohamad by the time an unknown Rohingya called from Indonesia to say the children were safe.

Today, 22 months after their separation, it’s only through technology that the family, now scattered across three countries, can remain in touch. Mohamad, in Malaysia, watches a video clip of his sister playing soccer in Indonesia. Even as he breaks down, he cannot look away from the little girl on the screen. Back in Myanmar, Anowar stares at her daughter on a Skype video and sobs into her headscarf. Senwara wipes away her own tears in Indonesia as her father’s weathered face trembles.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to see my parents,” she says, softly. “For the rest of my life.”
The Associated Press reported the children’s story based on interviews and data from Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

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