One Million Refugees

After travelling on foot for over 300 kilometres from Myanmar, where ethnic cleansing is taking place, a family member finally reunites with others in a mountainside field near the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
After travelling on foot for over 300 kilometres from Myanmar, where ethnic cleansing is taking place, a family member finally reunites with others in a mountainside field near the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group who settled Myanmar centuries ago, but due to racism and many other sociopolitical issues among the ethnic majority in Myanmar, they have been declared a stateless Bengali community who migrated to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

When God remains silent even as war or genocide rages on, when humans are in a terrible condition, we seek help, but no one can rescue us from the death of humanity. I have spent around 30 days covering the exile of Rohingya refugees from hundreds of kilometres away, barefoot and clutching the hands of their loved ones, tears in their eyes and fear in their hearts, hoping to save their own lives. Many children were half-naked; they didn’t have time to get dressed, or their clothes were lost during the long journey to seek refuge in Bangladesh. I saw an older man named Ahmed, who carried his 90-year-old mother, walk endlessly under the hot sun, having lost his other family members during the attack by the Myanmar Army. Words are not enough to articulate the horrific experiences of people who have been through such devastation, when the state declares war to clean up their people, barely reserving any sympathy. However, Myanmar is a country where Buddhists are the majority. How ‘Himsa’ (injury) has led them to kill and rape many Rohingyas as an attempt at genocide and ethnic cleansing is a burning question. I have spoken to many Rohingya people, and everyone has stories of losing one or more from their families; many are raped, and the Myanmar Army has killed countless others. There are reports of women being captured for sex slavery, and many more remain missing.

It was a near impossible task for a conscious photographer to listen to the stories and take the photographs to capture the best aesthetic. It was more like documenting the true horrors of human suffering. I went to the local hospitals several times to see the victims who entered Bangladesh with injuries inflicted by the Myanmar Army when they were fleeing. Or perhaps the army just wanted to loot the belongings of these people.

A Rohingya refugee carrying firewood for his camp. Many refugee camps such as these suffer from a lack of fuel for cooking.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
A Rohingya refugee carrying firewood for his camp. Many refugee camps such as these suffer from a lack of fuel for cooking. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
Shajeda Begum, 46, has travelled a great distance to seek shelter. A victim of the Myanmar Army’s raid,
she continues to live under the open sky in Bangladesh after losing her home, land, and loved ones.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
Shajeda Begum, 46, has travelled a great distance to seek shelter. A victim of the Myanmar Army’s raid, she continues to live under the open sky in Bangladesh after losing her home, land, and loved ones. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
A Rohingya refugee father watches as his son plays games inside the camp. The Rohingya community
in Myanmar is recognised as one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2018.
A Rohingya refugee father watches as his son plays games inside the camp. The Rohingya community in Myanmar is recognised as one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2018.
During the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar, over a million refugees were forced to build their homes in
Reserve Mountains with aid from NGOs, the Bangladesh government, and the local community.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2018.
During the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar, over a million refugees were forced to build their homes in Reserve Mountains with aid from NGOs, the Bangladesh government, and the local community. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2018.
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About the author

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based documentary photographer, filmmaker, visual artist, and art educator. His work explores human rights, social development, politics, the environment, and spirituality. Hasan was nominated for many international awards and has won hundreds of photography competitions worldwide, including the Lucie Award, One World Media Award, Human Rights Press Award, and Allard Prize. His photography projects have been exhibited in Photo Basel, Shanghai Photo Festival, NordArt Festival, Berlin Photo Festival, Belgrade Photo Month Festival, Indian Photo Festival, and many other galleries worldwide. He pursued a one-year certificate in creative practices at the International Centre of Photography. Hasan holds a postgraduate certificate in photography from Falmouth University and an undergraduate certificate in Art History and Philosophy from Oxford University. He also pursued a postgraduate diploma in photojournalism from Ateneo de Manila University and graduated in film and video production from UBS Film School at the University of Sydney and received a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in photography from Falmouth University. Hasan works as a visual journalist for ZUMA Press, Redux Pictures, Inter Press Service (IPS), and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He is a consultant photographer and filmmaker for the World Health Organisation, UN Women, Oxfam, Red Cross, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ActionAid, WaterAid, and many other international non-profit organisations. The °CLAIR Galerie in Switzerland exhibits his artworks. He is a Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Fellow and a former TEDx speaker. He is a 2022 Oxford Climate Journalism Network (OCJN) fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. Hasan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in photography at Falmouth University via distance learning.

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Four families sitting with their remaining food storage. Due to high salinity, agricultural produce cannot flourish. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
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