by Shafiur Rahman
In March of 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout the world, the forecasts were dire for the Rohingya living in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. The camps are congested places with a very high population density and rudimentary sanitation. Access to water is challenging in many of the camps. The preparedness of the entire Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, where the camps are situated, was a source of concern. Compounding this, the refugees did not have access to the internet. Bangladesh had restricted their access to 3G/4G internet services.
This exceptionally worrying set of circumstances provided the impetus for holding the Rohingya Photography Competition. The camps became out of bounds for journalists and aid workers in the strict lockdown that ensued. Documentation of the daily challenges of existence within the refugee camps fell to the Rohingya themselves.
The competition had two simple and broad themes - “Response to Covid-19” and “Rohingya Life.”
Who are the Rohingya refugees?
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh come from Rakhine State in Myanmar. Over the last four decades, they have been effectively rendered stateless and subject to persistent human rights violations, and mass expulsions from the country. In 2019, a case was filed before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine State violate various provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Why are they in Bangladesh?
In August 2017, more than 740,000 Rohingya suffered extreme violence at the hands of the Myanmar military and fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. There have been periodic episodes of catastrophic violence resulting in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya. Some of the Rohingya have been refugees multiple times
What hope is there for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar?
The bulk of the Rohingya in Bangladesh were made refugees in 2017. They escaped murder and mayhem and the burning of their villages by the Myanmar military. Thousands lost their lives in August and September 2017. Refugees believe that for any repatriation to work and be sustainable, their safety has to be guaranteed and rights, including citizenship rights, need to be restored. The Myanmar military coup of 1 February 2021 presents both challenges and opportunities for the Rohingya.
First prize winner - Rohingya response to Covid-19 category and Second Prize winner, Photo series category
"Fire in Kutupalong. Fires are regular occurences in the camps. In 2020, several children died in such fires. "
"Children wearing masks to protect against Covid-19. Learning centers closed throughout the lockdown and continues in 2021"
First prize winner - Rohingya response to Covid-19 category and Second Prize winner, Photo Series Category. Ameen, 48, has been a refugee three times in his life. The first time being 1978.
"Social distancing in No Man's Land."
"Elderly woman carrying mud to repair her shelter."
Finalist. Refugee since 9th October, 2016.
"View of a football match in a Rohingya refugee camp. "
Prize winner. Response to Covid-19 category. Born in 1988, Sindheprang, Myanmar. Hossian became a refugee at the age of 4.
"Covid-19 isolation clinics."
MOHAMMED SALIM KHAN
Prize winner, Rohingya life category. Salim was born in Bangladesh. His parents became refugees in 1991.
"Portrait of a Rohingya refugee woman in blue."
"Dignity in adversity."
Prize winner, Response to Covid-19 category. Dil Kayas, 27, has been a refugee since August 2017. She is a Fortify Rights Media fellow.
"Coal irons are expensive and very few people own them. "
Prize winner, Photo Series Category. Ameen, 48, has been a refugee three times in his life. The first time being 1978.
"No Man's Land is flooded annually. Tubewells & toilets become unusable. "
Finalist. Rohingya Life Category. Naseema is 20 years old. She has been a refugee since 2005.
"Portrait of a Rohingya refugee girl."
First Prize winner - Rohingya life category
"The Refugee vortex - man sitting in water with algae & dirt."
Prize winner - Photo series category. Abdullah has been a refugee since 2017.
"Fire in the camps. This is all that is left"
RO YASSIN ABDUMONAB
Finalist. Rohingya Life Category
"Internet ban forced people to rely on 2G. Only some spots had any signal. And people would huddle."
First Prize winner - Rohingya life category
"Red & Cursed. Portrait of a Rohingya refugee boy."
Prize winner, Rohingya life category. Jamal was born in Bangladesh and has been a refugee all his life.
"All dressed up for Eid."
Rohingya life category
"Refugee women queue up to collect water twice a day. "
Finalist. Rohingya life category
"The problem of water is an acute one."
Competition PR Photographer
"Girl wearing mask. "