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Kutupalong – a photo series

Muhammad Idris , topos Editorial Team
Cox's Bazar
A young Rohingya shows the sign of peace by displaying two fingers and a contagious laugh.

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The largest refugee camp in the world is located in south-eastern Bangladesh. Kutupalong, in the Cox’s Bazar district, is home to more than 600,000 people, most of them Rohingya. The Rohingya, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, have faced such repression and persecution in their home country of Myanmar that the International Court of Justice is investigating Myanmar for genocide against the Rohingya.

One of the refugees is Muhammad Idris, who was born in Buthidaung in 2002. He was forced to flee to Bangladesh in August 2017, and has been living in Kutupalong ever since. You can see here a selection of powerful images taken by this passionate photographer in Kutupalong.

 

A Rohingya selling balloons in the refugee camp and the children who really enjoy playing with them.

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These two children have the same name, Janat Ara. They are also relatives and neighbours. They learn basic English and go to school regularly.
His name is Kaiser. He is 21 years old and lives in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. He is a very sporty boy, often playing football and cane ball. But in the Rohingya refugee camp, the camp is densely populated and there is very little space. It is also very difficult to play outside because the camp is surrounded by barbed wire. It is difficult to find a suitable place to play. Nowhere to play, jog and spend some precious moments.
It was in March 2021 when a major fire broke out in Camp 8. Almost 2,000 shelters were burnt down and people could not save anything. During the fire, an elderly Rohingya man and a young girl look at the fire from afar. Unfortunately, they are unable to help with the incident and safety comes first.
It is a picture of many people watching the fire, standing on a bamboo bridge. The bridge almost collapsed. The incident happened in the Kutupalong 5 refugee camp.
There are many things behind this photo. For the Rohingya refugees, taking pictures is something normal and easy. In fact, there are many young photographers, but people do not understand why photographers take pictures. Azizur Rahman is not even a photographer, but during the fire he takes photos and memories and often explains them to people in the community. He explains that it is not a photo, but an important memory for the Rohingya minority to show the world what we have gone through and to remember the difficult situation, said Azizur Rahman.
His name is Muhammad Aziz. He is 8 years old and goes to school and also to religious school. In the rainy season, he puts on a rain coat to go to school. His favourite game is the kite game.
Meet Abdul Ali, he is 35 years old, he lives in the largest refugee camp in the world. He has 7 family members and currently works as a day labourer, shopkeeper and vegetable seller. He cannot survive on what he gets from the NGOs. In Myanmar, he had nothing but four cows as pets with which he farmed and provided for his family. He has five children, but four of them are mentally disturbed and often suffer from insomnia at night. He went many medical services and medical clinic but I can't find proper treatment for them so he wants a better life for his children who suffer like this.
This is Sur Foraz. He is 86 years old. He was a carpenter in Myanmar and spent most of his life in Myanmar, unaware that his wife had fallen ill in Myanmar. In 2017, due to extreme persecution and genocide by the brutal Burmese military against members of the Rohingya minority, he fled Myanmar and arrived in neighbouring Bangladesh to save his life and survive. Some of his children live abroad and some also in Bangladesh, but they do not look after their father. Being alone, widowed and without a caregiver is very complicated. And as a person in need of care, you face a different set of challenges. For example, his illness, nobody thinks about his treatment, when he goes to an NGO clinic, he doesn't get proper treatment.
Hafez Keifaiyetullah is 44 years old. He runs a small shop selling tea and breakfast in the world's largest refugee camp. He is also a religious teacher and teaches in an Arabic religious school. He is very friendly and kind to everyone. He has a generous, gentle heart. He loves teaching and uplifting the children of the Rohingya refugees.
This is Emdadul Hason. He is 23 years old and works for Plan International as a programme coordinator and representative of a high school teacher. He quotes: "We are the same people living under the same sky with the red colour of blood. But we spend an inhuman life in a cage".
Sawyedul Mustafa is 22 years old and lives in the world's largest refugee camp. He is from Rakhine State in Myanmar. He left his country in 2017 during the mass exodus of Rohingya due to extreme persecution by the Myanmar government. He now lives with his family and works as a teacher for Plan International. The saddest thing in his life is that he lost one of his older brothers in a natural disaster. He misses his brother a lot, gets very emotional and is now addicted to smoking. "My life would not be the same if my brother was alive, I would be more proud than I am now," says Mustafa.
Meet 55-year-old Ali Huson, who fled Myanmar in September 2017 because of the military junta's genocide and extreme apartheid. In his village, everyone left their homes when the brutal military started burning down houses. Fortunately, his newly built house was not burned. At that moment he decided not to stay any longer because the military started killing innocent people. In the end, he had to leave his house to save his life. He desperately wants to go back to his home country because he has been living the hard life in the Bangladeshi refugee camp for more than five years. It is hard to believe how he survives through his daily work. People call him when it is time to carry petrol tanks from the office to their homes, and he is paid 50 taka per tank. He sadly says that it is very difficult for him to do hard work to support his family.
Some Rohingya youths and teenagers are having fun at the stream, some are bathing and some are jumping off the bridge. This is a popular stream and many children play here.

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