Rohingya stories: meet the refugees

Brutal military attacks against the Rohingya - a stateless Muslim minority - have escalated in Myanmar since August, and over 600,000 refugees have fled across the border to Bangladesh. Here, we highlight the stories of some of the refugees we met in Bangladesh's sprawling refugee camps.

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Meet 30-year-old zahida.

Zahida has six children - the eldest is 12 and the youngest is still a baby. Back in Myanmar, the family lived in a wooden house and Zahida's husband worked as a teacher.

But the family lost everything when the military came to their village. Soldiers burnt their house down and shot their neighbours and some of their relatives. 

Zahida fled Myanmar with her husband, six children and sister-in-law. It took them four days to get to Bangladesh on foot - even the little ones had to walk. All they carried were clothes, some food for the babies, and two spoons and two plates. 

When the family arrived at the refugee camp, they spent the first 10 days sleeping on the side of the road and in school buildings. Eventually, they were provided with a shelter pieced together with bamboo and tarpaulin. 

They have drinking water and access to toilets but so many people use the toilet that the children relieve themselves in the open. The little ones often suffer from fevers.

Zahida says they need lights, a proper stove for cooking, blankets and winter clothes. 


Meet 74-year-old Abuallam. 

Abuallam is married with six children, and in Myanmar he owned a house with a tiled roof. He grew crops and had his own livestock.

But everything changed for him when the army came.

Soldiers forced his neighbours to dig their own graves before they shot them. They murdered his sister-in-law and set her body on fire. Abuallam said that the village had a small stream running through it - but instead of water, it turned into a red stream of blood.

As their home went up in flames behind them, the family fled for their lives and hid in the forest. Some parents hiding in the forest with them were forced to kill their babies to stop them from crying and giving away their location to the soldiers.

On the traumatic, seven-day journey to the refugee camp, Abuallam and his family saw lots of dead bodies. His wife sold her earrings to pay for the boat crossing to safety in Bangladesh.


Meet 30-year-old Tasmina.

Tasmina has seven children (pictured above, with United Purpose staff member Kate Hartley). Back in Myanmar, her husband had a job in construction and the family lived in a two-storey wooden house. The children went to school where they studied the Burmese language and Arabic.

The family fled Myanmar with nothing other than the clothes on their backs. They had to leave Tasmina's older sister-in-law behind, and they haven't heard anything from her since. 

The military army people began shooting and we couldn’t bring anything with us - Tasmina

Tasmina was able to sell the gold earrings she was wearing to pay for the family's boat fare to Bangladesh. Tragically, the boat behind them sank - and they watched helplessly from their own boat as all but three people drowned.

The family didn't bring any money with them and Tasmina has not received any female hygiene products, which she needs. They have access to a water well and a toilet, but they need lights, a stove, firewood and ongoing food relief.

If the situation in Myanmar becomes stable, and if they are welcomed back, then they would like to return home. If not, they are too afraid to leave Bangladesh.



United Purpose is on the ground in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps, providing  clothing, toilets and washing facilities, and safe spaces for women and children. But as the crisis intensifies, we urgently need your help.

Please stand in solidarity with the Rohingya refugees and donate to our appeal today. Your support will help us save lives and transform the future for people like Zahida, Abuallam and Tasmina.