The Myanmar military is committing genocide against its Muslim Rohingya community, forcing thousands of people to risk their lives fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, but the world does not seem to notice the woes of the persecuted minority.
Sadly, the world (most of it, at least) didn’t seem to care about the Syrian migrant crisis either, until the dead body of small Syrian boy, dressed in red shirt and blue shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in sand and water.
It was a heartbreaking sight that brought tears to countless eyes across the globe, but it wasn’t the only photo of its kind. There a lot of Aylan Kurdis across the world, the children who have paid the ultimate price for the conflict they don’t even understand — Mohammed Shohayet was just one of them.
The picture of the 16-month-old baby boy was posted on social media in December, but didn’t draw much attention. Since Myanmar doesn’t allow media coverage of the embattled Rakhine State, it was only after the child’s father arrived in a Bangladeshi refugee camp that he was able to share the horrific story about his loss.
“When I see the picture, I feel like I would rather die,” Mohammed's father Zafor Alam told CNN. “There is no point in me living in this world.”
The picture Alam referred to showed his young son lying still in the mud after washing up on a river bank. He drowned in the water, trying to flee the atrocities on his homeland.
His mother, uncle and 3-year-old brother lost their lives as well.
“In our village, helicopters fired guns at us, and the Myanmar soldiers also opened fire on us. We couldn't stay in our house. We fled and went into hiding in the jungle,” Alam continued. “My grandfather and grandmother were burnt to death. Our whole village was burnt by the military. Nothing left.”
In an exclusive interview, the father told the network he was separated from his family as they constantly changed their location to hide from the military. After Alam made it to the Naf River, which runs between Myanmar and Bangladesh, he started swimming and was rescued by some fishermen who helped him across the border.
Once there, he began trying to get his wife and sons to safety.
“I called (my family) on Dec. 4. They were very desperate to leave Myanmar,” Alam recalled. “They were the last words I had with my family. When I was talking to my wife over phone, I could hear my youngest son calling 'Abba-Abba' (father-father).”
Alam had made a deal with a boatman to help his family cross the river, but just as they were making their escape, the security forces found them.
“When the Myanmar police got a sense that people were preparing to cross the river, they opened fire,” the man explained. “Hurriedly, the boatman took all people on board to escape the firing. The boat became overloaded. Then it sank."
He was waiting for his family’s safe return when he found out what happened.
“Someone phoned me and said my son's dead body was found. He took a photo of my son by mobile phone and sent it to me. I was speechless,” Alam said. “It's very difficult for me to talk about my son. He was very fond of his father. My son was very affectionate. In our village, everyone used to love him.”
Human rights activists have repeatedly accused Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who happens to be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former political prisoner, of committing ethnical genocide against the members of Rohingya community, but to no avail.
According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 34,000 people from the Rakhine State have crossed the border into Bangladesh in recent months.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters