COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh
Ameena Begum, 22, is stitching a dress at a sewing center located at a refugee camp in the Cox’s Bazaar town of Bangladesh.
Begum, a mother of one, is among the thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown which started on Aug. 25, 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh.
She no longer waits for aid to come to her. Instead, she spends a good part of the day making both male and female dresses at a training center run by Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV), an aid organization under Turkey’s religious authority.
“It seems to me now that I am a human being and I am doing something for my family. I dream of going back to my homeland [Rakhine] and set up a small tailoring shop there,” Begum told Anadolu Agency.
Another Rohingya trainee at the sewing center, Morium Hatun, said: “After losing my own country I am now living in a country where I can work. It’s a great pleasure for me amid piles of sorrows.”
“We have already trained up to 40 young Rohingya women and donated sewing machines to all of them. Currently, we are providing training to another 40 Rohingya girls,” TDV project officer Abdul Kayum told Anadolu Agency.
He added: “Now Rohingya women stitch clothes at our training center which are later distributed at the camps. Thus we are trying to make Rohingya people independent, confident and keeping their dreams alive.”
“We also have plans to expand our sewing training program so that we can include more Rohingya women,” he said.
At a close distance to the sewing center, TDV has also set up a soap factory. Seven Rohingya people supervised by an engineer are working there.
Every worker in this soap factory is being paid a monthly wage of 7,000 Bangladeshi taka ($82.9). The factory has manufactured 15,000 pieces of soap in the first phase which will be distributed among Rohingya families.
This small factory will be expanded to accommodate and train more Rohingya people.
“As a refugee in Bangladesh, I had never thought I will get a chance to work and earn a living,” Abdus Salam, a worker at the factory said.
A center for educational training has also been established in the vicinity.
Rohingya of all ages gather here to attain primary-level literacy and attend other awareness sessions.
Currently, 1,400 schoolchildren are being provided books, pencils and clothes by TDV.
“We are planning to cater to the needs of 20,000 Rohingya children this year,” Kayum added.
Mental and physical health
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), a state-run aid group, has also organized various programs for the mental growth of Rohingya children.
It has set up a park near a camp in Ukhia where more than a hundred children can play at a time.
Also, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) is running a large field hospital, with an intensive care unit.
“Our 13 doctors including 7 specialists are continuously providing treatment to needy locals,” hospital manager Serdar Hisar told Anadolu Agency.
He added that the hospital has 30 beds to admit patients for long-term treatment and two ambulances for emergency transportation.
“We have a well-stocked pharmacy and we supply free-of-cost medicines to Rohingya people and the needy,” he said.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.