Chicago center a hub for Rohingya seeking information on loved ones

World Today

Rohingya communities across the world are closely watching the crisis in Myanmar. As hunderds-of-thousands flee violence, family and friends are eagerly awaiting information on their loved ones.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports from Chicago.

The Rogers Park neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Chicago is known for its racial diversity. And it is here where the Rohingya Culture Center is based.

The center’s focus is now on Myanmar, after hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya escaped into Bangladesh following a military crackdown that began in late August.

The UN describes the situation as the world’s fastest developing refugee crisis.

“We cannot forget in our country, people. They need help,” according to the center’s founder, Nasir Bin Zakaria. “They are waiting for us. They cry to us, help us.”

The center caters to some 1,500 Rohingya living in Chicago’s north side, and provides English classes to help new arrivals better adjust to a life in the US.

But for many, their attention remains on the crisis unfolding in Myanmar.

“This is very heartbreaking news what we see every day. Some people are crying here. Even myself, I am not able to control my emotions,” Abdul Jabbar Amanullah said. “To see what is going on in the country. Small babies. Women are raped. Elderly men without food.”

In the center’s back room, children attend a Koran class. Roshna is just 10-years-old, but she is all too aware of the issues affecting her people.

“My dad is really worried about his sisters. They are scared to go outside. Some children are dying, like their mama dying. They are alone.” 

The center has become a hub for families looking for information on loved ones fleeing the crisis. In recent weeks, newcomers have been arriving with eyewitness accounts of brutality.

Abul Nasir arrived in Chicago with his family two weeks ago.

“One of my relatives, he was locked down in his house. The military set fire until he died.  Burning alive by the military.”

The Myanmar government says it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians.

Those at the center disagree. They are now actively lobbying members of the U.S. Congress, hoping to find a political solution to the crisis.