Brutalized Rohingya women struggle to come to terms with their trauma

World Today

Human rights groups say Rohingya women have been systematically raped and brutalized by Myanmar’s military. The survivors must now come to terms with their physical and psychological scars.

CGTN’s Shweta Bajaj reports.

Follow Shweta Bajaj on Twitter @ShwetaBajaj

18-year-old Sahera Khatun is in final month of her pregnancy. In August, she was six months pregnant. Sahera said she was raped by the Myanmar military in the same room with other girls.

“Soldiers entered and shut the door,” she recounted. “They first took our ornaments and then raped us. We shouted for a very long time, and then girls from our neighborhood came out to save us, and then the military fled.”

The rape left her seriously injured. She isn’t sure if her child is still alive. Her husband and his friend carried her on a stretcher made of bamboo and traveled for 13 days to reach Bangladesh from Myanmar.

The army has released a report denying any allegations of rape and violence by their security forces, but the women in these camps tell stories of gang rapes, assaults, and unimaginable violence that they had to endure.

The humanitarian group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Myanmar’s security forces of committing widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing during the past three months against Rohingya Muslims. Most people who have lost their lives in the violence are young men, leaving many women widowed.

A line forms outside of a clinic run by a local Bangladeshi NGO in a refugee camp. It’s long, and made up mostly of women, many of whom face acute health issues.

Over the past few months, they have been traumatized and physically abused.

“Living in unhygienic conditions, taking not enough nutritions (sic), their psychological and social—there is very big imbalance,” Sushant Maula Chowdhury, a senior medical officer said.

“And when there is somewhere problem with the mental side, the body also follows it.”

Thousands of these women suffer from depression and have no will to live. The Human Rights Watch report says the raping of Rohingya women and girls by Burmese soldiers appears to be more widespread and systematic than originally suspected.

Blanche Tax, a senior protection officer with UNHCR, said that more help is needed for these women.

“Women have of course told us about their experience. Practical support, medical support, psychosocial support—all very necessary. All being put in place. But we all need to still scale up these responses,” she said.

But for these women, who have survived a nightmare, reports and governments are neither important nor relevant. One look at them makes it clear: their recovery is a distant dream, and it’s a miracle they are still alive.