We're Live Bangla Wednesday, June 07, 2023

The nightlife of Rohingya refugees

A barbershop in Kutupalong refugee camp is open at night. Photo: Azad Mohammed

Many people do not know what it is like to be a refugee at night. The international humanitarian organizations have to leave the refugee camp at night in Bangladesh. The nighttime in the camps is different than in Rakhine state. Rohingya refugees try to sleep but most can’t sleep for fear of the future and a longing for justice.

However, the nighttime is still a social time for Rohingya people. We sit together, and many of us talk about the days that have passed – about our shared suffering from the Myanmar military and our hope for justice.

There are now more than a million Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh. At night, shops keep their doors open. Rohingya people come and gather around the solar light the shops use to get customers. The solar lights reflect beautifully off the betel-nut and sweet drinks being sold.

Refugees don’t watch clocks or see time. The days turn into nights. My Rohingya people watch the sun turn into the moon to tell the time – day after day.

I am a Rohingya from Buthidaung Township, in Rakhine state, Myanmar. I fled with other Rohingya after waves of violence from the Myanmar military in August 2017 that killed many people. Since fleeing to the refugee camps I have been training myself in photography through watching YouTube videos on my phone. And through other famous accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

Rohingya men and boys sit in front of a small shop. Photo: Azad Mohammed

I started taking photos on my phone and later started using a real camera. Now in Bangladesh we Rohingya have started to find some safety. We have become artists including poets, musicians, and photographers. I have become a photographer and I am using my skills to bring light to my people.

Rohingya girls and boys gather around a fire at night. Photo: Azad Mohammed

The world does not always see Rohingya refugees even in the light of day and we are still not able to return to Myanmar with safety and restored rights. However, the world’s eyes turned to the Rohingya during the genocide case at the International Court of Justice. The ICJ granted “provisional measures” to protect my people in Rakhine state from ongoing persecution. The ICJ is a light for my people in the midst of dark times.

A Rohingya refugee views his phone at night in the camp. Photo: Azad Mohammed


Dusk in the camps. The light is turning to darkness. Photo: Azad Mohammed

A road in the camps. Photo: Azad Mohammed

A road with Rohingya refugees at night in the camp. Photo: Azad Mohammed

Sunset in the camps. Photo: Azad Mohammed