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  • Writer's picturekwankew

Balukhali Camp

There is a beach close by the hotel we are staying and after a few days of no exercise, I found my way there and ran early in the morning as a way to energize my day. Even at this early hour, there were many people walking the beach. The red ball of the rising sun rose above the skyline.

I was still mesmerized by all the new huts that dotted the rolling hills, only a few lucky ones were on mounds of hills with tall trees, somewhat bucolic than the rest which looked stark naked. Some refugees had enough sense not to chop off the trees and they remained to provide shades and prevent erosion.

Addressing the medical issues of the refugees, some of them intrigued me so much I asked them to tell me of their experiences. I was careful not to dig deeper if they appeared to be pained but most were quite vocal and seemed willing to pour their hearts out. I even noticed that my able translator was fired up as well.

SA, an18 yo man, in camp for 5 months. he has 4 sisters and 3 brothers, one of the sisters was shot in the back of her head, the bullet was removed near the border. They walked for 15 days and saw many acts of atrocities which I did not have him elaborate.

Arafatullah 4y 6 m male, brought in by mom, in camp for 4 o 5 months, 5 in family all killed, they walked for 4 days.

AH, 65 yo man, in camp for 5 months. Boat crossing with his 8 family members in a boat carrying 30 people. He paid 8000 Taka for each grown-up, a total of 32,000 Taka, the children rode free. It took 11 hours from 6 pm to 5 am to cross the river, since the border was not safe for crossing, they crossed it at night.

We finished early and so we went to visit the Balukhali Camp. We walked up the dirt steps carved into the slope, these would probably be washed away during the Monsoon. At the top of the hill, we could see orange and white tarp and bamboo houses stretching as far as the eye could see. They were built close to one another in a helter-skelter fashion, as though the refugees found a plot of ground and just began to build their homes. Children following us or just staring. A few women were cooking inside their huts, smoke exuding from them. Some stores cropped up on a piece of flat land which used to be a volley ball court, we were told. This would soon be a market place.

On the bare brown slopes stood a few tall trees with gnarled roots exposed by all the digging, clinging precariously. One tall and majestic tree had a wedge shaped gash cut into half of its trunk. The cutter gave up his quest to fell it. There it was standing proudly straight and tall with half of its roots exposed. Erosion from heavy rainfalls would probably bring these trees tumbling down even as men did not succeed.

Children played on the dirt slopes while two of them flew a home-make kite seemingly without a care in the world. Like the kite the tenuous fate of the Rohingya refugees would be determined by the wind of political change and discussion between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments.

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