DHAKA, Bangladesh 

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, who survived a horrific genocide in Myanmar, are experiencing a “severe mental health crisis,” a new study published on Thursday revealed.

According to the study unveiled in a webinar, “88.7% of Rohingya refugees experienced symptoms of depression, 84% experienced symptoms of emotional distress, and 61.2% experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The 99-page study titled “The Torture in My Mind: The Right to Mental Health for Rohingya Survivors of Genocide in Myanmar and Bangladesh”, based on a research conducted between March 2018 and November 2020, was prepared by a team of 10 ethnic-Rohingya researchers trained and supported by international rights defender Fortify Rights.

Terming the crisis “massive” and “insurmountable”, the rights body’s Chief Executive Officer Matthew Smith said it is a “life threatening” crisis, which is largely overlooked.

The study said that some 86.2% Rohingya experienced the murder of an extended family member or friend by [Myanmar] security forces, 70.6% experienced the death of family members or friends while fleeing or hiding and 29.5% experienced the murder of an immediate family member.

It said: “91.3% of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face some level of difficulty carrying out common daily activities, such as maintaining basic hygiene, engaging in social or religious activities, or performing other daily tasks. Of those who experience functioning difficulties, 62.3% attributed these difficulties to their ailing mental health.”

Speaking at the function, Chairperson of the European Rohingya Council Dr. Ambia Perveen said peaceful and dignified repatriation of Rohingya to home country Myanmar is the main solution.

“Resettlement or relocation to any island or any other mechanism is not the sustainable solution to our crisis,” she added.

Citing safety and rising threats of crimes, the Bangladeshi government has started relocation of 100,000 Rohingya to a remote island in the country’s southern sea, the Bay of Bengal.

International rights bodies have repeatedly called on the Bangladesh government to halt the relocation move until a complete feasibility study of the silty island, reportedly born 20 years ago and prone to natural disaster, under the UN is completed.

Meanwhile, the study has found that 94.7% Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh desire to return to Myanmar in the future, while 65.6% of the respondents have said “they have already forgiven ethnic-Rakhine people who may have been involved in violence against Rohingya”.

Perveen warned: “If the Rohingya sheltered in different countries mainly in Bangladesh are not returned to their home country Myanmar with citizenship rights and safety, it may prompt some other countries to operate the equal type of persecution against their minority people.”

“So, this is a global crisis and international communities like the United Nations and ASEAN should put serious pressure on Myanmar’s newly elected democratic government,” she said.

– World’s most persecuted people

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, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people taking shelter in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, entitled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

As many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes burned down, while 113,000 others were vandalized, it added.

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