Sign in / Join

At the funeral of the shipwrecked rohingyas, a howl of pain

Ⓒ AFP – MUNIR UZ ZAMAN – | Alif Jukhar, a Rohingya refugee, has just buried his two deceased relatives in the sinking from Burma to Bangladesh on 9 October 2017

Crying and groaning, Alif Jukhar digs the earth with his bare hands. This long-time Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh had to find his family members for the first time in three decades. Instead, he had only the right to bury them.

At least fourteen Rohingyas died Thursday night and dozens are reported missing in the sinking of their boat in the Gulf of Bengal. They fled violence against the Muslim minority in neighboring Burma, considered by the UN as an ethnic cleansing.

Cucked in the back of a pickup truck on a broken road from Shah Porir Dwip, located at the southern tip of Bangladesh, seven Rohingyas corpses are transported to finish their last trip in this land they never managed to in their lifetime.

Washed, bodies were wrapped in white or purple sheets. The shrouds of the children are so small.

The convoy arrives at the cemetery. The place is devoured by the wild vegetation. Carefully, the volunteers of the Koranic school of the vicinity descend the spoils of the children. They wear them delicately in their arms.

The inhabitants of Shah Porir Dwip are familiar with these tragedies.

Their region is the first point of access to Rohingyas boats in Bangladesh, which go up the coast of Rakhine State (western Burma) through the Bay of Bengal and shipwrecks are recurrent in this exodus season.

Ⓒ AFP – John SAEKI – | Sinking of rohingyas refugees

Professor at the Koranic School, Jashim Uddin was awakened at five o’clock in the morning by a call from the Coast Guard on his cell phone. The authorities asked him to send his team to take over the bodies carried by the waters.

It seemed to the young man to relive scenes dating back three weeks before, when he had been used for bodies of drowned in a state of decomposition.

“Nobody cared for them, offered them a dignified funeral. I felt so bad, they are also Muslims, my brothers and sisters,” he told AFP.

– Praying on the beach –

Under a lead sun, the gravediggers dug three holes: one per adult – the father and mother of Alif – one for the four children. A man is scooped at the bottom, water being swallowed by a ground assailed every day by torrential rains.

At the sound of the midday prayer call which rises from the surrounding minarets, the remains are descended one after the other into the tombs.

Grounding is quick. In emergency situations, emergency measures.

A quick prayer is delivered in a low voice for each of the deceased. The bamboo plate, normally intended to be placed over the body before it is covered, is replaced by wild grasses torn from the cemetery.

Ⓒ AFP – MUNIR UZ ZAMAN – | Alif Jukhar, a Rohingya refugee, has just buried his two deceased relatives in the sinking from Burma to Bangladesh on 9 October 2017

On his knees, Alif pushes his hands on the shrouds of his parents.

He had not seen them for nearly thirty years, when he had found refuge in the camps in Bangladesh. Faced with the Burmese army’s current crackdown, its relatives had fled their village in Rakhine last week and camped on the Burmese shores.

“Yesterday, they called me at 4 pm, telling me that they were in a very difficult situation, that they had no food, that they did not know how to survive. to go to Bangladesh, that I was going to take care of the rest, “he told AFP between two sobs.

Thirteen members of Alif’s family were aboard the boat that was wrecked. Only four escaped.

“I feel so helpless, just going to the beach and praying to God to help me find the bodies of my sisters, brothers-in-law and the rest of the family so that I can at least see them one last time”.

In half an hour, the funerals are over.

Suddenly, as the assembly begins to disperse, Alif collapses on the grass. From his breast comes a heart-rending howl, his face deforms under pain, sorrow.

The man can barely walk. He is helped to go to the makeshift hearse. His head dodel, he no longer has the strength to hold her. Rivers of tears streaked her cheeks.

The vehicle starts and wins. The cries of Alif can still be heard for a long time.

Terms of service