The Rohingya are arguably the world’s most persecuted people.

Aside from their formal exclusion by Myanmar’s military government, there are a myriad of less evident ways the Rohingya, an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority have been marginalized, specifically in relation to the colour of their skin, their religion, and their identity. Many other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of Myanmar’s oppressive military regime, but the Rohingya’s very existence is threatened. Recently thousands have fled by boat, hoping to land safely  in neighbouring countries, only to find themselves facing death as they are  pushed back out to  sea.

For too many years the international community has been, for the most part silent - and in spite of  recent international attention to their plight , the Burmese authorities have showed no sign of changing their ways.

In 2006, five families of Rohingya were selected  by the Canadian Government for resettlement. This made Canada the first country to formally resettle Rohingya, and many other developed countries have followed this lead.

Today there are over 300 Rohingya living in Canada and over a third of them live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario.

Nur Hashim, who heads the Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization, came here in 2007.

“We will always be thankful to Canada. We have no words to give thanks. Still we are very sorry for our people in Burma. Here we can buy fish and meat, and there they have nothing. I continue to work for my community here and in Burma. I try to be an ambassador and advocate for our cause. It is important that Canadian society knows what is going on.”

“In 2006 my three year old daughter Sadeka drowned in the Naya Para Teknaf refugee camp. In the camp we had to conserve water in large buckets. That day she went to the bathroom, tried to get water from the bottom of the bucket, and fell in.”

“I love drawing and playing dress up. My dream is to be a doctor and have a big house.” - Nazma Hasim

“Why is it that in Canada many religions can coexist but not in Burma? In my country the call to prayer is banned, religious schools are banned, Arabic school is banned, and they can’t build new mosques nor can they renovate the many that have been destroyed.”

“I’m back in school right now, studying to become a public health worker. I want to help our community here and in Southeast Asia.”  - Rofiqa

“This is a photograph of my brother Shamshul Islam’s family. My father was a victim of extortion so he moved to Pakistan in 1978 and took my brother. I was only six months old at the time, so I never knew my brother. Finally in 2012 I was able to meet him.”

 “He likes Candy… He was born here, so he’s our Canadian!” - Kalim's Mother

“Saa (tea) is important to our culture. We like hospitality, and serving guests. It is a sign of respect.”

“In 1997 the camp authority started forced repatriation back to Burma. Eight thousand of us refused to take rations as a protest. You may remember it in the news… there was a protest at the camps and the police started beating the refugees and fired at them… some were shot dead, and some were sent to jail. My husband’s eye was hit with a rubber bullet and he lost his eye. I am still worried about my parents in Burma. My dream is to be back at home with my family.” - Almas

“I once owned garment shops and convenience stores, and could afford to give generously during Ramadan. These were all taken away. Today I still try to help those in need and be generous.”

“I’m trying to do something to help the victims overseas, and I dream of someday making a charity to help the Rohingya in my late mother’s name.” - Shamsul

“I keep my great grandfather’s family list document safe because it shows that we are Rohingya, Muslims and Burmese from Arakan State.”

“I went to teach in the refugee camp with pants on. The inspector told me I wasn’t allowed to because I can’t be like him… I needed to wear the traditional longi because I’m a refugee. The camp boss argued that he wouldn’t be able to differentiate between refugees and staff if we wore pants.”

“I love drawing and sports. Someday I will help poor people.” - Shahi

“1992 is when I fled to Bangladesh with my family. After three months they started forced repatriation back to Burma. They arrested my husband and my five year old started crying for Dad. The police hit him with his gun, and later my child died.

I had to sell the few belongings I had to pay for my husband’s release. But when I went to the prison he wasn’t there. The rumour was that he was dead.

At the Nayapera refugee camp they again wanted me to go back to Burma. I pleaded that I was waiting to see if my husband was alive. They gave me two weeks, and then I was forced back to Burma with my forty day old child. In Burma I had nobody… everyone I had was in refugee camps. After six months I travelled three days back to the border with Bangladesh and crossed.

While at the Gondun refugee camp with my sister in law, my situation was reported to the UNHCR and they gave me support, while I waited there patiently for my husband. Finally, after almost two years, I discovered that he was alive.

Now we have seven children. My eldest is 24 and youngest is 6. I hope one day they will be police officers and lawyers.” - Rabia

“I want to be a soccer player.” - Rifiqul Nur

“If I was in Burma I would have been killed by now. Here I am safe. My only hope is that my brothers and sisters can join me here someday.” - Boduzana

“My granddaughter wanted to go with me to visit a neighbour’s house in the refugee camp, but I didn’t bring her. While I was gone, she drowned. I dream of what her life could have been like here in Canada.”

“Aside from my ambition to become a successful businessman, I want to live a life where I get involved in helping others… not just our people.” - Mohamed

“This is my father and mother’s property document from the 1960s. Their property was taken away in 1994.”

“I love playing soccer and basketball. FC Barcelona and the Chicago Bulls are my favourite teams. When I grow up I would love to be some type of doctor or maybe a fashion designer.” - Tasmin

“I was in jail in Bangladesh for one year and nine months, just because I didn’t want to be sent back to Burma. I still have signs on my body from the beatings. They had us squished together like grapes…. seventeen people in one room. Now I just want to live peacefully here in Canada.” - Amir Hossan

“I like to play on the playground. When I grow up I will be a scientist.” - Azim

“My seven children here have opportunities I never could have dreamed of, but I also think other Rohingya should be able to have a similar life. I can’t forget about those suffering in my country.” - Hamid

“We feel like our people are caught between two big liars. If we go to Bangladesh we are told we are Rohingya from Burma, and if we go to Burma we are told we are Bengali. Here in Canada I’m trying to develop a life here with my wife and children. My one son is still in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, and that brings me a lot of sadness.” - Yonus

“My fourteen year old son Aman Ullah is still in Bangladesh. At one point he was abducted for a 900 CAD ransom which I paid. The only thing holding him back from joining me here is the fact that Bangladesh has stopped all resettlements.”

“My favourite thing is family dinner. My favourite foods are fries and ketchup.” - Sajida

“I love all team sports. I hope someday to have a good job and make good money. I’ve never travelled, but I dream of visiting Dubai … and Brazil.” - Osman

“My mother is my connection to what it was like to be a Rohingya in Burma. I was too young when we were there to remember anything now.”

“I want to be smart, and help my mom and dad.” - Amin

“Abul Bosher was a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary in Burma from 1901 - 1991. He is a symbol of the Rohingya and proof of our history in Burma.”

“On the one hand I am happy to be here in Canada, and happy to see my four kids alive and getting a good education, but on the other I am so concerned for the people dying… in the street, jungle, seas. I have been depressed since I was young... I’ve seen so many atrocities.

Here I can express my opinion regarding the story of our people freely.  My family were victims of forced labour: poor people doing labour for free. My father and my brother would be taken away in the night and made to carry rations, construct buildings or do the night watch. Many people died.

Still today my family has to give rice to the authorities for free just to keep their property. Even if our people are educated, they are jobless. My cousin graduated from university, but he has no job.” - Ayasa

“I want to be a nurse.” - Amina 

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