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Battered not broken 

Farida Alam | Bangladesh

Shahana, 8 yrs

Historically termed as Arakanese Indians, the Rohingyas are a stateless Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State in Myanmar. With the upsurge of the genocide in Rakhine, people of the Rohingya community fled their land in search of hope and shelter.

Prior to the Rohingya crisis in 2016-2017, there was an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar. Now, according to the UN report of 22nd October 2017, an estimated 603,000 refugees from Rakhine had crossed the border and entered Bangladesh alone since August 25, 2017. There are now 1 million Rohingya refugees residing in our country. The majority of Rohingyas are Muslims while the minority is made up of Hindus.

It takes a strong soul to endure so much pain and heartache and still make it out alive. I felt like they are not alive, they are just not dead. They have learned the hard way to live. They have learned that some poems don't rhyme. But they are taking  moment and making the best of it with a ray of hope to live again.

When I started capturing the devastation of the Rohingyas, one of the children from the community was gripped with so much fear that he screamed upon hearing the sound of my camera’s shutter. I came to know from his mother that he thought it was the sound of a gun-shot. It left a gaping hole in my heart. Childhood is a time when you are free of fear or any form of stress; at least that was the case for most of us. But for this child, life began with trauma; every second of his childhood had terror lurking around it.

While I moved further into the camp, I observed that people had lost the hope in their eyes; they were merely breathing. I found a lady who walked for 15 days straight and then came to Bangladesh. She consumed leaves in order to survive. Nearly every family lost their loved ones and many of them had to witness the murder of their families with their own eyes. Theirs is the loss that is insurmountable; however, they strive each day to keep themselves alive.

At first, I wanted to portray their uncertain situation through my photography. Then I listened to their stories, how they suffered, how they lost their loved ones, fled for life for love and shelter. I found that although they lost the sparkle in their eyes, they overcame a lot and started living with a little bit of stability and I felt in such pessimism, they still did not forget to smile.

Somewhere I was shocked first, but it was the children that gave me hope. Because, despite their plight, the Rohingya children cling to the hope that someday, they might be able to return to the land that was rightfully theirs, someday they will play again in their known backyard, they will swim again in their favorite river, they will walk again in their favorite path and take breathe again in their holy motherland.


Farida Alam



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