Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh), Aug 26 – Nightmares often wake up drenched in sweat the only witness to the murder of Rohingya leader Mohibullah, a fear that has completely changed day to day in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Mohibullah “had called me to talk about something. I noticed that two people entered the office shortly after One was carrying an improvised weapon, the other a pistol. Five or six were waiting outside,” Abdul Malek recalled to Efe in front of the office of the assassinated leader in a camp in Cox’s Bazar, in southeastern Bangladesh.

“Before we could react, they shot Master Mohibullah and ran away,” he added.


The murder last September of Mohibullah, president of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), completely changed the lifestyle of many Rohingya in refugee camps, not just the sixty-year-old Malek.

Since then “we don’t leave our shelter after (afternoon) prayer and we never talk to strangers,” he told Efe Emdad Hossain, another refugee who was in charge of protecting Mohibullah’s office.

Several ARSPH leaders have gone into hiding or taken refuge in protected camps. Some of them, including relatives of Mohibullah, fled the country.

Roshidullah, who was in charge of drafting documents in Mohibullah’s office, explained to Efe by phone that he took refuge in the UN transit camp out of fear for his life.

“We are a dozen families in the transit camp, as there are still terrorists active in the camp. They are settling in the camp and creating problems for the Rohingya,” he revealed.

Mohibullah’s relatives blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for his murder, the same extremist group that on August 25, 2017 led the actions against the Burmese Army that triggered the repression that forced hundreds of thousands of members of this minority to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Although Bangladeshi police have charged 29 people with suspected links to ARSA, the authorities deny the group’s presence in the country.

“We consider criminals as criminals. Regardless of the name they operate under, we try to prosecute them under our regular laws,” Cox’s Bazar police chief Hasanuzzaman told Efe.


Mohibullah’s murder triggered a wave of violence in the camp. On August 10 alone, two community leaders were shot dead in camps in Bangladesh, and another Rohingya leader was hacked to death the month before.

The Cox’s Bazar police spokesman, Rafiqul Islam, told Efe that between August 25, 2017 and August 20, 2022, they registered 2,438 crimes in Rohingya camps.

These data include 100 cases of murder, most perpetrated with knives or gunshots, 185 cases of possession of weapons, 1,636 drug cases, 39 cases of kidnapping and 13 cases of attacks on security forces.

A total of 5,226 refugees have been charged in these cases.

“This figure is not high if we compare the total Rohingya population, which is over one million,” Rafiqul said.

However, those involved in a crime “are many, especially in drug-related cases. In addition, we believe that the crime rate among the Rohingya is higher than our data shows,” he added.

The authorities are “really concerned” about crime in the camps, so, according to the head of the Bangladeshi cabinet’s Law and Order Committee, Mozammel Haque, the government will discuss the situation in detail next week.

The Bangladeshi authorities have already taken several measures to control the violence in the camps, including building fences and increasing surveillance in and around the camps.

Three armed police battalions provide security in the camp.

“We have set up around 40 checkpoints in the camps. In addition, there are some other checkpoints that we activate depending on the situations. Our teams remain on patrol 24 hours a day,” said the commander of one of the three battalions, Syed Harun-or- rashids.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned, however, of the danger of stigmatizing an entire community for the crimes of a “few individuals”.

“While the vast majority (of refugees) are just trying to recover (from trauma) and restart their lives, a few have committed crimes that reflect negatively on everyone,” said UNHCR Cox’s Bazar spokeswoman Regina de the gate.

The spokesperson underlined the impact of the coverage of these events by the media, which often focuses on these cases because they are in the public interest, leading to a disproportionate and unfair image of the majority of refugees trying to rebuild their lives.

Humanitarian organizations, including UNHCR, “are working together with journalists, the media, local communities and local authorities to break down negative stereotypes, fight fake news and counter stigmatization of refugees,” she noted.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also insisted last week after her visit to the camps about her “concern about the increase in rhetoric against the Rohingya in Bangladesh, stereotyping and blaming the Rohingya as the source of crime and other problems.

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