On Thursday Feb. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. the UConn Bangladeshi Student Association will be hosting a dinner in the Alumni Center with a panel of speakers to shed light on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.
Many people have become familiar with the concept of a refugee crisis since the flood of Syrian refugees fleeing civil war and seeking asylum in Europe; however, Europe is not the only region coping with an influx of people. Bangladesh has been overwhelmed with refugees from the neighboring Rakhine state in Myanmar within the last year. Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority within Myanmar, have been targeted by the government in response to militant attacks. Villages have been destroyed, and citizens have reportedly been raped and killed.
Rohingyas have been fleeing from Myanmar into Bangladesh for several decades, but the numbers of refugees have grown dramatically since the recent violence.
“We Bengalis are very welcoming people,” Bangladeshi Student Association president and sixth semester biology major Sohan Aziz said. “We do not mind taking in people who are in desperate need of refuge. But it is very hard to sustain such a large refugee population for a very small developing country like Bangladesh without proper help from the international community.”
Although many nations have spoken out against the conflict in Myanmar and urged the government to stop the violence, little has been done in terms of action. The United Nations has not imposed any sanctions nor officially named the conflict a genocide, which would obligate member nations to take action, however they have classified the conflict as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
“In my opinion, the international community needs to do more to help the refugees,” Aziz said. “I think they need to pressure the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments more to work together to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.”
The panel of speakers that will be present at the event on Thursday include UConn alumnus Khairul Alam, UConn professor Cathy Schlund and Pennsylvania State University Professor Wakar Uddin. Alam will be sharing from his experiences visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh. Schlund, the Asian American Studies Institute director, will present East Asian perspectives.
Uddin, the keynote speaker, is the director general of Arakan Rohingya Union and the founding chairman of the Burmese Rohingya Association of North America. Uddin has been very active in confronting the Rohingya conflict given that he was born in the Rakhine state of Myanmar in which the Rohingya people are being targeted.
“As a student organization, as a voice for all Bengalis on campus, as a voice for the Rohingya people, we thought we would hold an event to raise awareness about the topic,” Aziz said. “We hope to educate the attendees on who the Rohingya are and why we should care about the ongoing crisis.”
Armana Islam, a second semester biology major and Daily Campus writer who plans on attending the dinner, feels that it is important for students to be aware of issues in other parts of the world.
“Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all,” Islam said. “Bangladesh and Myanmar are places that aren’t given a lot of publicity, which is why awareness events for this cause are so significant to the process.”
The event is free, but requires an RSVP.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.