The Rohingya — A lot of wars have been fought for so long that people just sort of forget about them. There’s a certain tug on the heartstrings when you hear about strangers in foreign lands experiencing impossible hardships, but that quickly fades once you start to hear the “same news” over and over. Alternate theories abound, like how the Rohingya are somehow Islamic Extremists and the government hasn’t actually been doing this to their people (Muslim, Christian, animist, etc.) for over 70 years.
Even the most horrendous of crimes against humanity get swept away, not because of some evil political cover-up, not because of the incessant arguing of opposing sides, but simply because people get tired of hearing about it. They move on to the next Hillary Clinton scandal, Jennifer Lawrence update or random Trump tweet — and reasonably so, after all these things are much closer to home. However, how a celebrity wardrobe malfunction makes higher news than say, multiple children drowning in a river as they flee for their lives, will never cease to amaze me.
And so I will continue with my incessant reporting on the Rohingya crisis, and any other moves the Burmese government makes and hopes the world won’t notice, though I hope we get some good news one of these days.
One way to combat this increasing apathy is just to humanize the people enduring these hardships. They aren’t faceless creatures across the ocean, they’re mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Some are probably difficult to get along with, many are probably quite nice — just as people are everywhere else. I haven’t met the Rohingya myself, but I’ve met the Karen countless times, and they have endured decades of the same treatment from the Burmese government (though now they enjoy a shakey cease-fire). The Karen are among the most impressive people I have ever met, and yet that is still difficult to convey through bland text on a white background.
I have noticed that reactions shift a lot in the articles I write about the Rohingya, depending on what picture I use.
Before you wonder what you can do, know that Bangladesh treats its refugees differently depending on who’s watching. If the whole world is staring at them, it is unlikely that they will push the incoming refugees to the side while pushing out aid workers and journalists. With everyone watching, it is more likely that they will bolster aid efforts in an attempt to look good on an international stage. So this is the rare opportunity where social media can actually make a difference, even if it’s a little one (think of it like voting). Continue to spread the word — even if it’s just pictures or someone else’s articles. Endure the marathon
Years ago I met David Hoppe of Partners Relief & Development, a talented photographer that is currently taking pictures on the Bangladesh side of the Rohingya crisis. He was kind enough to share a few of his impressive images with me here just recently, and I hope that they can re-humanize the Rohingya on top of the constant flow of information I will do my best to provide. We all have a part to play.
Pictures courtesy of David Hoppe | Partners Relief & Development