They warned that they had been marked and killed

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Relatives of the victims blame ARSA for their deaths, and men associated with the group have been arrested in connection with the killings. ARSA has told social media that it has not committed any murders.

Whenever his family members go to the toilets, Mohammed is worried. According to him, the worst is when the darkness goes down and Bangladeshi law enforcement leaves the camps. The approaching steps, the soft slap of the sandals on the sandy streets fill him with horror.

“Pray for me,” he said. “I have no other protection.”

A month before his death, Mohib Ullah, who ran the human rights network to which Mohammed belonged, wrote to the authorities asking for asylum. He described in the letter he reviewed New York Times, how the gunmen had warned that he and 70 other human rights defenders would be killed.

“I’m too scared because the ARSA team has different attack tools, which is very dangerous,” Mohib Ullah wrote in English.

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No action was taken by the authorities. His killers shouted that they were the “leaders” of the camp, not Mohib Ullah, said his brother had seen his death.

Johannes van der Klaauw, the UNHCR’s representative in Bangladesh, acknowledged the growing dangers in the camps but pointed out that security was the responsibility of Bangladeshis.

“Unfortunately, the killing of Mohib Ullah, but also the massacre in the madrasa, have now been a revival for the authorities to actually do something,” he said.

The UN refugee agency said it would not comment on individual cases. The statement stated that some vulnerable Rohingya had been offered refuge.

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“We reiterate our call on the Bangladeshi authorities to take immediate action to improve security in the refugee camps,” the statement said.

Following the assassination of Mohib Ullah, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said his government was “committed to investigating the horrific crime and bringing the killers to justice”.

Surveillance of Rohingya camps has weakened during the coronavirus pandemic as COVID protocols have kept humanitarian workers away. In the void, ARSA and other militants are campaigning for terror, demanding payments and recruits, according to residents of the camp who spoke with The Times.

“Why is it my fate to be a refugee?” said Saiful Arkane, an activist who is now hiding with his two brothers and asking for security from the United Nations. “No one gives us protection.”

Arkane and his brothers have been working for years to document camp conditions. Despite pressure from other Rohingya to remain silent about ARSA’s growing strength, Arkane said its fighters now openly run training centers in camps and its funding has been cushioned by illegal activities such as drug trafficking. Some of the men killed in the madrassa had gone to police to complain that ARSA wanted to use their seminar as one such internship, a family member of the victims who spoke anonymously to The Times.

Founded by a Rohingya outside Myanmar, ARSA attacked Myanmar’s security outlets in 2017 and killed about a dozen people. The Myanmar army responded disproportionately furiously with the fervor of executions, rape and arson in the villages. About three-quarters of a million Rohingya fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in a matter of weeks, the largest influx of refugees in a generation in the world.

Bangladesh, which was already protecting former Rohingya refugees, was submerged. One camp, Kutupalong, is home to 600,000 Rohingya in an area of ​​less than 13 square kilometers, nine times the density of the Gaza Strip. In the spawning ground and 33 other refugee settlements, the Rohingya have had to maintain their dignity in the midst of landslides, fires, floods, looting elephants, human trafficking and domestic violence. Legally, they cannot work or go to school outside the camps.

Human rights organizations recognize the need for the UN to act with caution. It must encourage the Bangladeshi government to legislate in the camps without alienating politicians who prefer to see Rohingya refugees and foreign agencies assisting them leave.

Growing terror has abandoned part of Rohingya in Bangladesh’s plan to relocate part of its refugee population to Bhasan Char, a flood-prone island in the Gulf of Bengal that has been called a floating prison by human rights organizations. ARSA has less influence there.

In October, UNHCR and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding that will pave the way for some 80,000 Rohingya to be relocated to Bhasan Char, in addition to the 20,000 already relocated there.

Among the first to be relocated to Bhasan Char were the Rohingya Christians, a persecuted minority within the persecuted minority. Rohingya Christians in the camps have been abducted, police reports have documented.

In October 2020, one of the Christian families, who has since moved to the island, sought protection from the UN after being threatened with abduction by ARSA militants.

The family was granted asylum for one night at a UNHCR shelter near the camps, but Bangladeshi staff told him to leave the next day, two family members said. Since he had nowhere to go, a relative of Abdu Taleb helped them on the bus to escape the ARSA militants threatening outside.

The escape plan failed shortly after the incident, according to a police report. The militants got on the bus and abducted the Taliban and the family. The Taliban and the male head of the family were held in a dark place for nearly four months, where he said they were tortured by militants, removing one of his teeth.

In Bhasan Char, where he now lives in a barracks surrounded by the sea, the Taleb said he was finally at peace.

“I came looking for shelter,” Taleb said. “I found safety.”

This article originally appeared in New York Times.

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