The global refugee crisis is unprecedented, and there are many more 35.3 million refugees around the world due to conflict, violence, or natural disasters. Events such as last month’s World Refugee Day are promoting greater awareness of forced migration, but the scope of international dialogue on the needs and rights of refugees remains limited. It is important to note that the increasing number of people do not only have material needs, such as food and housing, but also intangible ones surrounding truth, justice, and remembrance, especially when their displacement was caused by violations of human rights.
About a million Rohingya refugees who, since August 2017, fled persecution in Rakhine State, Myanmar and migrated to Bangladesh, providing a good example of the plight of refugees who have been persecuted by the government.
For years, Myanmar’s Rohingya, a Muslim minority with their own language and culture, have been subjected to mass killings, forced disappearances, rape, torture, and other abuses by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw military, which it caused many people to move. in recent history.
In Bangladesh, most of these refugees are women and children, with 40 percent under the age of 12, all of whom need and are eligible for emotional support and other solutions.
In an ideal world, this includes Rohingya refugees who are involved in justice projects, including the creation of a truth-seeking process, such as a truth commission, which is given the opportunity to testify to their experiences, pointing to questions to be answered. , and encourage action in the prosecution of criminals. To be sure, such conditions are unlikely to occur anytime soon, if at all. This, however, does not negate the need to continue to focus on the crimes committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya people of Bangladesh and the suffering they have endured.
Of course, when it comes to truth-telling and accountability efforts, the very existence of refugees poses unique challenges. Refugees often do not have access to their own media and are rarely given the opportunity to speak for themselves. There is a common tendency, among the host countries, to limit the refugee organizations and the means of expression to prevent, for example, one million people from expressing a coherent and disturbing voice.
International organizations, in some cases, intervene by going to refugee camps and starting their own recruitment processes. However, this communication takes place through mediators or “editors”, meaning that there are no guarantees that information will not be left out of the final text or lost in translation.
In order for refugees to recover and find a peaceful future, it is important that both the reasons for their migration and the details of their situation as refugees in a foreign country are fully documented and explained. In short, they need a platform to share their experiences.
This is especially true for women and girls, who are particularly vulnerable to conflict and forced migration. Their voices have traditionally been excluded from mainstream media and post-conflict discussions, reconstruction efforts, and news, even though, for many, the new country does not require protection or the right to speak out about the atrocities that have taken place.
For example, in Cox’s Bazar, where there are camps for Bangladeshi refugees, there has been an uproar of domestic violence in the community. Because there is no legal way to do things that harm women or children, they remain silent for fear of retaliation from their abusers.
While the challenges of providing refugees with the means they need to follow vary, the solutions depend on providing them with a safe way to not only tell and preserve their stories but also to spread them to a global audience. One way to support and sustain is the organization of local negotiations, where leaders in the refugee community are trained to support support groups, medical services, and / or documents that meet the standards of international courts.
This method has been well proven in Cox’s Bazar where, over the past few years, in response to the critical evaluation of international workers, selected people have been invited to participate in various discussions to build the strength of the Rohingya as writers, counselors, advisors, and peace promoters.
Some of the courses were gender specific, providing a safe space for women to share their experiences and problems or giving sewing instructions, something fun, as a way of telling stories together. For the latter, women remembered the homes they fled, the injustices they endured, and their hopes for the future in pictures that were stitched together and shared online.
An early quilting project inspired the future. It is very useful for testing large documents, which may not have found or written this information. Additional experimental training provided to women and men included educating refugees on the consequences of justice and irregularity, as well as in the creation of public awareness campaigns, the provision of psychological and psychological treatment, and the collection of cultural documents for future accountability.
When accountability mechanisms are stalled or seem impossible, we can ensure that refugee stories reach more people by providing them with advice and technology that allows them to be creative and share their content. That is why, in 2022, a year-long video production program was launched in Cox’s Bazar. The program was led by Bangladeshi filmmakers, who trained residents to become producers and educators, creating a sustainable community of Rohingya filmmakers. “We want to open the eyes of the world so that they can see things that are hidden from them, and understand our reality as it is,” said one of the participants of the opening ceremony.
Recent efforts in Colombia have established ways of remembering and telling the truth in the 21st century by contributing to the creation of new stories of survivors that are presented and produced by rural communities throughout the country. Medicine and guidance allowed them to share the stories of their lives in a country that, for more than fifty years, has been plagued by a long-standing conflict between the government, rebels, and armed forces, which has resulted in various human rights violations. The following is a good example of the kind of support that the international community can and should provide to a large number of refugees.
In a follow-up study, participants in pilot Rohingya workshops in Bangladesh have expressed an interest in sharing what they have learned with the community, which many, such as small group leaders in the camps, are well-prepared to do. Their comments and enthusiasm are a powerful reminder that, in our efforts to support the world’s refugees, we need to think beyond the basics.
We must give them the power to create their own independent voices and write their own stories, independently, by providing them with widely available tools that remove the need for interference from outside players.
When international workers and domestic organizations located in large cities lead or direct justice processes, they will eventually leave, leaving the communities responsible for protection and memory. This is why helping refugees around the world is not just about making and implementing smart ideas from a group of experts. In fact, the strongest, most influential opinions often come from the voices of the community. If this population, including victims and survivors, women, elders, youth, and other oppressed groups, are not part of this planning, they will not be stable or stable enough to make progress.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect Al Jazeera’s influence.