Rohingya—’Exiled to Nowhere’

Constantine’s book combines words and stark images to provide a portrait of the Rohingya, a stateless people who straddle the Burma-Bangladesh border.

The recent conflict in Arakan State has returned the predicament of the stateless Rohingya to the international spotlight just as a new photo-book explores their fraught history.

Multi-award winning American photographer Greg Constantine has produced a compelling and revealing collection of photographs combined with personal stories and interviews of individuals describing their blighted lives.

Exiled to Nowhere” describes the lives of Rohingya Muslims who occupy a geographic region which straddles both southern Bangladesh and Burma’s northwestern Arakan State.

Denied citizenship by both countries, the Rohingya are described by the UN as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities” and regularly face a catalogue of human rights abuses as well as restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.

Violent clashes erupted in Arakan State after a lynch mob killed 10 Muslims on June 3 in apparent in retaliation for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman on May 28. A total of 50 people have been killed, 54 other people injured, with 78 riots breaking out and 2,230 buildings destroyed by fire in the 18 days through to June 21.

Working over a period from 2006 to 2012, Constantine made eight trips to visit the Rohingya people in southern Bangladesh. While Constantine gained access to the Rohingya through Bangladesh, the words of the people he encountered focus upon life within Burma.

“Since we don’t have nationality in Burma, we can’t live in peace. In Burma they say we are from Bangladesh. When we come to Bangladesh, they say we are from Burma. People view us as if we don’t exist,” a Rohingha Muslim is quoted as saying.

Constantine remains faithful to the classic time-tested photo-documentary form of black and white images to provide a sensitive and comprehensive portrait of the plight of this largely overlooked minority group.

Despite recent moves towards democracy in Burma, this work illustrates quite clearly how mainstream Burmese society continues to marginalize these perceived outsiders.

“Now, after decades of oppression and endemic discrimination against the Rohingya, I believe there is an opportunity to work for a real change,” Tomas Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, is quoted by Constantine. “The new government faces many and complex issues, but the cause of the Rohingyas must be a priority. We have to work for this.”

The words of Rohingya themselves are used to describe a life almost beyond comprehension as they struggle with being denied citizenship as defined by the current Burmese Constitution.

Add to this severe restrictions on their right to own property, marry and even have children—all designed to make life for the Rohingya exceedingly difficult, if not impossible—and you begin to grasp the depth of the hardships they face.

“Rohingya people who are born in Myanmar don’t have rights,” another refugee is quoted as saying. “Even a bird has rights. A bird can build a nest, give birth, bring food to their children and raise them until they are ready to fly. We don’t have basic rights like this.”


31 Responses to Rohingya—’Exiled to Nowhere’

  1. Great Work! I really appreciate it, Mr. Greg Constantine!

  2. Rohingyas are not from another country which has created and has been playing a balme game by injustice and non democratic Burmese military regime since 1962.We Rohingyas have our own language and culture you can’t compare by Bengali nation.There are a lot of neighbor countires around the world not only Myanmar is a single country which has become unknown country around the world bcz of non-equal rights and injustice action against to the all ethnic groups including Rohingyas.
    I request to the world community, the EU, UN , USA and NGO to bring a 3 parties table talk ( Burmese, Rohingya and Bengali leader ) to solve this long standing issue and ending the blame game forever.

  3. If I were a President of Myanmar, I would solve the problem as follows;

    1. Head count on the current Rohingyas,
    2. Make it as 3 groups according to the Head Count and get their consent to arrange in 3 groups.
    3. One Group would go under Myanmar National
    4. Another would go under Bangladesh
    5. The third would go under UN and it needs to allocate them to the third country.

    • The Rohingyas sould not be divided in to three groups. People at the bordes around the world get mix a cross including Rakhines. and if you look at all the countries in the world you would find that. even in Myanamr, other boders share the same ethnicity. for those who are living in Myanmar for generations should be full citizens of Myanmar.

  4. burma media need to learn about democarcy

  5. The article described as
    “restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction”.

    -98% so called Rohinga Bengali in Maung Daw Tsp and
    -92% in Buthidaung Tsp.
    -less than half before 1948

    So, Steve Tickner’s description is totally wrong.
    You did bias.

  6. The Rohingya of Myanmar
    An asset not a liability

    It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing to learn about the violent conflict between Muslims and Rakhine communities of Burma, at a time when the country seems taking bold steps towards democracy. Even during rampant human rights violations, oppression of all kinds, and discrimination, the two communities have somehow maintained relative peaceful co-existence. However the Muslims have suffered a great deal of such oppression, including restriction of movement, confiscation of land and property, extortion, forced labor, not to mention other abuses such as rape and torture. For the Rohengya, who are stateless the issue of nationality has not been a top priority compared to removal of the day to day sufferings from various types of atrocities.
    Despite the fact that the conditions, under which this group lives, constitute an ideal environment for the extremists, including Al-Qaida, to recruit, nonetheless they remained peaceful and consciously stayed away for their own survival and stability. Indeed the Rohengya have been resistant to any form of violence due mainly to the sufferings they endured once in the hands of their Muslims youth who took arms against the state decades ago.
    The Rohengya should be perceived as an asset to Myanmar, not a liability, considering their economic contribution to the Rakhine State or for that matter to the whole country. This is true in terms of the remittance, where the estimated number of the Rohengya expatriates according to some sources amounts to one million.
    I wrote once in 2008, to Irrawaddy Editor “I observed through my regular reading of The Irrawaddy that it has never brought to light the plight of some minorities, in particular the Muslims in Rakhine State. Freedom is universal and when you defend it, you have to defend it for all. The stability, the transformation, and the change we seek for Burma can effectively be pursued when the whole population feels it has a stake in freedom. I think it’s important for the magazine to talk about these neglected minorities”. To enjoy democracy and freedom and deny them to others, these values are inseparable!

  7. Regarding the immigrant issue, it can be observed that how the United States is handling the illegal immigrants from Mexico. In Europe, there are over 500,000 stateless people. It is questionable to the European nations and the governments that always talk about democracy that how they are treating the stateless people. Controversies are still there about the people who are denied to be recognized as their nationalities in Latvia and Estonia, as well as the stateless Romani people living across Europe, especially in Italy and why they are reluctant to acknowledge them.
    Assuming that the Myanmar people are misusing the freedom of expression and are full of hatred based on a few comments of the online users is a big joke for the 60 million who have been oppressed for many years.

    • it’s funny that you compare the immigration, legal or illegal, of the U.S. with that of Burma.

      In the U.S., any one born on the US soil is granted citizenship regardless of the immigration status of his/her parents. Rohingya are born and raised in burma for generations, they are still forced out by the burmen.

      President Obama has signed an executive order to prohibit deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to US by their parents as children (not older than 16). Burmen force out Rohingya of all ages, pregnant women, infants, disabled, old et. al. into the sea.

      See the injustice you are promoting?

  8. Why no-one questioned Bangaladesh’s social policy and uncontrolled population growth. They did not want to take care their own people and shifting burden to Burma. They are responsible for their citizen’s economic and social well being. Because of irresponsible Bangladesh government’s failed policy over many decades, its citizens are illegally migrating to not only Burma but also to India.

  9. Does any one has the courage to give an answer to a very simple question of mine that if the rohingyas are illegal migrants in myanmar then by the same equation the Buddhists living in Bangladesh,India and all others countries around the world should be considered illegal immigrants from myanmar.However I’m please to point out that all Bnagladeshi and Indians Buddists have the same fundamental rights as any other communities in B.d.and Ind.Would not that be a denial of justice if those buddists are deprived of their rights and citizenship on the assumption that they are illegal immigrants from myanmar.The Govt.of Bngl and Ind.are pleased to consider Buddists as a part of there own county and hep them to integrate them in their systems.Will we the rohingyas who have been born in myanmar be asking for much if we demand the same rights and privileges granted to the buddists living in Bangladesh and india.The rights to citizenship is a right given by the U.N.declaration and hence it’s high time that the world body intervene and stop the brutal and atrocity committed on helpless Rohingyas communities and impress upon president of myanmar U.Then Sein to grant full human rights and citizenship to the Rohingyas.

    • Buddhist Arakanese people or in your words Bangladeshi Buddhists like Chakma, Mramar and Arakanese have been in Bangladesh many centuries before BD was even born. But in sharp contrast to our BD Buddhist folks, these Bengalese who call themselves as Rohingyas are recent newcomers who had entered Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung before and after Burma gained independence from British. Then when these newcomers start demanding a separate territorial rights within Arakan State instead of still controversial citizenship rights (which they are not granted yet), there is a grave concern we have to feel legitimately from these people’s threats. You got it!

      • do you have any proof from reliable sources that shows rohingya demand separate territory inside burma? or is it some hot air you generate to make your case?

        By the way, there are other ethnic groups that don’t want to have anything to do with burmen, and they so describe their views through many channels. are you going to respect their views and let them live their lives the way they want?

        • Maung Kyaw Nu ,A former political prisoner of conscience

          In facts all ethnic of Burma such as Kachin ,Karen ,Shan ,Mon ,Arakanese used to fight to regain their separate territory .Rohingyas are only asking to regain their lost rights which their fore fathers enjoyed.
          If some one can independently visit and interview ,the real demand of every ethnic will come out.Rohingyas an old inhabitant of Arakan and the always love peaceful co existance.

    • …by the same equation the Buddhists living in Bangladesh,India ….

      Buddhism was born in India, in the region now known as Nepal as a separate country.

  10. No country can claim that they have got their pure citizen…rohingyas are muslim and look like bangladeshi…it cant be a cause that they are bangladeshi….if myanmar deny to recognize they..why bangladesh should recognize the burmese people who arrived from burma..and living in bangladesh with all rights of citizenship..will they take them? its funny….Please…dont be irrational

  11. it is nothing but a preplanned ethnic cleansing…thousands of rohingyas are brutally killed…..United Nation should come and save people…….United nation should not maintain double standard.Treat rohingyas as human being

  12. Point to ponder . Compassion vs ignoring suffering of people regardless of race, religion or nationality. National security vs individual life. Human right vs importance of maintain culture identity at the expense of suffering of one group vs another. Let compare those of Rakhain people who are living in Bangladesh. It is a sensitive issue nevertheless, from different perspective, so called rohingya can be big assets to which ever country accept them. May all beings seen or unseen be happy and well. This includes all the beings including Rakhaing & Rohingya. After all we are all human and life on this earth is just transitory.

  13. One of the most hatred an arrogant nation I have seen are burmese or could be rakhinist whatever they say it. They are rakhine living in our country less than 5 years are citizens but those rohingya have been living there for many centuries yet they are not citizen bcoz their facial expression are different, they are not bhuddist??? or their mother tongue is not the same???
    oh my goodness how come the world work with this nonsense country and its people who support democracy are almost the same hatred and racist??

    • David William, you wish to be an enemy of our people, calling our country “nonsense country”?
      You, representing your kind has always been and will always be bigots.

  14. am very proud and appreciate the people who seek justice for the Rohingya.
    Myanmar Government actually attempted fraud and lying to the World of Morden.
    For the name of the Arakan Rohingya word,
    their Daily word (Arakani) not to Myanmar or Rakhine, they always try to change the name ..
    ” enough ……. for so long oppressed the Rohingya
    Rohingya problem is the United state and European Union or British, United Nations only can help Rohingyas
    I hope this problem obliged to educators,
    Myanmar government has tried to eliminate the Muslim history of that document in the state of Arakan, including the old mosque. they think the future is going to be friends with USA,
    Thay Thing United state is Stupid

  15. AKYAB? Rohingya have given the name … How Age Britishmemberi name?, (George Town), Are They Can Say the name AKYAB? mouth and tongue, difficulty in say, this is not the burmese language, Arakan Or AKYAB …. Please investigate the answer was simple .. Rohingya want to live in peace and harmony as long-suffering people of Myanmar.
    I appeal to all the people united and prosperous Mynmar all
    needless conflict with each other .. please

  16. This is the time ,we should as a nation stand for justice, peace and coexistence among different groups. Diversity is an asset for our country. Be it Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, different languages,ethnics groups, or whatever, we are together as one nation where rules of law, compassion, human value should be the forefront of the nation. How can we pray that all the being be well and happy where else at the door step there are people who needs to be care and who deserves to get identity card so that he or she can live freely and strive. How can we pray with exceptional clause and drove away people in deep sea at the risk of their lives. We should take the past experience as a lesson . Diversity is the key. Please let us all accept it . Discrimination towards one another is not right.

  17. Burma was colonized by The British, their coming was the worst form
    of terriorism, the native Muslim Archers, went into hiding to Mauangdaw, Budhitaung etc:
    Burma flag shows five States Arakan,,Shan,Chin, Kachin,Karen etc:
    British Policy Divide and Rule as Moto Goes!
    The after effect of colonizing is polarizing through out the world as seen today!
    U Razak and his bodyguard both Arakanese Muslim were Martyred along General Aung San father of Aung San Su Kyi.
    What say you World Jury?

  18. Due to British census, Rohingyas were not ethnic people in Burma. They were Cittagonian from Bangladesh.
    In the colonial period, British defined territories by spoken language, religious, and culture. The 1911, 1921 and 1931 census, British classified only Bengali and did not list as Rohingya. British considered that those Bengali in Rakhaine state were seasonal workers and never enumerated as people of Rakhaine State in the census. Based on census, India and Pakistan were independent from British by the partition of India in 1947. Because of this partition, people , lived in India and Pakistan, returned their home land or migrated by faith. Since 1947, those Bengali in Rakhaine State have not returned to East Pakistan (known as Bangladesh, was independent in 1971). These facts are undeniable that Rohingya never exists. They were seasonal Bengali workers when Burma was independent from British in 1948.

    Needless to say, Bangladesh that has being over populated exponentially. Thus, its national constantly cross the neighboring countries such as India and Myanmar. It is obvious that those people are Bangladesh National known as Cittagonian. Rather criticizing to Myanmar, United Nation must resolve the primary cause of growing population with Bangladesh government once for all.

    citation:
    (1) http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Census_And_You/old_report/index%20old%20census.html
    (2)http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/khin-mg-saw-on-rohingya.pdf

  19. Prime Minister U Nu!
    “Any Body Born In Burma Is A Citizen Of Burma”
    Continental India or Undivided India Colonized by the British Rule included Burma till 1937 The Natives never worked for the British.
    The King of India and Burma are respectively Buried!(Burma/India)
    5 Million Continental Indian came to Burma, 3 Million returned to India.
    The Muslim Continental Indian developed Burma, look around North,South,East and West.
    The Continental Indian as seen TODAY are eight or ninth generation.
    The King of Burma’s ministers were muslim, fghters were muslim and
    runners Muslim etc:
    The Buddhist King built Mosque for his Muslim Ministers in Burma and further A Rest House in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
    What say you World Jury?

    • Mohamed Mamsa, no problem for Muslim in Burma for Citizen. But, now Illegal Migrants Bangalis/Rohingyas are threaten to National Security of Burma, because they start attack to Local People of Native Arakanese/Rakhine People and other Indigenous Ethnic Groups People. then they made False History for their own Land and claim to be Ethnic of Burma. They used Tactic from a story of Arab about a Camel trying to enter inside of a TENT. very clever idea, but USA and the World already know they[Illegal Migrants Bangalis/Rohingyas] are such a LIAR.

  20. If Rohingya wants to live in Burma they MUST follow certain rules and regulations of Burma.They can’t even remember that Buddhist are not their enemies and Buddhism is the state religion of Burma. They should learn how to live with peace, harmony and allow Burma to internationalize them. If not there is not hope for them to stay neither in Burma nor any other countries. Look at the western countries, such as United State and England, there is not religious holiday for Islam, but no one talk about that. Yet, none of the Muslims appreciate the room for ‘other religions’ that Burma has been giving them.

  21. When the issue of citizenship comes, one should not be given citizenship only because they demand themselves to be rohingya. this is absurd. Does Saudi Arabia grant citizenship because anyone is born on its own soil? Does Pakistan recognize the minority rights that they violate at every opportunity? The list is never ending. For Burma to consider offer of citizenship, one needs to analyze what the present citizenship laws are. The laws may not be like those of the US, [how many countries in the world follow the US citizenship law?]. It is for the benefit of the people of Burma that the laws have been made. It is for the benefit of the people of Burma that the rohingyas by any other name may be given citizenship, since rohingya does not only mean the muslims of Arakan, but the Buddhists too. Please see other articles in the Irrawaddy for this fact. Rohingya is a Bengali word for anyone from Arakan which was picked up by extremist separatists who demanded a rohingyaland, and recently rahamland, and in future, I don’t know what. Rohingya as the name implies has been politicized beyond rhyme and reason, supported by extremist islamists in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world with connection to islamic militancy and pan-islamism. Since this calls for various issues, the name rohingya itself is a big blunder of the socalled rohingya leaders, and if they stick to demanding for a recognition of the name, I am afraid, the problem will remain a problem till the cows go home!

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