Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan visited Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh today at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp and its surroundings in Cox’s Bazar.
The Queen took part in the trip in her capacity as a board member of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), as well as being an advocate of the work of UN humanitarian agencies. The purpose was to “underscore the urgent need for a dramatic increase in humanitarian assistance for this vulnerable population,” according to Her Majesty’s office in a press release.
She visited and met with women and children who have recently arrived after crossing the border from Myanmar. They told her of the brutality that they faced in their home country and of the issues they are still facing due to the overcrowdedness in the camps. Their stories were called “unimaginable acts of violence” by the Queen who heard firsthand about how family members were butchered, villages burned, children orphaned and women brutalised.
While there, she was also able to see the emergency services that are being offered by groups like the IRC, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF and other humanitarian organisations on location. She stopped by the UNHCR-run healthcare centre and a school that has been converted to a shelter. Queen Rania made a stop at a children’s learning centre run by UNICEF, of which she is the first Eminent Advocate for Children; she also saw the primary health care centre which is run by the International Organization for Migration.
The Queen also visited the makeshift settlements, which had been haphazardly set up to provide more shelter, around the area.
Her Majesty made a press statement at the end of her visit today denouncing the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims saying, “Before coming here, I had braced myself to witness some desperate conditions, but the stories I heard today were heartbreaking and harrowing.
“I’ve heard of systematic rape of young girls, who were trapped in schools and raped by soldiers. I’ve heard of babies being kicked around like footballs and stomped on. I’ve heard family members telling me how they’ve seen their own parents killed, right before their eyes.
“This is something that is unacceptable.”
Queen Rania also called the crisis ‘unforgivable’ stating, “It is unforgivable that this crisis is unfolding on the world stage to a largely indifferent audience. The world seems to be silent to what many are acknowledging now as an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.”
She also questioned why these are being ignored in the international community, ““One has to ask, why is the plight of this Muslim minority group being ignored? Why has this systematic persecution been allowed to play out for so long?”
Additionally, Her Majesty cited the rising anti-Muslim sentiments across the globe and asked whether or not it has now gotten to the point of “where many around the world are unable to see Muslims as victims.
“It leads one to wonder if the tables were turned, and these acts of violence were committed by Muslims if the world’s response would have been as muted as the response that we are seeing here today.”
She called on the world to help these refugees “effectively, quickly, and generously.” Queen Rania stated, “I urge the UN and the international community to do all that they can to stop the suffering and the violence that is being committed against the Rohingya Muslims, not because it is our job to do so, but because that is what justice demands.”
Just since August, there have been over 500,000 refugees (mainly women and children)who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh; this is the largest mass refugee movement in the area in decades. It is believed that the number of Rohingya refugees in the country has swelled to 800,000 with that number expected to continue to rise.
The preexisting service providers in the Asian country have become overwhelmed. Due to the high number of refugees, significant challenges have developed including “in the provision of essential lifesaving services and highlighting the need for greater concerted urgent international response.”
Her Majesty explained that 95% of the refugees do not have access to safe water or enough food. She explained that many were children in danger of dying of starvation, “60% of the refugees are children, and that is partly because males above the age of 12 are systematically being killed. And, according to what I heard from UNICEF, 14,000 of these children are at risk of dying from malnutrition.”
Queen Rania also thanked Bangladesh for their “enormous compassion, kindness, and generosity.” Additionally, she thanked the humanitarian organisations who have stepped in to help.
The Queen of Jordan’s visit coincided with the high-level pledge conference that is taking place on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting aims to mobilise the international response to the crisis. At the moment, the USD 434 million plan to help 1.2 million people through February of next year is only 26% funded.