Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by successive Burmese governments, the 800,000 Rohingya are among the world’s most persecuted peoples. Some 200,000, including this woman and her grandchild, have fled human rights abuses in Burma and now live as unrecognized refugees in Bangladesh. Greg Constantine
Blind in one eye after being beaten in the head during forced labor, this Rohingya man fled from Burma to Bangladesh in the mid-1990s. Greg Constantine
In Burma, authorities closely monitor Rohingya families. Most are not permitted to travel beyond their own village, and the authorities regularly update household registers so they know who and how many Rohingya are in each house. Any discrepancies are punishable by fines and arrest. Authorities took this photograph of a Rohingya family living in Rakhine State in western Burma. Greg Constantine
The Rohingya in Burma must obtain formal permission from the authorities and pay heavy fees and bribes to get married. The denial of marriage is one of the leading causes for Rohingya youth, like this young girl, to leave the country. Greg Constantine
Unrecognized and unwanted in Bangladesh, Rohingya live there in squalid makeshift camps where they receive little or no humanitarian assistance and are vulnerable to violence, detention, and exploitation. Here, two children play in a flooded walkway in Tal Camp, where as many as 8,000 Rohingya lived until the camp was relocated in 2008. During the rainy season, streams of runoff water from the nearby hills mix with open sewers to wash away huts and flood the camp with debris, garbage, and human waste. Greg Constantine
Communal violence in Rakhine State in western Burma in 2012 killed hundreds and destroyed many Rohingya communities, forcing residents to flee. The violence spread to non-Rohingya Muslims in 2013. Now, some 180,000 Muslims in Rakhine State are confined under dire conditions in displacement camps and forcibly segregated communities. Greg Constantine
The violence destroyed all the Rohingya homes in the Zaldan Khama (Police Town) quarter of Sittwe; only the shell of the Zaldan Khama mosque was left standing. Most of the area's Rohingya now live in isolated internally displaced persons camps outside the city. Greg Constantine
Some 2,000 Rohingya families—about 10,000 people—were living in the Nazir quarter in Sittwe when the Burmese government forcibly relocated them to internally displaced persons camps outside the city and destroyed whatever was left standing after the initial violence. A metal bed used during the burial procession of Muslim funerals is one of the only remnants of a Muslim presence. Greg Constantine
Rohingya children scavenge for iron, or anything metal they can sell, in the rubble of the destroyed Muslim quarter of Kundar in Sittwe. A primary school that borders the Muslim quarter of Aung Mingalar was once attended by both Buddhist and Muslim students. Following the violence in 2012, only children from the Buddhist Rakhine community attend; Rohingya children now trapped in Aung Mingalar cannot leave their quarter to go to school. Greg Constantine
Ayessa, 55 years old, fled her home in Sittwe for an internally displaced persons camp after her husband, brother, and two sons were killed in anti-Rohingya violence in 2012. Greg Constantine
The violence destroyed 11 Muslim neighborhoods in Sittwe; only Aung Mingalar remains. There, 8,000 Rohingya live in ghetto-like conditions, unable to leave, work, or receive supplies. Burmese troops guard all the entry and exit points in and out of the neighborhood. Greg Constantine
Thet Kay Pyin Ywar Ma is a mosque and madrassa six kilometers outside of Sittwe. After their homes in Sittwe were destroyed in June 2012, some 2,200 Rohingya moved into the madrassa, where they received little or no food or humanitarian assistance. In December 2012, they were forced to leave the complex. Greg Constantine
Many Rohingya internally displaced persons camps are unregistered and receive no humanitarian assistance. Almost 3,000 unregistered Rohingya lived in the Thet Kay Pyin Zay middle school for five months after fleeing the violence in Sittwe. In December 2012, Burmese authorities expelled them from the school and now they live in small, primitive huts made primarily of bamboo, straw, and hay. Greg Constantine
Each year thousands of desperate Rohingya flee Burma in flimsy boats to countries throughout the region, where most are forced back out to sea, confined to detention centers, or sold to human traffickers. These young men are preparing a boat to take some 200 Rohingya men, women, and children from Sittwe to Malaysia. While at sea, the boat was apprehended by Burmese authorities and, after being detained for a month, forced back to Sittwe. Greg Constantine
In front of their hut in the early morning, Halima (age 30) and her father Sayed (age 65) prepare the meager amount of rice they have. Seven members of their family fled to this displacement camp following violence in Pauktaw in October 2012. Greg Constantine
Before his home was destroyed, 20-year-old Ahmad resided in the Nazir quarter of Sittwe. Now he lives as an unregistered internally displaced person in a crumbling building on an old rubber plantation, where he has been sick for over a week and does not have access to medical care. Greg Constantine
During Fotoweek DC 2013, the Museum bore witness to the suffering of the Rohingya—a Muslim minority in Burma long considered among the world’s most persecuted peoples—with a special outdoor exhibition. Each night from November 4 to 8, 2013, building-size images of the Rohingya displaced in Burma and in exile in Bangladesh, taken by prize-winning photographer Greg Constantine, were projected on the Museum’s exterior walls. To launch the online gallery of photos from the exhibition, click on the photo at right.
About Burma’s Rohingya
Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by the Burmese government, the 800,000 Rohingya lack basic rights, including the right to work, marry, and travel freely, and they routinely suffer severe abuse. Following violent attacks in 2012 that destroyed numerous Rohingya communities, more than 100,000 are now confined to displacement camps and segregated areas, where they continue to be subjected to violence, including crimes against humanity.
The exhibition was produced by the Museum in association with FotoWeek DC 2013. Generous support was provided by the National Endowment for Democracy. Additional support was provided by the Open Society Foundations and Physicians for Human Rights.