Indonesia shootdown: ‘This crisis motivated the family to hide’

Mohib Ullah made documentary films about poverty and the political rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar for two decades. Like many other Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh he spent three months hiding under a flyover…

Indonesia shootdown: 'This crisis motivated the family to hide'

Mohib Ullah made documentary films about poverty and the political rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar for two decades. Like many other Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh he spent three months hiding under a flyover when a crackdown ordered by Myanmar’s military began in August 2017. Many more feared arrest or death when they slipped across the border.

His oldest daughter, 20-year-old Maee-Aung (pictured), was one of those who found safety. All of Mohib’s other three children died, he said, “because the crisis motivated them to hide” and to try to escape from Myanmar.

Mohib Ullah was able to escape in August and live in Australia with his wife Haniza, their oldest daughter and two sons. He had been granted refugee status, but had no formal education or job prospects. He planned to take English classes to improve his English skills, he said. But Mohib, 46, died after a fall from the roof of his rented house in the small coastal city of Teknaf on Tuesday, according to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

“I was ready to become a writer, but these circumstances stopped me,” he said, at a refugee camp in Teknaf. “I was not able to protect my family. That is why I did not take any risk.”

Myanmar says its security forces only target Rohingya militants. It has accused Muslims of instigating violence by burning villages and raping villagers and says hundreds of people have died in insurgent attacks. Thousands of Rohingya have fled since August and more than 270,000 are now in Bangladesh.

However, the Rohingya say their communities have been regularly targeted for attacks and killing since independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The refugees are fleeing repeated allegations of rape, torture and extrajudicial killings by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes.

Mohib Ullah dedicated his films to his five children in the wake of the unrest, documenting their lives and speaking to families who remained behind. His films were about his struggle for citizenship rights and for Rohingya political rights and “to document in everyday life what is happening, if nobody wants to talk,” he said. He made documentaries during a previous stint in Bangladesh between 2009 and 2011.

Mohib Ullah was also the author of “Cooking Rohingya,” a book about his life in Myanmar in the eighties, including the volatile political climate at the time. His first refugee film, “On the Right Path,” details the Rohingya political struggle, in which Mohib played a leading role. “He was the first person who made me interested in Bangladesh after the genocide,” one of his documentary subjects told the BBC in September.

“Everyday life is changed when one’s neighbor is removed from his land and his country is changed,” Mohib said.

Mohib Ullah last year also made a tearful appeal to the international community to help the Rohingya.

“What have you done for us?” he cried to a packed room in Canberra, Australia, last year, where he spoke about how the mass deportation of his entire Rohingya community had destroyed his three decades’ of work and destroyed his entire family.

Mohib was one of the most prominent Rohingya refugees to have come to Australia. Most refugees in the country are Buddhist, but the government is now allowing 100 Rohingya to settle in Tasmania each year.

A translator from The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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