“First Sip of Statelessness”
THIS IS A FICTIONALIZED ACCOUNT OF THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF A TEENAGE ROHINGYA GIRL WAS RAISED IN SAUDI ARABIA, AND HOW SHE REALIZED THAT SHE WAS ACTUALLY FROM A STATELESS POPULATION THROUGH THESE LIFE MOMENTS.
21st January 2007: DAMMAM, KSA
Today marks her 13th birthday, and she is very excited to see her friends at school. Although her family never celebrated any of her birthdays, this never made her sad because in their culture birthdays, anniversaries, mothers day, fathers day, valentine’s day, and all the socially constructed days have never really been celebrated.
She knew from that time that she belongs to very a unique culture, where ties and relationships were never kept waiting for a day in a year to be celebrated.
In spite of knowing she is totally different one from among her friends, her identity was still like a blurred picture.
As a child and plus a nerdy student, she never thought to clear that blurred picture and never even felt the importance of it.
Being unaware that she was from one of the most persecuted communities in the world, she was very a happy and determined child full of unrealistic dreams.
From Rohingya’s 4 million total population worldwide, she is among the most fortunate children, who had seen colors in her childhood.
She was a child born in her land Arakan (Rakhine) and just after eleven months of her birth, her parents took her to a country which she thought was a heaven. Whether it was fortunate of unfortunate, her unawareness of her own identity was the key ingredient to her happiness.
October 2012: MAKKAH, KSA
Till this date, she thought she was no different from any citizen in Saudi Arabia and thought she was enjoying all human rights. But, then a day came in her life that shocked her mind and soul, when she realized that now literally she doesn’t have a country where she can feel safe.
That day she actually didn’t understand what was happening to her family. Within 24 hours, her father’s Saudi 'sponsor' snatched all their passports and hours later, immigration department endorsed an exit pass.
Overnight, the whole family had to move out from their home and head to the airport. There, they were not normal passengers like others.
She saw how her family was treated in a shameful way, and the behavior they faced forced her to feel like a criminal. Surprisingly, she could not think of the crime she or her family committed so far.
While waiting for the flight, she learnt the biggest lesson in life her that she is not a citizen of any country and the country where she thought she belongs, doesn’t want them.
Although, from childhood to teenage she heard many horrific stories of tortures and abuse that happened to Rohingya in Arakan (Rakhine), till that day she heard them as stories and her emotion was just pettiness.
Usually a human thinks that if he or she has knowledge of something, then they feel as if they understand the emotions connected to it as well. But, sitting in the airport platform she realized that to feel anything in life it’s important to have a taste of it. Thus, she tasted her “first sip of statelessness”.
December 2012: KING ABDULAZIZ INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
As the plane was flying high up, her heart was getting more and more restless, couldn’t think of what was going to happen next to her family in another foreign land.
The time was about 12 am, when she reached the airport with her family at Shahjalaal International Airport in Bangladesh. After the usual checkout from the airport, she felt as if it’s a new world that was unknown to her.
Immediately after the walk ended from airport to a taxi station, her glance falls on a beggar nearby looking at her with his eyes filled with pain.
The time she was figuring out what was actually happening, her hand was grabbed and taken away and she did not get a chance to look back.
“I told you all not to stand away from me, this is a very dangerous country. Anything happens here at any time,” scolds her father with a serious look.
Arifa works as a News Editor for Rohingya Vision and Coordinator for Rohingya Project.