The Forgotten Rohingya of Indonesia (Part 2)

Anis Islam
September 21, 2018

Note: Due to sensitivities in disclosing their personal identities, the real names of the individuals interviewed havenot been used in this article.


Photo: Rohingya refugees in Indonesia have been lingering for five to nine years without any viable solution.


Mr. Juhan, when he was 15 years old, liked to play football in the green field of Arakan where he was enjoying his lifelike any teenager at his village in Maungdaw Township, which was surrounded by a scenic hill view.

One day a group of Burmese military forces came to his village while he was playing with other friends in the late evening. They captured eight adolescents including Juhan and took them to a vacant school where a temporary camp was set up for a few days to function as a surveillance operation in the village.

The captured adolescents were forced to entertain military forces till late night such as body massage, serving foods and drinks, etc. Suddenly, one drunk officer called Juhar inside to serve him more alcohol. After a few moments, the drunk officer started to beat Juhar with his belt and sticks without any reason, rendering Juhar unconscious.

As soon as Juhan got conscious, he realized that he could hardly move his limbs, his intolerable pain increased as he realized that he would not get any justice as he belongs to a Rohingya family.There is no human rights or justice for Rohingya in Burma. To escape from further persecution, he had no choice but to flee his beloved motherland. He joined with other persecuted Rohingyas who were fleeing as well in order to have a secured life.

The journey wasn't a pleasant one as they had to travel on a small fishing boat which was overloaded. After 11 days of a risky journey, they reached Malaysia on 21st August 2004.

"In search of a secure life, I went to Malaysia but I didn't get it there either. I had to spend night after night in the jungle as I was considered as an illegal immigrant," Juhan answered with frustration when I asked him how was the life after arriving in Malaysia where he spent seven long years. He used to look for meals during day-time and was half-awake at night in the jungle.

In September 2011, he had taken another death-defying voyage towards Australia where persecuted Rohingya refugees were treated warmly at that time, but he got to a dead end only reaching Tanjung Pinang of Riau Islands, a province of Indonesia. Since then, his life was confined to the low-cost hotel room that is allocated by UNHCR for refugees at Medan in Indonesia. He is not allowed to leave the city or work - a situation very similar to what he has been facing in Burma.

"I am not anymore young, this year I passed my 35th birthday, yet I am unable to get married. My childhood and youth are already finished in this trapped life. In the last seven years, every my day started with a wall and ended up with the same wall. Yes, I am alive but I don't sense anymore the taste of being alive. My question to the world, how long a human being can linger in this situation?" he said in a melancholic voice.

Mr. Abdul, a father of two, has been struggling for past 9 years in Indonesia where he got married to a local Indonesian woman named Fatima. Although he has a wife, his family life is different than any other human being on the planet. He is not allowed to spend nights with his wife as it is forbidden by law. It might seem inhuman or weird to you, but it became the fate of many Indonesian Rohingya refugees who got married to locals.

He said, in sadness, "I am not allowed to stay with my wife at night. Did I commit a crime by loving an Indonesian woman?"

In 2009, after facing years of genocidal oppression from the state authorities of Burma, he had no option but to escape from his own birthplace Arakan where his life was under threat. To have a safe life, his initial plan was to go to Australia as other Rohingyas were trying the same at that time, but his fate didn’t support him. His boat got into a storm on the way just before reaching Padang Island which is a part of Indonesia.

As Indonesia is not a signatory country to 1951 Refugee Convention, there is no legal framework for the refugees in terms to work. All the Rohingya refugees depend on hand outs given by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

"I got monthly assistance an amount of USD 76 from IOM. It is very difficult to maintain the family with this amount.I want to work outside for my family but the law doesn't permit this. There is no hope or future for my children," stated Abdul in a sorrowful voice.

Rohingya refugees in Indonesia have been waiting with an anticipation that they will be relocated to another country and can start a new beginning. But the continual waiting makes them fidgety.

Anis is working as an Archive Consultant at and a news writer at Rohingya Vision TV.