We hear first hand from charity workers and volunteers working to support the Rohingya people in Bangladesh and Myanmar (also known as Burma) who are often called ‘the world’s most persecuted minority.’

Refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh are referred to by commentators as one of the largest open air prisons.

I spoke exclusively to 35-year-old Abu Rehan, who became a refugee in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh in 1992, and wants to tell the story of how the Rohingya people have the resilience and will power to fast and pray during Ramadan though they are undergoing immense hardships including unbearable heat and lack of food and clean water. 

He also spoke about the inhumane treatment of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military and government.  I was struck by Rehan’s humility and passion for the cause.

Rehan said: “We, the Rohingya people at Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps follow the Sehri (pre-dawn meal) and Iftar (fast opening meal) times according to the calendar and time zone of Bangladesh. The sehri time ends at 4:20 AM and Iftar at 6:15 PM.

“It is very hard to fast during the hot season as we don’t have electricity to power fans and there is no shade.

"It is very difficult for women as they don’t come out from shelters. Children also face difficulties. It is literally boiling under the tarpaulin roofs.”

Rohingya mostly eat rice with vegetables and other kinds of Halal curries but they don’t have access to fresh vegetables, meat, fish and others since the rations they get from the World Food Programme (WFP) are not enough and there has been a recent reduction of food being handed out.

Residents in the camps don’t have income sources since they are not allowed to leave the camps to find daily work.

But only a few Rohingya, who are educated, work voluntarily for Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and are paid a stipend.

He said: “Our shelters are made with tarpaulin as roofs held up with bamboo poles. We only have a narrow space which we call home.

During the monsoon season, many of our shelters are damaged due to cyclones and earthquakes.

"Bangladesh’s coastal areas are cyclone-prone zones. Mostly, the rain comes through holes in the tarpaulin. When that happens, we cannot sleep well and face difficulties in taking care of our children and elders.

"It is hot season now in Bangladesh, and this year the heat is unbearable. We cannot even sleep at night because of the humidity. It is very hot in our shelters. We sweat so much and become really weak.

“None of the Rohingya refugees at Cox’s Bazaar camps have enough to eat as we don’t get enough from the WFP and other organisations.

"We cannot even buy things from markets as we are not paid with cash and there is no way to work to earn money as we aren’t allowed to leave the camps.” 

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Rehan added. “We used to celebrate Eid when we were in our country but since we came to the camps in Bangladesh, we don’t have access to a large field for prayer. 

"We do our Eid prayers at mosques in the camps. Most Rohingya cannot even buy new clothes for the celebration.

"Only a few of them who work voluntarily for NGOs get incentives and are able to buy new clothes for themselves and their children during Eid.

“Almost all the Rohingya in the Cox’s Bazar camps are Muslims except a few Hindus and Christians. We attend mosques in the camps and say Taraweeh prayers which are difficult because there are no fans and praying is hard as they take a long time.

"People sweat while praying but regardless of the hardship, Rohingya refugees go to mosques to carry out their prayers.

“We never chose to leave our country but we were forced to leave by the Myanmar military time and time again since 1978. We are very thankful to the kind hearted people of Bangladesh and the government for saving our lives and sheltering us.”

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Previously, Rohingya men, women and children were forced out of Myanmar in 1978, 1991-1992 and again in 2016.

The largest influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh happened in 2017 when approximately 750,000 Rohingya became refugees because of the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.  This took the total number of refugees in Bangladesh to a million. 

This is genocide as declared by a UN Human rights expert, the US, Canada and others countries. 

The father-of-three continued: “Almost all adult Rohingya fast during Ramadan including teenagers who are old enough to keep them.  Life is hard in the camps and it becomes harder during Ramadan, but we still follow our religion.

“I became a refugee at the age of five. I studied up to primary level from schools run by NGOs.

"Then I studied up to standard ten from refugee tutors and studied on my own by collecting different books from local teachers and friends. 

"I work voluntarily with an NGO that operates here in the camps and the stipend that I get is not enough to support my family since I have elderly parents.

"It is hard to buy medicines for them and my children whenever they get sick.

"There are hospitals run by NGOs, but mostly they don’t provide enough medicine.”

Rohingya who are still living in Myanmar are facing countless difficulties including restriction of movement. They face many atrocities from the Myanmar junta and military, including extortion, beatings, imprisoning with fabricated cases and killings.

Sirazul Islam, 23, a postgraduate law student was born in a refugee camp and came to the UK 15 years ago. He still has relatives living in the camps in Bangladesh. 

He said: “When people start talking about armed resistance and conflict carried out by the Rohingya, it takes away the focus from what the Myanmar military has been doing to us, the Rohingya, for decades now.

"It helps to take the attention away from their war crimes and genocide. 

“The West and the UN have applied economic sanctions heavily. But there should be more emphasis on the International Criminal Court (ICC) case against the Myanmar military and whoever else was involved. 

“In the UK we started to campaign firstly by approaching our local councils. Then we approached MPs and Unions including the National Education Union. I spoke at their national annual conference in Brighton.

"We have worked with the Commonwealth office and the Foreign minister. I had a meeting with him before he visited Myanmar. We provided him with the Rohingya perspective of the issue.

Sirazul, who is studying for a Masters degree in Law, is a motivated and a knowledgeable advocate for the rights of his people. He is passionate about their right to return to their ancestral home and for their right to be free from oppression and violence.

The Manchester University graduate said: “On an international level we have worked with NGOs to raise awareness about the Rohingya issue. We want to demand the right to exist and for our struggle to be acknowledged.

“There are over 300 Rohingya in Bradford and a small number in London, Manchester and Sheffield. We raised £30,000 in 2017 which was used in the refugee camps. We donated medication, food and clean clothes.

“There are Christian and Hindu Rohingya but a vast majority are Muslims. A lot of the racism and hatred is towards the Rohingya for being Muslims. This is basically a case of explicit Islamophobia like in many other parts of the world.”

The camps are restrictive for the Rohingya people, as they don’t have the right to medicine or the right to shelter and food. Everything is very limited, crowded and inadequate to house more than a million refugees. There are families of ten to 15 living in one room.

It is important to apply pressure on the British government to diplomatically fight the case on behalf of the Rohingya people.

This can be done by approaching your local MP and high ranking officials in government. What has been done to the Rohingya people is unconscionable and unacceptable. It must stop and they should be allowed back into their country with a guarantee of safety.

At the very least we should support this abused minority with financial, political and military support in their struggle.