Wedforum | CRCS | Hary Widyantoro
On August 27th, Greg Constantine, a freelance photographer from the United States, presented the story of stateless Rohingya people through his photography work, entitled Exiled to Nowhere: Burma’s Rohingya. Having worked for several years as a photographer, Constantine tells the story of the plight of the Rohingya people who are denied identity cards, passports, and the security of citizenship because they are not recognized as citizens of Burma, where they live. They are what he calls a stateless people. Since engaging with the stateless people, Constantine asks such questions as “What is the future of these people and their children? Will they be able to go to school?” These questions are what have pushed him to work in Burma. Because they have no citizenship, the Rohingya, he explained, suffer discrimination and intolerance and have no future. They are excluded from belonging to the fabric of the society they call home.
To begin, Constantine provided a definition of stateless people as a people who are not recognised as citizens of any country in the world. There are varieties of reasons why people can become stateless, such as conflict or the creation of new states. The Rohingya, however, remain in northern Burma where they have lived for generations. Furthermore, related to Burma’sRohingya, Constantine talked about one government attempt to exclude them from Burma: the military operation called Operation Dragon King that pushed part of the Rohingya community to cross the border into Bangladesh where they also have no citizenship.
Another problem faced by them is harsh restrictions on their right to get married. In north Rakhine, they have to receive permission from local authorities before getting married. If the case is they get married through an Islamic ceremony without permission, the man can be jailed for about seven until eight years. However, to get permission is not that easy, since local authorities usually ask for money before giving them permission. If they are unable to pay, no permission will be obtained. Many youths have waited for the permission for years. If the policy changes, they consequently also have to repeat once more the procedure from the first. This is what Constantine contended as that making them have no choice but to leave their home.
Many difficulties in their lives as stateless people finally pushed the Rohingya to leave the land they consider as home. Constantine said he hoped he told an important and accurate story about them that not many people know. Thus, everybody in the seminar could share the factual information about their plight. The audience felt the urgency of further academic study about stateless people, refugees, and minorities more deeply after participating in this discussion.
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