But instead of succumbing to the rapid political onslaught and indignity being forced upon the Rohingya population, Rahima deiced to pursue her higher studies and has today become the face of the Rohingya struggle.
Rahima knew that she had to hide her Rohingya identity to get admission into one of Bangladesh’s private universities. Her dreams were shattered when the university administration found out that she belonged to the Rohingya community and decided ti suspend her because of it.
The Bangladesh government has not granted permission to people from the refugee community to take admission in its educational institutions be it schools or universities. Rahima Akter is one among thousands of young Rohingya people who feel encaged as refugees in a land that doesn’t allow them to pursue their studies and become capable of better life opportunities. She is a young Rohingya woman who doesn’t wish to lead the rest of her life with indignity and denial of all basic rights but instead wishes to study about human rights and raise a voice against all the wrongs being done to her persecuted community.
Before her identity became public, Rahima had been studying and doing extremely well in Cox Bazar’s International University where she was studying law. Rahima asserts that she hid her identity only in order to be allowed access to the university course and that even refugees like herself shouldn’t be denied something as vital and fundamental as the right to education.
Rahima desired to study and to explore the world of possibilities even while her family wanted to marry her off at a young age. Akter was born and raised in Bangladesh.
It was in 1992 that her parents fled the mass exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. She is one among the 33,000 registered refugees living in Bangladesh.
Obtaining forged documents by parents in order to register their children in formal schools is a prevalent practice but recently several Rohingya parents have got severe punishments for having done so.
Rohingya children are allowed access to only non-formal primary schools in refugee camps.
Human Rights Watch reminds us that since 2019, Bangladeshi authorities have begun to track and expel Rohingya students from educational institutions.
Prior to 2019, schools and universities did admit Rohingya refugee children without much difficulty, but things have rapidly transformed over the years.
The Bangladesh government makes a distinction between ‘registered’ Rohingya refugees and those who have arrived since August 2017 whom it refers to as ‘forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals’.
It has to be noted that more than 700,000 Rohingya people escaped the mass exodus in Myanmar and a bloody crackdown and came to Bangladesh in 2017.
Under the purview of international law, Bangladesh is obliged to provide access to education to all children its territory without discrimination even if they happen to be refugees.
Most of Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugees reside in the Cox Bazar area of Dhaka. The Bangladeshi inhabitants and nationals feel insecure because they seem to be competing for the already scanty resources and opportunities available to the country.
The case of Rahima Akter points to the fact that legally she doesn’t have the right to pursue her education in Bangladesh because she is a Rohingya refugee but morally she has the right to be educated and pursue her dreams as a human being.
Her story must not be seen in isolation but as related to the conditions of the lakhs of Rohingya people living in Bangladesh.
What cannot be denied is the reality that it is a huge injustice to deny Bangladeshi children education and the right to pursue their dreams. Why should their aspirations be held hostage to the dirty political game? Isn’t this a serious abuse of human rights?