Human rights groups have called for an investigation into the murder of a prominent Rohingya leader who was shot to death in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Mohibullah, who was in his late 40s with eight children, was killed by unknown gunmen at a camp in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday night. He led one of the largest community groups to emerge since more than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military offensive against the majority Muslim minority in August 2017.
“He left me with so much responsibility,” his wife, Nasima Begum, told Al Jazeera. “I am devastated, how can I handle the family now? It is a difficult road ahead. I’m afraid to live here now, we need security. “
Human Rights Watch called Mohibullah a vital voice for the Rohingya community.
“He always defended the rights of the Rohingya to a safe and dignified return and to have a voice in decisions regarding their lives and their future. His murder is a stark demonstration of the risks run by those in the camps who defend freedom and violence, “said Meenakshi Ganguly, director of the human rights group in South Asia, in a statement.
“Mohibullah’s death undermines not only the Rohingya refugees’ fight for greater rights and protection in the refugee camps, but also their efforts to return safely to their homes in Myanmar. The Bangladeshi authorities should urgently investigate the murder of Mohibullah along with other attacks on Rohingya activists in the camps, ”he said.
Amnesty International also condemned the killing and urged the Bangladeshi authorities and the United Nations refugee agency to work together to ensure the protection of people in the camps, including refugees, activists and aid workers from both the Rohingya and the United Nations. from the local community, many of whom have shared concerns. about your safety.
“Violence in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar has been a growing problem,” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty South Asia activist. “Armed groups that operate drug cartels have killed people and taken hostages. The authorities must take immediate measures to prevent further bloodshed. “
Mohibullah was known as a moderate who advocated for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar with the rights that were denied them during decades of persecution.
He was the leader of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, founded in 2017 to document the atrocities committed against the Rohingya in his native Myanmar and give them a voice in international conversations about their future.
But his high profile made him a target of hardliners and he received death threats, he told Reuters news agency in 2019. “If I die, I’m fine. I will give my life, ”he said at the time.
The Bangladeshi government has vowed to take action against Mohibullah’s assassins.
“The government will crack down on those who were involved in the assassination. No one will be saved, ”Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said in his first comment since the assassination.
Momen said in a statement that “vested” interests were responsible for the killing, as Mohibullah wanted to return to Myanmar. “Mohibullah’s killers must be brought to justice.”
Police say the murder was well planned and on Friday they detained a suspect in the case.
“All police units are involved in solving this case and finding the motive behind it,” said Naimul Haq, the commanding officer of the 14th Armed Police Battalion. “Hopefully, we will solve this case soon.”
The murder has ignited pain and anger in the camps where some residents say it is the latest evidence of increased violence as armed gangs vie for power.
In a video that circulated on social media, Mohibullah’s brother Habibullah, who said he witnessed the shooting, blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed group active in the camps.
“They killed him because he is the leader and all Rohingya abide by him,” Habibullah said. Before opening fire, “they said there cannot be a leader for the Rohingya and that there can be no leaders for the Rohingya,” he said.
His account could not be independently verified. ARSA said in a Twitter post on Friday that it was “shocked and saddened” by the murder and regretted “pointing the finger at unfounded and hearsay accusations.”
More than a million Rohingya live in the camps, the vast majority fleeing neighboring Myanmar during the military crackdown, which UN investigators say was carried out with genocidal intentions.
Myanmar denies having committed genocide and says it was conducting a legitimate campaign against armed fighters who attacked police posts.