Rohingya culture center in West Ridge offers comfort amidst crisis

CHICAGO (WLS) — Tragic images from Myanmar are difficult to watch.

They show the plight of the Rohingya people, described by ABC News as a Muslim minority in the country also known as Burma. The Rohingya were stripped of citizenship by Myanmar’s government in 1982, though they’ve lived there for generations.

According to several reports by ABC News and the Associated Press, the Rohingya people have witnessed mass shootings, women and girls raped, and villages burned, all at the hands of the military.

According to the AP, more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August after a group of Rohingya rebels attacked police, triggering what the Myanmar military calls “clearance operations.”

This oppression is not new; over the years, some Rohingya people have sought refuge in the United States. But challenges still abound.

Nasir Zakaria left Myanmar in the 1990s, finally making it to Chicago in 2013. He sees firsthand the struggle for Rohingya families in America.

North Side cultural center unites Rohingya refugees together

Nasir Zakaria is one of hundreds of Rohingya, a stateless Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State, Myanmar, who found refuge in Chicago’s North Side. After immigrating to the U.S. from Myanmar in 2013 and settling in Rogers Park, Zakaria said he could not sit idly while his people suffered from horrendous persecution.

Zakaria founded the Rohingya Cultural Center, 2740 W. Devon Ave., in April 2016 with assistance from the Zakat Foundation, a Muslim organization that provides an annual grant to pay rent, utilities and Zakaria’s salary.