How does the trauma of persecution continue to affect the mental health of the Rohingya population in the United States? Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque explores the journey of the Rohingya diaspora in the U.S., investigating the emotional complexity of new lives.
The Rohingya are newcomers to western society, and many have settled in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana, and Texas. The Rohingya people have suffered significantly from decades of systemic persecution by their country’s military. They are the Indigenous people of Arakan State in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, a country that has been ruled by a military junta since its independence.
A dozen primary school-aged children sit around desks taking instruction from their tutors, local college students who volunteer as English language teachers at the Rohingya Culture Center in Chicago. The center’s founder, Nasir Bin Zakaria, 40, watches from a distance, nodding in delight whenever a child gets an answer right.
Zakaria, who works full-time as the director of the center, fought tirelessly to create this space for refugees. Opened in April on the busy and popular South Asian corridor along Devon Avenue near Rogers Park, the single-story, open space, with rooms in the back for more private gatherings, is a sanctuary where these new Chicago residents come to feel at home after escaping hardship in Myanmar. A huge map of Myanmar adorns one wall, and an elevated podium serves as a stage for notable events. White boards hang on one side of the wall, which is where children and adults alike come for lessons.
When Nasir Bin Zakaria arrived in Chicago in 2013, there were just around 300 Rohingya families in the city from his native Myanmar, also known as Burma. He said the word Rohingya drew blank stares from Americans he encountered.
“If you asked anyone in the United States: ‘Do you know who the Rohingya are?’ No one did,” Zakaria told NBC News. “People would ask ‘No, what does it mean?’”
The Rohingya people are desperately escaping Myanmar, the country where they have faced persecution for generations. The situation now borders on genocide and more than 500,000 have fled just in the past few months. Though the refugees are mostly in camps in neighboring Bangladesh, they have also been trickling into the United States in recent years. About 400 families have settled in Rogers Park on Chicago’s North Side, one of the country’s largest concentrations of Rohingya.
WEST RIDGE — Rashid Ahmed started working with computers when he was just 7 and his dad brought home a used, $20 device.
The computer barely worked, but Ahmed tinkered with the pieces and eventually managed to completely fix it on his own. He hasn’t stopped tinkering with computers since — and his interest has only deepened since he moved to Chicago as a Rohingya refugee. Despite the hardships his family have faced, he’s found success and plans to build a career in computers.
The 22-year-old graduated with honors from Harold Washington College with an associate’s degree in science in June 2020, then received a certificate in computer information systems from Wilbur Wright College in December.
Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Facebook for $150 billion over allegations that the platform failed to act against anti-Rohingya hate speech that fueled real-world violence against the group in the region, according to a complaint filed Monday.
Refugees in the U.S. filed the case in California superior court, and Rohingya refugees in Europe filed a similar case in the U.K.
Facebook’s negligence facilitated the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar after the social media network’s algorithms amplified hate speech and the platform failed to take down inflammatory posts, according to legal action launched in the US and the UK.
The platform faces compensation claims worth more than £150bn under the coordinated move on both sides of the Atlantic.
CHICAGO (RNS) — About a dozen Rohingya refugees voted for the first time Tuesday (Oct. 20) at an early voting site in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.
It wasn’t just the first time they voted as United States citizens. It was the first time they’d ever voted, period.
In the seven years he’s lived in America, Nasir Zakaria has hardly felt as grateful as he did Tuesday waiting at the Warren Park polling site in Rogers Park to cast his first-ever vote in his lifetime, he said.
“Really I’m so grateful for country of United States,” Zakaria, a Rohingya American, said. “I’m so grateful for people of United States for supporting (us). I’m so grateful for government of United States.”
The journey from refugee to registered voter isn’t always an easy one. But this past October, more than a dozen Rohingya-Americans completed it when they cast their ballots for the first time in the 2020 U.S. general election.
Those Rohingya refugees took a van to vote at the Warren Park Field House, located in West Rogers Park Oct. 20.