Rohingya men answer call to arms against Myanmar’s forces

Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP) – Heavily pregnant and confined to a squalid Bangladeshi refugee camp, Ayesha Begum does not regret that her husband will miss the imminent birth of their sixth child as he fights alongside Rohingya militants in Myanmar.

Begum, 25, joined the exodus of Rohingya fleeing troubled Rakhine State in recent days as fresh violence erupted between Myanmar’s security forces and militants fighting for the stateless Muslim minority.

But like many, her husband stayed behind in Myanmar to join the growing ranks of Rohingya men answering the call to arms against security forces, say relatives and community leaders.

“He took us to the river and sent us across,” Begum told AFP in Kutupalong camp, describing crossing the Naf River by boat with her children into Bangladesh.

“He bid us farewell, saying if I live he’d see us soon in a free Arakan (Rakhine state) or else we’ll meet in heaven,” she added, breaking down in tears.

The Rohingya largely eschewed violence despite years of suffocating restrictions and persecution.

That dramatically changed last October when a nascent Rohingya militant group launched surprise attacks on border posts.

Myanmar’s military reacted with a violent “clearance operation” to sweep out the militants. The UN says that crackdown could have amounted to ethnic cleansing.

Despite the sweeps, violence continued as remote villages were hit by near-daily killings of perceived state collaborators attributed to operatives of the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA).

The militants struck again on a large scale on Friday, with scores attacking around 30 police posts in pre-dawn raids, killing at least a dozen security force members using knives, homemade explosives and some guns.

This time the security response has seen more than 100 people, including some 80 militants, confirmed killed and prodded thousands of Rohingya civilians to dash for Bangladesh.

But the country, which already hosts tens of thousands of refugees from the Muslim…

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