TA budget smartphone camera has become a way for many Rohingya stuck in refugee camps in Bangladesh to tell their own stories, and take pictures of their lives in the camps, which became the largest in the world when 700,000 people fled Myanmar’s army five years ago. They join 300,000 people who have already sought asylum across the border.
These photographers, under the age of 30, are building a record of culture and traditions they fear will be lost far from home, and have honed their skills during floods, fires, and other all-too-frequent moments of crisis.
Their photos have been featured in international media and photography competitions. Sahat Zia Hero, one of the growing numbers of Rohingya Last year the photographers published a book about his work called Rohingyatography and he followed it up by helping create a magazine that publishes photos of others he meets in the camps.
Until 2012, she taught at Sittwe University in Rakhine State. I had to apply for papers and permits from the government to show up at the checkpoints where they were only checking Muslims. Even at university, I was discriminated against by students and even teachers. The Rohingya hated us.
When the riots occurred, the violence meant that Rohingya education had to stop. When I returned to my village, I was held for three days and beaten by the police. I didn’t leave after that. I supported my dad by fishing, but I also bought a smartphone and a computer and that was when I started shooting. It was illegal to have it, but I used it in the jungle, and I learned about it from YouTube videos I streamed using Bangladeshi internet at the border.
We are refugees because of the genocide perpetrated by the army, and now one million Rohingyas live in refugee camps. Our aim is to shine a light on our crisis, to show the international community that even without publicity, genocide and persecution continue.
Living in the camps is difficult, especially without education and freedom of movement. The camps are crowded. There is no safe place for the Rohingya now.
The Covid-19 lockdown has stopped international journalists from coming to the camps, but this has encouraged Rohingya photographers to tell their own stories. Taking and sharing photos feels like a duty to my people, and a way to use my passion to improve them. It is the best language – it speaks more than words and shows the truth. I want the world to see the Rohingya people as human beings, just like everyone else, with our hopes and dreams, sadness, happiness, and sadness.
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I never touched a smartphone until I passed my school exams in 2017. My brother gave me a smartphone to call my sister in Malaysia, but I thought why not start capturing some memories, moments, and the beauty of my surroundings. I can keep it inside my phone as a history for posterity. Instead, only a few months later we had to leave our house due to army attacks and I took more photos as we ran through the woods.
Now I take pictures because it gives me joy – it can change my mood from sad to happy. If I ever feel depressed or anxious, I pick up my camera, because in that moment when I take the photo, I am completely focused on the subject and not on my depression. I really can’t express the joy I feel when sharing those photos with others, especially when they appreciate them.
I take pictures of whatever interests me – it doesn’t matter if it’s animals, people, nature, foods, or something else; I just took the picture. Whatever my eyes see, so does my camera.
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Rohingya lifestyle, our cultural traditions from Myanmar, and our creativity – I wanted to capture that, which is why I started taking photos and videos from inside the refugee camps. It’s my passion to tell the world about our lifestyle, so wherever I go camping, I use my phone to take pictures.
I take pictures of Rohingya children, shelters, artwork, flowers, cultural traditions and also the crises we face in the camps, such as landslides, floods and fires. Although some other Rohingyas do not like to have their photos taken for their privacy, most of them are really interested in photography and what we do by sharing it with the world.
I am a genocide survivor. I live with my family and we suffered without freedom, living in an uncertain future for nearly five years in refugee camps having already faced decades of discrimination and violence in Myanmar.
People can’t always express their feelings, and filming takes courage, but this is our documentary about the crisis we face in these camps.
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Photography helps us let people know how we are suffering. I take pictures of people still suffering as they live a life of refuge here. I take pictures because I think it can help others understand what those pictures are about and what they want.
I am happy to take pictures, and when I want to raise a problem that my community faces, I always choose to take pictures over writing because it has a stronger impact on my viewers.
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I don’t remember exactly why I got into photography, but I loved it since I was young, even though I started in 2017 with a small mobile phone. I even started making short films too.
I like to take pictures and do it as much as I can, especially in nature and on the street, but I have to be careful because of the rules inside the camp – I don’t always feel safe taking pictures here. Most people encourage me, although the reaction is mixed and some wonder if it has any benefit to me in building a career.
These photos capture memories and testimonies, recording our lives for decades and eras to come. A private photo can help ease clutter and reveal the unknown. It helps me mentally and economically too, and I can use it to really capture our community. I think these photos will be part of our history.
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