Human rights groups have called for an investigation into the murder of a prominent Rohingya leader who was shot dead in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Mohibullah, who was in his late 40s and had eight children, was killed by unknown gunmen at a camp in Cox’s Bazar Wednesday night. He led one of the largest community groups to emerge since more than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military crackdown on the Muslim-majority minority in August 2017.
“He left me with so much responsibility,” his wife, Nasima Begum, told Al Jazeera. “I am devastated, how can I manage the family now? It is a difficult road ahead of us. I’m afraid to live here now, we need security.”
Human Rights Watch called Mohibullah an important voice for the Rohingya community.
“He always defended the rights of the Rohingya to a safe and dignified return and to have a say in decisions about their lives and future. His murder is a stark demonstration of the risks faced by those in the camps who stand up for freedom and against violence,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the director of the South Asia rights group, said in a statement.
“Mohibullah’s death undermines not only Rohingya refugees’ struggle for greater rights and protection in the refugee camps, but also their efforts to return safely to their homes in Myanmar. Bangladesh authorities must urgently investigate the murder of Mohibullah and other attacks on Rohingya activists in the camps,” she said.
Amnesty International also condemned the killings and urged the Bangladeshi authorities and the United Nations Refugee Agency to work together to protect the people in the camps, including refugees, activists and humanitarian workers from both the Rohingya and the local community. , many of whom share their concerns. about their safety.
“Violence in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar is a growing problem,” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty’s South Asia campaigner. “Armed groups that operate drug cartels have killed and held people hostage. The authorities must take immediate action to prevent further bloodshed.”
Mohibullah was known as a moderate who advocated the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar with rights 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 against the Rohingya in their 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’ll be fine. I’ll give my life,” he said at the time.
The government of Bangladesh has promised to take action against Mohibullah’s killers.
“The government will take strict action against those involved in the murder. No one will be spared,” 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, because Mohibullah had wanted to return to Myanmar. “Mohibullah’s killers must be brought to justice.”
Police say the murder was well planned and arrested a suspect in the case on Friday.
“All police units are involved in solving this case and finding the motive,” said Naimul Haq, the commander of the 14 armed police battalion. “Hopefully we will resolve this matter soon.”
The killing has sparked grief and anger in the camps, where some residents say it is the latest evidence of increasing violence as armed gangs battle for power.
In a video circulating on social media, Mohibullah’s brother Habibullah, who said he witnessed the shooting, blames the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed group operating in the camps.
“They killed him because he is the leader and all the Rohingya adhere to him,” Habibullah said. Before opening fire, “they said he cannot be a leader of the Rohingya and there can be no leaders for the Rohingya,” he said.
His account could not be independently verified. ARSA said in a Twitter post Friday that it was “shocked and saddened” by the murder and “pointing the finger at baseless allegations and hearsay allegations”.
More than a million Rohingya live in the camps, the vast majority of whom have fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown that UN investigators say was carried out with genocidal intent.
Myanmar denies committing genocide and says it was waging a legitimate campaign against armed fighters who attacked police posts.