Humanitarian response to the March 22nd fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp

Posted on: March 23, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

This post updated 9:00AM Wednesday EST. Humanitarian refugees gut punched by fire In the last couple years I have been honored to work with many Rohingya refugees. Countless interviews, text chats, and discussions have led to writing a series of blog posts, having one (Pan Thar) as a guest in my sociology class, and even co-authoring a poem with another (Ro Anamal Hasan). We have spent the last year trading stories and fears about the Covid-19 pandemic. These (mostly) young women and men have inspired me and challenged my understanding of what it means to witness. I heard about the fire by reading their many feverish updates on Facebook and Twitter; my heart sank. As a 12 year old I was awoken by my father in the middle of the night, our apartment aflame. We made it out, but the trauma of that night lives with me. Even with that…

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A discussion with Ziaur Rahman, Rohingya activist and humanitarian

Posted on: March 6, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

A discussion with Ziaur Rahman, Rohingya activist and humanitarian                 Humanitarian action As defined by Maxwell and Gelsdorf1 humanitarian action, broadly speaking, is the protection of life and dignity. Inherently multifaceted, humanitarian action includes eight overlapping realms including security, stabilization, development, sustainability, governance, and rights. Where humanitarian action overlaps with both governance and rights lies humanitarian advocacy. They argue, “Humanitarian action is is always situated in a context of global agendas, and it is often unclear where humanitarian action ends and some other kind of action begins–whether this action is more explicitly political, developmental, economic, or human rights oriented. This question also tugs at the very meaning of ‘humanitarian’- and is by no means resolved.”  (p.7) I cannot agree more, and am constantly challenged by my own shifting views on the meaning of humanitarianism. I’ll readily admit to erring on the side of conflating…

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Questions about the relocation of Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char Island

Posted on: December 6, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

  See 29 December 2020 update on this post here.   “We aren’t born to float and drown/Nor to be refugees …” -Ro Anamul Hasan, from his poem The Dead Island Humanitarian questions about the relocation of Rohingya to Bhashan Char Island   In their own words This report by Amnesty International, LET US SPEAK FOR OUR RIGHTS: HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION OF ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH provides an excellent and up to date overview of the plight facing the Rohingya. In eight sections using first person accounts from Rohingya, both women and men tell detailed and compelling stories. The section titled “This is worse than prison” gives the accounts of Rohingya who were brought to Bhashan Char in May, 2020 having been turned away by Malaysian authorities after a traumatic months long sea journey. The title of this section (“This is worse than prison”) summarizes the feelings of those already on…

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Bringing two worlds together

Posted on: October 27, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

Update 11-26-20 Pan Thar’s “Life tale of a Rohingyan Soul” was recently featured on Litlight.   “I communicate and work with many Rohingya poets and poetesses who are writing poetry for various platforms. Our writing makes us not only feel glad but also to be proud of our activism for our community. Our pens are our guns. Our words are our bullets. Our ink is our activism.” -Pan Thar, Rohingya poet Bringing two worlds together Par Thar, Rohingya poet In the past 18 months I have been in contact with many young Rohingya men and women now living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.  Most are victims of genocidal persecution from the Myanmar government and military, fleeing along with over 700,000 other Rohingya to Bangladesh in August of 2017. I have written many posts about what I have called ‘refugee humanitarians‘ and have kept up with…

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Views on the COVID-19 pandemic from the majority world

Posted on: May 18, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

Updated 22 May 2020 “Until we build a world for all of us, it’s almost like humanitarian efforts are just putting a band-aid over life-threatening wounds.” -Michael Koppinger Views on the COVID-19 pandemic from the majority world The majority world First, a comment on naming. It is not the “Third World” or the “developing world” or even, as I have used in the past, the “Global South.”  It is the majority world, the part of the world that has the most people. This term “…defines the community in terms of what it is, rather than what it lacks”, and are were encouraged to use it by the person believed to be the creator of the term, Bangladeshi photojournalist and activist Shahidul Alam. Here in the minority word With the specter of what happened just over 100 years ago with the Spanish flu, massive and deadly second and third waves, government leaders in…

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Humanitarian voices in Sittwe, Myanmar

Posted on: February 1, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces", Refugee humanitarians

“What do we want?  Justice. Equality. Peace and freedom.” –Kyaw Kyaw, Rebel Riot     Humanitarian voices in Sittwe I recently talked with a humanitarian working in Myanmar, and we chatted about some recent events in the local poetry and music scenes that give reason for cautious hope. He forwarded a link to some graphic, compelling, and highly political videos recently produced by Turning Tables Myanmar. From their web page: Turning Tables Myanmar works to empower marginalized youth by providing the means to process and express their hopes, dreams and challenges, through the Creative Arts of music and film. We strive to address the root causes of inequality and provide support to a wide range of challenges in Myanmar from gender-based violence, tribalism, extremist groups, youth in urban slums and the communities in which they reside. The five videos, under the umbrella title “Transition This”, are all extraordinarily well done and…

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Confronting the lie of civilization through poetry

Posted on: January 28, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces", Refugee humanitarians

“My words are taller than the walls put between Buddhists and Muslims. My words are stronger than the hatred designed for me…My words build bridges between ethnic communities. My words fight against injustice and ignorance. My words have no religion. My words are for humanity. My words know no borders. My words are for peace and harmony.” -from the poem My Words by Rohingya refugee, Mayyu Ali   “Humanity is the only true nation.” -Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health   “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…” -Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights         A measure of our humanity According the the UNHCR there are over 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.  About double that number, over 140 million,…

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Mobile and wifi access a basic human right? Yes!

Posted on: November 15, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

“The first thing a refugee asks for upon arrival at a camp is not water or food, but the Wi-Fi password. A smartphone has become a basic humanitarian need because it allows displaced people to connect with loved ones they’ve been separated from.” -Turkish telecom CEO Kaan Terzioglu at DAVOS, 2018   Mobile and wifi access a basic human right? Just now I am writing in a local coffee shop, surrounded by colleagues, students, and staff at my university, literally 100% of whom are connected via cell and/or wifi. In the global north where I live connectivity is essential, even vital, for day to day life. Is the same true for the rest of the world, especially those who are now refugees?  More specifically, in our globalized world, is cell and wifi access essential and therefore a basic human right? I’ll argue absolutely yes. Rohingya denied Over two months have passed…

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#RohingyaGenocideDay

Posted on: August 23, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Updated 25 August   “I would like to be part of an effort to promote unity and peace across the world. I feel that people often see the worst in each other and changing this outlook might help resolve conflicts.” –Khing Maung Soe, refugee humanitarian   “I want to send messages to my people and to the world through my poems. My poems are the real voice of Rohingya women that need to be heard. They too deserve equality.”  –Shahida, Rohingya refugee   “In contrast to those who suggest that we act as soon as the whistle blows, I suggest that, even before the whistle blows, we ceaselessly try to know the world in which we live — and act. Even if we must act on imperfect knowledge, we must never act as if knowing is no longer relevant.” -Mahmood Mamdani in Saviors and Survivors   Too many calls for our…

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Ro Anamul Hasan, Rohingya poet

Posted on: August 23, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

25 August 2017 “The day I can never forget, even in the hereafter.” –Ro Anamul Hasan Ro Anamul Hasan, Rohingya poet Harsh memories On this #RohingyaGenocideDay, I have been asked to share the voice of yet another Rohingya refugee humanitarian and poet. You can read about other Rohingya poets here. Below you can experience two of Anamul Hasan’s poems, and, scrolling down, you can hear his voice as he explains why he writes. Like the other young men and women I have profiled, Anamul Hasan is a ‘refugee humanitarian’, and has worked with MSF as an interpreter, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) doing field visits and data entry for IOM. These international humanitarian organizations are doing a good job, he tells me, though it can never be enough. Like many of his friends, he struggles to make meaning of his life and uses poetry to remember and to lay bare his memories and…

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