Book of poems published by genocide survivor

Posted on: September 6, 2022 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

The Painful Life of Rohingya by Roshidullah Kyaw Naing published by Evincepub Publishing

 

A must read
It has been my honor to write about and in some cases to partner with many Rohingya poets over the last few years, and I have written many posts about these poets. I invite you to click here to read about some amazing young Rohingya women and men who have chosen writing poetry as one way of responding to the agonies of being a genocide victim.

Early this summer I was contacted by Rohingya poet Roshidullah Kyaw Naing. After reading -and re-reading many times- his collection of poems I agreed to write a foreword for his book. His dream of having this book of poems is now, fantastically, a reality.  I encourage anyone who wants to learn about the struggle of the Rohingya people to order this book now on Amazon or directly from the publisher, Evincepub Publishing. My copy arrived from Amazon after just two days.

This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to learn about the genocide endured by the Rohingya. Below is my Foreword further detailing what you will find between the covers of this moving book of poems.


Foreword to The Painful Life of Rohingya by Roshidullah Kyaw Naing
Over the last several years it has been my honor to write about and even collaborate with many Rohingya poets, most now living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. I am humbled to be asked to write this foreword, and I beg forgiveness if my words fall short of matching the depth, scope, and power of the poetry you will read below.

As a sociologist I am fully aware of how complex social reality is. In this ever globalizing world where cultural histories are now blending together, the task of capturing all the detailed nuance of one’s life is a daunting undertaking. Poetry is a time honored tool women and men from all over the world have used to artfully articulate observations about their lives and about the cultures in which they live and act. Poets are lay sociologists using an alternate language structure to share powerful insights.

Poets and sociologists share a common goal. They are both trying to understand the world and then communicate their insights to any ready to listen and learn. Both sociologists and poets look for human universals, they look for things that we all have in common. But unlike sociologists who aim for objectivity and speak to the mind, poets ask us to feel. By reading this book of poetry you will have an insight into what it is like to be a Rohingya, how it is to be persecuted, how it is to live life as a refugee.

Because the topics Roshidullah addresses are so painful and real, this book of poems is not easy to read, but it is vitally important to do so. The poems are crafted in such a way that draws you into an increasingly complex and painful story. The reader is pleaded with and vented to, the author trusting the reader with the most precious thing any of us has to offer: his inner soul, naked and vulnerable.

There are many millions of refugees around the world, women, men, and families that have had to flee their homeland due to mortal threats. These refugees come from places like Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Myanmar, and recently from Ukraine. At nearly 27 million strong, they would make a small nation.  Most people around the world, especially those from the global north, have no real idea what it is like to be a refugee, to live the refugee life. Most refugees are absorbed into the communities and cities of neighboring nations but more than one fifth of all refugees end up living in refugee camps.
Such is the case of the Rohingya who had to flee Myanmar beginning five years ago and now are struggling to survive in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. No Rohoingya will ever forget the genocidal actions of the Myanmar military on August 25, 2017 when nearly 700,000 Rohingya had to seek refuge in Bangladeshi under the care of the Bangladeshi government and the international humanitarian community.

Taken together this body of work invites the reader to more deeply understand what the Rohingya have gone through in the last five years.  It provides a raw and emotional look at one person’s journey as a refugee, but, having listened to many Rohingya refugees in the last several years I can say with confidence that his words speak for many young Rohingya.

I found myself reading and re-reading each poem and then, almost in a frenzy, reading all of them back to back several times, perhaps in a subconscious attempt to experience the life of a refugee. For many, these poems may be more than can be handled all in one sitting. This book of poems by Roshidullah Kyaw Naing tells an important story about Roihingya refugees and the world needs to listen to each effort to convey the angst, frustration, and emotional strain the author offers some eloquently with his poems.

Although I have been studying, teaching about and learning from refugees for the last several  years I learned so much  from reading this book of poems. All the academic journals in the world can’t capture the angst and frustration conveyed in these poems. If I can learn a great deal from these poems, those who have minimal knowledge of refugee life can learn volumes. Although it will be a tough introduction into the world of refugees, an open minded reader can learn of the frustrations of being denied basic human rights.

I am sure most people would not have the strength or vision to write a body of poems like this. In retrospect, one of the things I am surprised about after having read all of these poems now many times is the lack of anger or hatred. Although I am sure Roshidullah had these negative feelings, he voices no ill will about those who perpetrated the genocide. Just the opposite, what I find is caring and hope and, in a very tentative and indirect manner, a sense of optimism.  The poems address many topics. He writes, for example, about his village in Arakan back in Myanmar, about love and support from his mother and father, about the beautiful memories of those days before the genocide, and, most painfully, about the indignity of being a refugee.

Another thing I am struck by in this body of work is that these poems are written in English or at least translated into English. What the author is telling us is that he wants to communicate with the outside world which, for better or for worse, is dominated by English speakers. This look is a love letter crying out to the rest of the world and perhaps specifically those in the global north who have privileges. Will those that read this book be moved to act and to help create a more just world where there are no more refugees and everyone is free and afforded a life of dignity?

For my part, I am more committed than ever to listen closely to the voices of refugees and to follow their lead as we all move toward a world where oppression is defeated. Let’s move forward together.

Tom Arcaro
Burlington, NC
29 June 2022

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022.

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