Photo of woman clutching her dead infant becomes heartbreaking symbol of Rohingya humanitarian crisis

Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, cries as she holds her 40-day-old son, who died as a boat capsized in the shore of Shah Porir Dwip, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

Over the past three weeks, some 400,000 Rohignya Muslims have fled Myanmar to escape brutal military persecution. Last week, a Reuters photographer captured an image of a Rohingya woman cradling her dead baby, highlighting the scope of the tragedy that is unfolding.

The grieving mother, Hamida, fled Myanmar with her husband, Nasir Ahmed, and their two young sons. The family joined a small group of refugees on a fishing boat crossing the Bay of Bengal into Bangladesh — the primary destination for Rohingya fleeing Myanmar.

Tragically, the boat capsized as it reached the shore. Hamid, Nasir Ahmed and one of their sons survived; their 40-day old baby son did not, according to HuffPost.

Photographer Mohammad Ponir Hossain was taking photos of refugees on the beach when he heard that a boat had capsized. “I rushed to the spot and found people crying over the dead body of a child,” he said.

The Rohingya, often described as the “world’s most persecuted minority,” is an ethnic group, primarily comprising Muslims. They lived in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, but have been denied citizenship since 1982, according to Al Jazeera. The Rohingya have been persecuted for decades in the majority-Buddhist country, but tensions ramped up in recent weeks, after police posts and an army base were attacked by Rohingya. Residents and activists say that the military has imposed a ruthless crackdown, firing indiscriminately on civilians.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, has blamed “terrorists” for a “huge iceberg of information” about the situation. She has come under withering criticism recently, even from fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, over her handling of the crisis, but on Tuesday reportedly defended her actions. According to ABC News, Suu Kyi downplayed the scale of the crisis and declared that the “great majority” of Muslims in the area have not fled. She even said she’s be open to international investigators visiting to survey some of the villages, which she insists are intact, for themselves.

Senior U.N. officials have said that the violence in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” The Associated Press reported.


Girl, 4, becomes face of suffering Rohingya children starving to death amid ‘ethnic cleansing’

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