A Bangladeshi artist has been helping displaced Rohingya women and children to cope with the trauma of sexual and physical violence by teaching them self-defense — and painting. An estimated 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in order to escape Myanmar’s military, which has allegedly been waging a campaign of mass-rape and violence against the Muslim minority. According to artist Dibarah Mahboob, who has been working at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh, Rohingya women have found that they aren’t even safe in the camps.
“The camps are currently pitch dark at night. No aid workers or security personnel are there,” she told CBS News. “We too often hear that women don’t even go out at night to relieve themselves, because of the danger that lurks in the dark.”
Mahboob says she’s been giving self defense lessons to women in the camp, and listening to their stories, as she works to help them deal with their trauma. She provides painting lessons as well — mostly to the children, who she says have an easier time “pouring their consciousness into drawings.” Most of the women, Mahboob explained, “have a world of barriers” that can be hard to overcome, but she says that art can provide many of them “the space to express freely without fear of difficult words.”
“The girls are very meek and hesitant, even in women-only spaces. It takes a lot of energy and animation to invite them to open up,” Mahboob told CBS News. “These are women who were isolated forever, and they may still be riddled with trauma. Their understanding of assertion is not like the rest of us.”
Below, watch CBS’ report on Mahboob.
Read the full story at CBS News.