Labour steps up efforts to win Muslim votes ahead of election

Labour steps up efforts to win Muslim votes ahead of election
Labour steps up efforts to win Muslim votes ahead of election

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAKA: Sebon Bahar’s fondest memories of Eid Al-Adha are the hug she would share with her mother to celebrate the occasion, an experience that has grown distant now that she is living on a remote Bangladeshi island.

For the last three years, the Islamic holiday that is synonymous with family gatherings has not felt the same for Bahar following her move to Bhasan Char.

“My Eid celebrations remain incomplete without this precious hug with my mother … Here on this island, I miss this most during Eid as my mom is living at Cox’s Bazar,” she told Arab News on Sunday.

“Without my family members, especially my mother … I feel like it’s not a special day … I haven’t seen my relatives who live in Cox’s Bazar for over three years.” 

Bahar is among more than 35,000 Rohingya who since the end of 2020 have been moved to Bhasan Char as authorities seek to ease pressure on the congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than 1 million refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar.

Located in the Bay of Bengal, the island settlement is several hours by boat away from the mainland.

The fourth Eid Al-Adha on Bhasan Char has not eased the feeling of isolation for its residents, many of whom are missing their extended family even more during the Feast of Sacrifice as leaving the facility is illegal for refugees on the island.

On Eid, Bahar said she makes calls to relatives in an attempt to “feel the special day,” trying to replicate the time she was still living in Cox’s Bazar, when the holiday meant friends and families visiting each other and gossiping over shared food.

While the 30-year-old is grateful for the improved parts of her life in Bhasan Char, where there is more safety, access to fresh seafood and good housing, refugees still struggle with a lack of access to quality education, high cost of goods and also inability to leave the island.

“There is no hope in this island life, and also Cox’s Bazar camp life. I am living life with only one hope nowadays, that one day I will be able to return to Myanmar with citizenship rights,” Bahar said.

Eid celebrations are not the same for Mohammed Abdul Jalil either, as he celebrates his third such holiday on the island.

“Eid celebrations without relatives and family members here at Bhasan Char are boring to me,” Jalil told Arab News.

“Yes, we are in touch with each other through mobile phones, but having chit-chat sitting face to face can’t be compared with two to three minutes of mobile phone conversation. Visiting each other is the most special thing we usually practice as part of Eid.”

He is hoping that the day comes soon when he can return to Myanmar.

“On this island, I just want to reside until our dignified repatriation to our motherland with full rights. As a refugee on this island, I have no other dream or expectations,” Jalil said.

In spite of the hardships and uncertainties, many refugees try their best to make a festive occasion such as Eid as special as possible.

“My Eid celebrations center around the joy of my children, and I always try to do my best to make the day special for my children,” Monira Begum said.

Like Bahar and Jalil, Eid for Begum was also about spending time and sharing food with her extended family — an experience she has not been able to have for the last four years in Bhasan Char.

As she prepares for Eid Al-Adha, which will be observed on Monday in Bangladesh, Begum plans to make traditional snacks for her family.

“I have powdered rice grain to make our traditional snacks, sweet sticky rice cake. I bought some clothes for my children, cosmetics for my daughters, though I am unable to offer a sacrificial animal … This is how I am going to celebrate Eid this year,” Begum said.

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