“Our goal is to go back to [our] native motherland with dignity, safety, and security”
Prominent Rohingya community leader Md Mohib Ullah was assassinated on Wednesday in the Kutupalong refugee camp. Mohib Ullah headed a Rohingya human rights organization which had been assisting international investigations against Myanmar. He was shot by unknown gunmen at his office.
Mohib Ullah was an outspoken leader of the Rohingya community. A teacher in his 40s, he arrived in Bangladesh during the 2016-17 Rohingya exodus from Myanmar. He chaired the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, which has been facilitating the documentation of human rights abuses faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2016 and 2017.
This kind of documentation has been vital to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), which was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 to succeed the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
The testimony of Rohingya victims has also been submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) through its Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS). The ICC authorized an investigation into the Bangladesh/Myanmar situation in 2019. The ICC is investigating whether the crimes of unlawful deportation and persecution occurred as a result of Rohingya refugees entering Bangladesh.
The ICC investigation is based on Bangladesh’s ratification of the Rome Statute.
Mohib Ullah came to prominence in 2019 when he met US President Donald Trump in the White House as part of a meeting with representatives of persecuted religious minorities. Mohib Ullah asked Trump about his plan to help the Rohingya. He told the US president that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh wanted to return to Myanmar. Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback was also present at the meeting.
Mohib Ullah emerged as a civic leader of the Rohingya refugee community. He led a rally of 200,000 refugees in Kutupalong in 2019 to mark the second anniversary of the 2017 crackdown in Myanmar. Mohib Ullah often gave interviews to Bangladeshi and international media.
Mohib Ullah was vocal in demanding human rights and greater protection within Bangladesh’s refugee camps. But his activism contrasted with the militant sections of the Rohingya community, particularly the terror group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and its sympathizers. In 2019, it was reported that Mohib Ullah was kept at a safe house by Bangladeshi relief coordinators due to threats to his life.
In a statement, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said that Mohib Ullah “always defended the rights of the Rohingya to safe and dignified returns”. Amnesty International in its statement noted that “Violence in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar has been a growing problem. Armed groups operating drug cartels have killed people and held hostages. The authorities must take immediate action to prevent further bloodshed”.
According to the leading Myanmar activist Wai Wai Nu, Mohib Ullah had been receiving death threats for some time. Mohib Ullah has always been a staunch advocate of the right of return, remarking that “Our goal is to go back to our native motherland with dignity, safety and security”. He was also deeply critical of conditions within refugee camps, telling an American newspaper in 2019 that “We are alive, but we live like animals. We have no human rights”.
Umran Chowdhury works in the legal field.