Bloodstains still mark the spot where assassins gunned down Mohib Ullah, an activist who was a leading voice for the 850,000 Rohingya living in fear in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
In the weeks since the murder, a senior member of the now-shellshocked volunteer group that Ullah headed has received phone calls telling him he’ll be next. And he’s not alone.
“They”, he believes, are members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group fighting the Myanmar military but also thought to be behind a wave of killings and criminal activity in the camps.
Most of the Rohingya have been in the camps since 2017 when they fled a brutal military offensive in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where the predominantly Muslim minority are reviled and seen as illegal immigrants.
Overflowing latrines fill narrow mud lanes with excrement in monsoon season, and fires can rip through the flimsy homes in minutes during the hot summers.
“The scenario is different as soon as the sun sets,” Israfil, a Rohingya refugee who goes by one name, told AFP.
– ‘Brutal carnage’ –
The former schoolteacher shot to prominence in 2019 when he organised a protest of around 100,000 people in the camps to mark two years since their exodus.
But his fame appears to have gone down badly with ARSA.
“He became a thorn in ARSA’s side,” said Nur Khan Liton, a top rights activist in Bangladesh.
Three weeks after Ullah’s murder in late September, gunmen and machete-wielding attackers slaughtered seven people in an Islamic seminary that had allegedly refused to pay protection money to ARSA.
“ARSA has carried out the murders to establish its full control in the camps. After the latest carnage, everyone seems to be silenced,” he added, asking to remain anonymous.
After the attack on the seminary, the UN refugee agency urged the Bangladesh authorities “to take immediate measures to improve the security in the refugee camps”.