Rohingya: Collective Voices
Translator’s note: The following excerpts appear in the longer “Collective Voices” poem discussed in the interview with Mayyu Ali. Some of the “Voices” are just starting to write poetry after having been denied education for years. – James Byrne
Once I was born, I survived in two worlds:
One where I have lived for generations,
Another where I am merely a refugee.
In both places, I am displaced.
Nothing left, burnt buildings, villages.
The sky is smoke,
The earth smells of burning.
The Arakan, isolated, a brand-new inferno.
For days and nights we ran, stumbled and hid—
Exhausted, emaciated, hungry.
Old men rely on bamboo sticks,
Women cling to life, babies on their breasts.
Grandmother in a plastic basin hung by bamboo stick
The shadow of hell on earth.
Genocide’s blade doesn’t choose us by our age.
He is strong, young, male and educated.
He is abducted, executed, sent to the grave.
I am a young Rohingya.
I should have the same rights as you do.
In Myanmar, I cannot go to school.
In Bangladesh, there’s no curriculum I can learn.
She was gang-raped, set alight, and left for dead.
She carries a killer’s scar inside her body.
Over a decade, many times I have fled and returned.
This is the fourth time I have left Bangladesh—
A life spent on survival.
Am I fortunate enough to flee again?
Perpetrators lie in various ways
While the world still debates definitions of genocide.
You can see the fire but not how we are burnt,
You can read of killings but not how our throats were
A bullet in the chest bigger than a heart.
A body drops into the water
And the world just watches on.