KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh: It takes a few moments to sift through the years of chaos and dislocation before Rohingya refugee Robi Alam settles on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, August 2012, as the last time he saw his seven brothers together in Myanmar.
“We were still a family then under one roof, in one country,” the 16-year-old says, from his current home — a bamboo shack in a Bangladesh refugee camp.
By then Myanmar had already lurched into a dark new phase of an old conflict between their Muslim Rohingya minority and the Buddhist ethnic Rakhine.
Violence unravelled after the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by Rohingya men; neighbour turned on neighbour as villages across Rakhine state were set ablaze.
Still, where they could, Rohingya families celebrated Eid, the end of the fasting month of ramadan.
Robi recalls being carried on his older siblings’ shoulders as they went door-to-door through the village of Yae Twin Kyun in Maungdaw district gorging on snacks.
Nearly six years on, the eight brothers are now split across four countries: Bangladesh, India, the United States and Myanmar.
One is in a Myanmar jail, another has vanished on the treacherous trafficking route south — a painful family history that traces the key events in the dispossession of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and their dispersal overseas.
When the brothers were last united, in 2012, there were around 1.2 million Rohingya living in Rakhine state.
Myanmar, which denies the Rohingya citizenship, drove most of the minority out in October 2016 and August 2017 in army-led crackdowns that the United Nations has said may amount to “ethnic cleansing”.
Separated from their four older brothers, the younger siblings – Robi, Jaber, 18, Hashim, 17, and Faiz, 12 — are starting new lives as refugees.
For now, home remains a 10-metre (30 foot) hut covered by a UN-branded tarpaulin in the Kutupalong camp, which the brothers share with 15 other relatives including their mother.
“We can’t work here, it’s a place we know nothing about,” says Robi.—AFP