“We need you to go to Aceh ASAP?”
It takes just one phone call before I found myself ready for my next assignment. Since I started working in the humanitarian field, there is always a dream of going back to Indonesia and serve the nation, little did I know that the dream hasn’t been too far away?
I never been to Aceh before, but it is always on the list of province that I would love to visit since my trip to Sumatra back in 2008. I’ve heard fascinating stories about Aceh – The Mecca Solarium (Negeri Serambi Mekah) – where the nation’s heroines born and lived as a legend. When one dig deeper surpasses the Syariah Law, at the tipping point of Indonesia, you can indulge into mile after mile of white sand beach of Weh Island, a world famous dive site and Indonesia’s gem of marine biodiversity.
This special region talks turkey of politique et intric. Most of the adult still solidly remembers the dark and twisted story of the insurgence of Aceh Freedom Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) that was spread across the region, along with the fall and rise of Aceh during 2004 Tsunami.
Maybe it was the fond memory of sheer kindness of humanity experienced by people in Aceh during Tsunami that moves a group fisherman on the morning of 15 May 2015, that despite being prohibited by the sea police,bravely rescued the boats crammed with Rohingya Refugees and Bangladeshi that have been stranded in Strait of Malacca for weeks.
That was the first arrival of Rohingya refugee in Indonesia.
Blang Ado – Aceh, 7th August 2015 [11:54 AM]
I fixed my cap, trying to cover my face from the striking sun. A bold black eyes of a naked little boy following my movements since I arrived in Blang Adoh camp. I waved my hand friendly towards him, but he suddenly runs away.
“Don’t worry, the kids here are still not used to see strangers greeting them” A woman dressed in conservative-style hijab warmly welcome me.
“No problem, I get used to it” I replied.
“I am sorry but where do you come from again?” She asked. I can sense a thick north Aceh accent while she talks.
I introduced myself and the reason of my visit.
Within minutes, I have been introduced to the camp coordinator who passionately guides me through the camp history.
We walk through the wooden-shift semi permanent camp, organised similar to the surrounding villages, it gives nuance of tidiness. The outer perimeter occupies by family and children, while both the right and left wings are spared for single woman, and four rows of wooden-shift building at the back of Blang Adoh camp are occupied by men.
Based on IOM (International Organisation for Migration) record, there are more than 300 Rohingya refugees currently reside at Blang Adoh camp. Majority of them are men and teenager. The rest are women, children that are following their parents and an unaccompanied minor. Despite the differences, they are share the common reason for fleeing Myanmar; To avoid persecution.
The Rohingyaa is a long unsung sad story.
These indigenous people of Rakhine State in Myanmar often describes as one of, if not the most persecuted minorities in the world. Since the enacted of Burmese nationality law in 1982, they have been denied Myanmar citizenship and stripped of from their rights of movements and education. Majority of them have fled to refugee camp, slump and ghettos area in Bangladesh. Some also fled to refugee camps in the border of Thailand, for later on ended up in hundreds of shallow graves on a remote and rugged mountain of Thailand.
Hopeless and despair, in 2015 thousands of the Rohingya were undertook a dangerous sea journey, trying to access the South East Asia countries, with a hope for asylum just to find out that they have been exploited by a systemise human trafficking cartel that left them stranded in the ocean for weeks.
Concomitantly, the crammed wooden boat transformed into a wild jungle where survival of the fittest was the only law that exist. Drifted the passengers for an inevitable conflict for food and water. For hundreds of them, the ocean were their grave and left a deep traumatic experiences for those who witnessed.
What does it feel of having no identity? You can ask the Rohingyaa, and they will give you more than one answer. They have been persecuted, tortured, rejected and dispersed by the government of Myanmar; a country that they once called home.
The sound of adzan breaks the day, I excuse myself to join the Friday prayer. As I walk through and enter the mosque that located in the epicentre of the camp, I found myself joining pulses of dark brown skin – short hair men with checkered pattern sarong. Although the khutbah conducted in the Rohingya language, the prayer felt heavy with sadness, and one couldn’t miss the sobbed tears within dhua’. At that very moment, I tremble and realise that I am fortunate to be born and raised in this country, where freedom is one’s basic dignity.
After the prayer, I approached a young man sitting with small brick Nokia phone on his hands. I later introduced myself.
“My name is Sadeq” The young man smiling, showing his shiny white teeth.
“I heard that you can speak English Sadeq, is that true?”
“Yes… small… English, Rakhine and Buddis can…” He answered me in brittle English.
It is simply not easy to carry a conversation by using three different languages with brittle vocabulary, but with compassion Sadeq guides me through the story of his life. His voice is getting heavier as he illustrated the time he lost his family member right in front of his eyes during the conflict in 2012.
He’s suddenly mute when I ask him about the boat.
“Lot’s of people die…” he solemnly answer.
I left his answer hanging.