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Bags and Belongings

Bags and Belongings: Crossing a Border, Clutching a Doctor’s Kit

As part of our “Bags and Belongings” series, Dr. Nur Kabir tells how he grabbed critical medical supplies before fleeing the recent military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, enabling him to continue to treat Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.

Written by John Owens Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
Because of the ongoing persecution that Rohingya face within Myanmar, some have lived in the Bangladeshi camp of Kutupalong for decades. Others have only recently arrived amid the latest wave of violence. John Owens

For our Bags and Belongings series, Refugees Deeply earlier this year asked Syrians scattered around the globe what they packed in their bags and what they left behind when they fled. In this next part of the series, we spoke with people displaced from other troubled parts of the globe – from Myanmar to Gambia – about their prized possessions and how the meaning of home has changed for them since they fled.

In this installment, Dr. Nur Kabir spoke with John Owens in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. A well-known doctor in his community, Nur Kabir was among the estimated 75,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last October. Yet being displaced has not stopped his work – he made sure to bring essential medical supplies across the border.

Nur Kabir takes a break from his work as a doctor to pray. The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group in Myanmar, which is nearly 90 percent Buddhist. (John Owens)

I am from Kyet Yoe Pyin in Maungdaw district in Myanmar now and staying in Kutupalong camp. I left my country because of a disastrous thing, the religious conflict that has been happening for a long time, for more than 200 years. Last October, conflict broke out again in Myanmar after which the military of Myanmar burned houses and raped the Rohingya people. They also tortured lots of people with knives and and shot them with guns. So we had to flee.

It took four days to travel from my home to Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. We couldn’t cross the border in the daylight as there is military [there], so we crossed it in the thick of the night. We had to carry our children as we walked a lot from one village to another, hiding in safe places. We were constantly scared that the military would come.

I took a cloth bag with me gifted by an NGO that had all of the important documents and government papers. I brought essential instruments like surgical tools, stethoscope, knives, scissors, cotton, saline, thermometers and medicine that I would need to treat patients. Finally, I brought home items that we would use every day.

I also brought some dry food like biscuits so we could survive the journey. One of the most important things that I love that I left behind was my motorcycle. Both the bike and my house were destroyed by the army.

The meaning of home and possessions has changed for me.

When I left my home, there were many things that we gave to our relatives. The domestic animals and also the land – our own land – and also the most important household things, which we gave to our friends and relatives. When we return will get these things again. At this moment we’re not concerned about our possessions but if we go back again we are afraid that these possessions will be lost as it’s been more than six months and we still don’t have any information about our important belongings.

I used to go sit with all of my friends in the shop beside our home in our village. We used to gather all of our friends and go sit with each other. This is something I miss a lot. We’re not able to do that kind of thing here. I miss it very much – it is my strongest memory of Myanmar and its sounds.

This story is featured in the “Shadow to Light” installation at San Francisco Design Week through a partnership between Airbnb Design and News Deeply.

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