Top Rohingya Leader Mohib Ullah has been Killed

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News Desk

For years, Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah, one of the most prominent advocates for the persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar, predicted he would be killed by the hardliners who regularly sent him death threats. On 29 September night, gunmen shot him dead in the same office where he held community meetings. In a video circulated on social media, his brother, Habib Ullah, who said he witnessed the shooting, blamed the ArakanRohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed group active in the camps.

“They killed him as he is the leader and all Rohingya abide by him,” Habib Ullah said in the video. Before opening fire, “they said he cannot be a leader of Rohingya and there cannot be any leaders for Rohingya,” he said.

ARSA said in a post on Twitter on 01 October 2021 that it was “shocked and saddened” by the killing and decried “finger-pointing with baseless and hearsay accusations”.

Gunmen fired on Mohib Ullah, who was in his late-40s and was married with young children, after evening prayers. He was buried on 30 September 2021 in the camp where thousands of refugees joined his funeral prayers. Police  arrested a 27-year-old man, Mohammed Selim, in connection with the killing but gave no further details.

Mohib Ullah was known as a moderate who advocated for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar with rights they were previously denied during decades of persecution. He was the leader of the ArakanRohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), which was founded in 2017 to document atrocities against Rohingya in their native Myanmar and give them a voice in international talks about their future.

The killing has ignited grief and anger in the camps, the world’s largest refugee settlement. The murder is the latest evidence of mounting violence as armed gangs and extremists vie for power. According to Amnesty International, the violence had been increasing.

“Armed groups operating drug cartels have killed people and held hostages. The authorities must take immediate action to prevent further bloodshed.”

More than a million Rohingya live in the camps, the vast majority having fled neighbouring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017 that the United Nations has said was carried out with genocidal intent.

“He (Mohib Ullah) was the voice of the Rohingya community,” said a refugee, asking not to be named for fear of retribution. “He lived in fear but never gave up… Everyone is in fear. If a leader like him was shot dead, who else is safe? No one.”

Mohib Ullah came to prominence after going hut to hut in the camps collecting evidence of abuses against Rohingya in Myanmar, including mass killings and gang rapes, that has been shared with international investigators. He spoke at the White House and U.N Human Rights Council, asking for Rohingya to be given more of a voice in their future.

According to one ARSPH leader in 2019 Mohib Ullah was being threatened by ARSA, whose attacks on security posts in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state preceded the army campaign that drove hundreds of thousands across the border. Violent men claiming affiliation to ARSA and other armed gangs rule the camps at night, he and other refugees said, kidnapping critics and warning women against breaking conservative Islamic norms.

Several Rohingyasaid, in recent months ARSA and other armed gangs are behind the violence. Mohib Ullah referred to ARSA as the “night government” and had continued to move from place to place to avoid being targeted by them. ARSA has previously denied responsibility for criminality in the camps.

UNHCR said in a statement on 30 September 2021, it was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Mohib Ullah’s death and had “enhanced its staff presence in the camps to ensure that the Rohingya refugees have direct access to support services and can report their concerns”.

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