‘Clear breach of international standards’: Experts debate the ban on Bangladeshis marrying Rohingya


PHOTO/Damir Sagolj/Reuters

The government claims the prohibition is intended to prevent refugees from using their marriage certificates to obtain Bangladeshi citizenship.

Shoaib Hossain Jewel is a Bangladeshi citizen, aged about 25 years, a Hafiz-e-Quran, and a teacher at a madrasa in Dhaka’s Jatrabari area.

Jewel’s life took an eventful turn when he met Rafiza, an 18-year-old Rohingya woman who, with her family, fled to Bangladesh from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, escaping what the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar.

He fell in love with Rafiza when he met her at his teacher’s home in Singair where she and her family took refuge in order to escape starvation and disease at the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Jewel decided to marry Rafiza but his dream of marrying her was shattered on the very day he started preparations for the wedding as the district administration deported Rafiza’s family to Kutupalong refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar on September 14.

Jewel was informed by the local police that since 2014 the government had banned marriage between Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals.

Then, in quest of finding his beloved, he travelled all the way to Kutupalong Refugee Camp at Cox’s Bazar and traced Rafiza amongst the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in the makeshift shelters. Upon finding Rafiza, Jewel married her at a mosque located inside the camp, with the consent of Rafiza’s parents. The marriage was conducted by the imam of the mosque in accordance with Islamic norms and principles.

However, they could not register their marriage and Jewel returned to his native village in Singair, in Manikganj with his newly-wedded wife Rafiza. Upon their return, the police at the Singair Upazila were alerted and the couple ran away and hid in fear of being arrested.

In July of 2014, the government had issued a public order which banned marriage between Bangladeshi citizens and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Accordingly, the government had also issued an order prohibiting marriage registrars or kazis from registering any such marriages.

This year the government issued another gazette notification, directing marriage registrars to ensure that both brides and grooms are of Bangladeshi nationality before registering any marriage in “special areas,” namely Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati and Chittagong, and threatened with punitive actions if the kazis were found negligent in this regard.

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