Akter, 20, expelled from university for being Rohingya


Rahima Akter is a young Rohingya woman who wants to pursue higher education PHOTO/Fabeha Monir/Al Jazeera

Rahima Akter hid her Rohingya identity to enrol at a private university in Bangladesh‘s Cox’s Bazar, but her dreams of pursuing higher education were dashed after she was suspended by her university earlier this month.

The 20-year-old from Kutupalong refugee camp has become the face of the struggle of Rohingya refugees who want to study, as Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya to enrol in schools or colleges.

Last October, she was featured in a video story by the Associated Press in which she talked about being a Rohingya and her dream to study human rights so she could raise her voice for her persecuted community.

Nearly a year after it was published, the video went viral after which she was expelled from Cox’s Bazar International University where she was studying law.

“I was in college when the video started showing up on people’s phones. Suddenly, everyone was asking me, ‘Are you Rohingya?’ Some people started a negative campaign, saying I should be sent back,” Akter told Al Jazeera over the phone.

“I was hiding my identity only so I could study. I feel guilty but I did not have an option. Is getting an education a crime?” she asked.

“It’s a fundamental human right. I have learned that. Being a Rohingya is not my fault.”

She has been in hiding at her aunt’s house in Cox’s Bazar, worried about her safety since her identity was revealed.

When she was 12 years old, Akter’s father tried to stop her from going to school and wanted to marry her off instead, she said. She pleaded with him to let her study and he relented.

Akter was born and raised in Bangladesh. Her parents fled in 1992 during the mass exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. She is one of 33,000 registered refugees in the country.

Rohingya children are only allowed to study in non-formal primary schools in refugee camps. Some Rohingya families obtain forged documents for their children to study in Bangladeshi educational institutions.

For years, schools and colleges in Bangladesh admitted these students without causing a furore. That started to change from January 2019, as Bangladeshi authorities began to track down and expel Rohingya refugee students, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in April this year.

Bangladesh distinguishes between “registered” Rohingya refugees and those who arrived since August 2017 whom it refers to as “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals”.

Al Jazeera for more

Comments are closed.