Turkey’s Humanitarian Role in the Rohingya Crisis
On August 25, 2017, violence erupted against the Rohingya population in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Over 720,000 Rohingyas have fled targeted violence to neighboring Bangladesh, many of whom were women and children. The majority fled within the first few months of the violence starting. Villages were burned and sexual abuses were committed against women and children by the military forces beginning in late August. Reports state that in the month following the beginning of the attacks, 9,000 Rohingya died, 6,700 of those caused by violence. Pre-existing refugee camps for Rohingya in Bangladesh have been inundated and expanded due to the large sum of refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. Overwhelmed in size, the camps have expanded to land that is unsafe during common weather conditions, such as monsoons or cyclones.
Cox’s Bazar is one such town in Bangladesh that has seen a swarm of refugees. The international community focused on refugees have voiced concerns about the dangers the refugees will now be facing due to monsoon season, loose soil, and inadequate infrastructure in the newly expanded camps. The international community has worked tirelessly to help, however, funding worldwide has fallen due to the large number of crises the world faces with respect to refugees. In addition to the international community’s efforts, Turkey has been a leading country in assisting Bangladesh with the influx of refugees, despite hosting its own abundant refugee population.
Turkey has been assisting the Rohingya refugees through various organizations and government institutions including the Turkish Health Ministry, the Emergency and Rescue Management Authority (AFAD), the Turkish Diyanet Foundation, and the Turkish Red Crescent. AFAD and the Turkish Health Ministry opened a hospital to assist with the refugee population. Furthermore, the IHH Humanitarian Aid Foundation has built a camp in Bangladesh, constructing over 4,000 shelters for refugees. Not only has Turkey helped to provide shelters and hospitals for Rohingya, but the country has provided over $10 million in aid.
This month, the Turkish Red Crescent opened a community center in Cox’s Bazar. The focus of the community center is to assist and ensure the Rohingya become resilient and self-reliant. Coinciding with the opening of the community center, the Turkish Red Crescent announced its intent to build another 1,000 shelters for Rohingya refugees. Recent commitments exhibit Turkey’s intent to continue its efforts in Bangladesh for the refugee population.
Turkey continues to demonstrate its dedication to humanitarian relief and refugees. Between hosting the largest number of refugees and its continued support for other refugee-hosting states, Turkey is a leader in refugee assistance efforts. Furthermore, the recent announcement in Bangladesh proves that Turkey is committed to long-term assistance and development, not only immediate relief assistance when a crisis arises. Turkey understands the amount of infrastructure and support refugee populations need, and thus will continue to help build sustainable communities for the Rohingya until it is safe for them to return to Myanmar. Turkey’s leadership is necessary for progressing refugee work in a time when countries are closing borders and pulling support for refugees due to current political climates.