The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), in partnership with IOM, hosted an exhibition in London to mark six years since the mass Rohingya displacement from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The event also aimed to showcase the beauty of the rich Rohingya culture and traditions.
IOM has been on the ground in Cox’s Bazar since the beginning of the crisis in 2017, providing vital humanitarian assistance, including mental health support, using innovative approaches that combine fostering psychosocial well-being, safeguarding, and preserving cultural identity.
The exhibition that took place at FCDO headquarters in the UK displayed unique items from IOM’s Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre in Cox’s Bazar. This center produces artifacts and artworks created by Rohingya refugee artists, artisans, and cultural practitioners living in camps and informal settlements. Through its work at the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre, IOM seeks to promote healing, ensure the continuity of their cultural heritage for future generations, and create a powerful tool for self-advocacy.
Guests were invited to explore the rich Rohingya culture and traditions. "Arar Rosom, Arar Elom" in Rohingya means "Our Culture, Our Wisdom." This culture is something the Rohingya people fear losing due to persecution and the protracted displacement they have been experiencing since 2017.
During the event, remarks were given by Ben Mellor (India and Indian Ocean Director at FCDO), Saida Muna Tasneem (Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK), Rushanara Ali (MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh), and Nihan Erdogan (Deputy Chief of Mission of IOM in Bangladesh).
The needs of the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar remain extensive and meeting them depends entirely on continued support. "The Rohingya crisis must not be forgotten. There are one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, with half of them being children. They have been in displacement for many years, and the conditions are worsening as they are living in highly congested and disaster-prone camps," explains Deputy Chief of Mission Nihan Erdogan, who is responsible for emergencies in Bangladesh. "It is crucial to understand in this context that Rohingya are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance. However, the challenge we face now is that funding has significantly decreased, resulting in people receiving less than the minimum humanitarian assistance they should be getting."
In this context, the impact on mental health represents a significant challenge, which led IOM to come up with creative and innovative solutions. Erdogan adds, "We found in an assessment that the fear of losing their culture and heritage significantly impacts the mental health of the Rohingyas, so we provided them with an opportunity to preserve their culture by opening this cultural memory centre. To date, more than one thousand cultural objects have been created or recreated at the centre."
In 2023, IOM will continue its comprehensive humanitarian support for lifesaving assistance based on community feedback. IOM’s overarching priorities include the dignity, safety, and protection of the Rohingya and the provision of quality services across a comprehensive set of sectors.
IOM is also committed to continue supporting the most vulnerable host community members and mitigating the impact of the refugee influx on the environment through integrated and environmentally responsible programmes.