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Muslim Doctors Witness Harrowing Life of Rohingya Refugees

CALGARY – Three Calgarian Muslim doctors have examined the Rohingya refugees’ humanitarian disaster after flying to Bangladesh to offer help as part of an effort organized by the Humanitarian Islamic Circle of North America.

“I have never seen a situation like that in my life,” Dr. Sameena Bajwa told CTV Calgary News.

Bajwa was accompanied by Dr. Fizza Rafiq and Dr. Fozia Alvi. The three doctors cleared their patient schedules at their respective practices and embarked on their trip to Asia.

Arriving in Bangladesh, the doctors faced lineups of roughly 400 patients, some with a life-threatening illness or recent amputations done without medical assistance.

“Some people have brought their elderly relatives, holding them on their back,” said Alvi.

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She added that a pregnant woman was in dire need of an emergency cesarean section, but lacked the required registration card necessary for treatment at a local hospital.

“That baby is going to die. That woman is going to die,” said Alvi of the heartbreaking situation. “I am sitting here and cannot do anything.”

According to the doctors, their daily conversations with the patients shed light on the barbarity of the attacks on the Rohingya people and the challenges the survivors faced during their escape.

“I have nobody with me. In my village, they cut all the men and leave them and we came alone. Fourteen days in the jungle and we were eating banana leaves to survive,” Rafiq recalled the pregnant woman saying.

Since August, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims and other minorities have made the perilous journey from Burma into Bangladesh to avoid what the United Nations has called a case of “textbook ethnic cleansing,” and “the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency.”

Muslims account for around 6 million out of the 65 million citizens in Burma.

Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya are not allowed to own land. They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own country.