Scars of Rohingya Refugees

July 06, 2017

by Doug Bock Clark

Doug Bock Clark is a writer and photographer whose articles and pictures have been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The New Republic, and other magazines and newspapers…

A Rohingya-refugee-displays-her-burn-scars-image-by-doug-bock-clark-bangladesh-2017

While reporting on the Myanmar army’s recent violence against the Rohingya, I listened to the stories of dozens of refugees. Many of them showed me the physical scars of the traumatic events—half-healed puncture wounds from shrapnel, scarified exit holes from bullets, or the petal-soft pink flesh of recent burn—as evidence. A surprising number asked me to touch the results of the violence, as if seeing the wounds wasn’t enough. It was almost unbearably intimate to have someone take off his shirt or roll up his jeans to reveal a bullet hole.

Just as tragic as the physical scars were the mental scars I encountered. As I interviewed several refugees, including a 14-year-old boy who told me he saw his mother raped by soldiers and then found his father’s charred corpse in the ruins of his torched house, it became clear to me that their minds had been as much as their bodies: the narrative logic of their stories was jumbled, and they lapsed into catatonic silences for long periods or blurted non-sequiturs. Their fellow refugees told me their suffering had driven the victims mad, though they also often confirmed the outlines of their stories. As a journalist, I knew their tales of the mentally affected refugees were too suspect to use in my articles, but I also wished that I had a better way of capturing the spiritual trauma that had been inflicted on them. A physical scar I could memorialize with my camera, but the mental scar was invisible—and, ironically, almost by definition, rendered itself an unreliable witness to its own suffering.

Scars of Rohingya Refugees July 06, 2017|Field Notes by Doug Bock Clark Add to a Lesson Plan Donate to Pulitzer Center rohingya_burn_victim_1_cover_photo_for_pc.jpg A Rohingya refugee displays her burn scars. Image by Doug Bock Clark. Bangladesh, 2017. While reporting on the Myanmar army’s recent violence against the Rohingya, I listened to the stories of dozens of refugees. Many of them showed me the physical scars of the traumatic events—half-healed puncture wounds from shrapnel, scarified exit holes from bullets, or the petal-soft pink flesh of recent burn—as evidence. A surprising number asked me to touch the results of the violence, as if seeing the wounds wasn’t enough. It was almost unbearably intimate to have someone take off his shirt or roll up his jeans to reveal a bullet hole. Just as tragic as the physical scars were the mental scars I encountered. As I interviewed several refugees, including a 14-year-old boy who told me he saw his mother raped by soldiers and then found his father’s charred corpse in the ruins of his torched house, it became clear to me that their minds had been wounded as much as their bodies: the narrative logic of their stories was jumbled, and they lapsed into catatonic silences for long periods or blurted non-sequiturs. Their fellow refugees told me their suffering had driven the victims mad, though they also often confirmed the outlines of their stories. As a journalist, I knew their tales of the mentally affected refugees were too suspect to use in my articles, but I also wished that I had a better way of capturing the spiritual trauma that had been inflicted on them. A physical scar I could memorialize with my camera, but the mental scar was invisible—and, ironically, almost by definition, rendered itself an unreliable witness to its own suffering. ##

Tags:Scars of Rohingya Refugees, Myanmar army’s recent violence,the physical scars, the mental scars

Source: http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/scars-rohingya-refugees

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

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