Facing fear: Rohingya exhibition backed by Australian community
A collection of photographs on display in Sydney show those affected by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Updated : Updated 6 hours ago
By Tom Stayner
The Rohingya community in Australia has welcomed a photography exhibition in Sydney which captures pride in the face of persecution. The images in Rohingya: Refugee Crisis in Colour, were shot by photographer Ali MC, who grew up in Australia and New Zealand.
They were taken at refugee camps and villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State a year before conflict there began to escalate, and are currently on display at Western Sydney University.
The photographer said he hoped to show how victims of the humanitarian crisis had coped with the ongoing violence in their homeland.
“With my photography I really wanted to connect with that strength and resilience. They retain their own sense of dignity despite these horrendous circumstances,” he said.
Many Rohingya in Australia still have family ties to Myanmar’s Rakhine State where the United Nations has condemned military campaigns by the Myanmar government as “ethnic cleansing”.
More than 700,000 people have since been forced to flee to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh since. Ahsan Al Haque of the Burma Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA) said the exhibit showed the strength of the Rohingya.
“The content on their faces that just shows how resilient our race has become over the years of oppression,” Mr Al Haque said.
Ahsan, who came to Australia as an asylum seeker nine years ago, grew up in Rakhine State. He said recent hardships had brought the community closer together.
“Those that have been affected directly, they’re actually probably more upset and frustrated about this, even angry.” “We have this common cause right now and they are all coming together.”
Ali MC wants his photography exhibit to raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya people and encourage more action in Australia.
“We can stand up for the Rohingya people, we can actually deliver aid and better outcomes for the Rohingya and we can also accept Rohingya refugees into the community.” Australia is giving $51 million in aid to support relief efforts for the refugee crisis.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said Australia must continue to provide support and pressure its Asia Pacific neighbour to work towards solving the humanitarian crisis.
“These are a people who are stateless in their own country, who are persecuted and marginalised not only by the government but unfortunately much of the population of Myanmar.” “Much more can be done internationally to support relief efforts for the refugee crisis.”
The Myanmar government has denied a genocide of the Rohingya saying the military action is against a militant group in the region known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
The United Nations has strongly condemned reports of killings and sexual violence against the Rohingya.
Rohingya: Refugee Crisis in Colour is on display from 5-29 June at the Margot Hardy Gallery Foyer, Western Sydney University (Bankstown Campus).