LATEST: Rohingya in Chicago make an emotional plea to the US: ‘Help our people’

CHICAGO –The young man holds the piece of paper up over his head, facing a crowd on a Chicago sidewalk, his brow furrowed underneath a white headband bearing “ROHINGYA” in bright red letters. On the paper, there are two pictures: one of an elderly man with an orange beard, sitting stoically for the camera in a white robe. The other picture: a charred body.

“This my father,” he screams toward a stream of pedestrians, many of whom don’t look up. His voice cracks and his bottom lip quivers. “They kill him. I have proof.”

This Rohingya man living in Chicago, who declined to give his name out of concern for his family in Myanmar, was one of hundreds who took part in a demonstration on Sept. 23. Protesters hoped to call attention to the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign that is displacing hundreds of thousands of members of one of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities.

There have been reports of mass killings, rape and other atrocities against the Rohingya, largely committed by Buddhist extremists and with the support of Myanmar’s military.

News of the horrors has reached around the world but has hit especially close to home in Chicago, where more than 1,000 Rohingya live on the city’s far north side. It’s among the largest Rohingya communities in the US, many settled there after living in limbo in Malaysia for years. With the help of an Islamic group, called the Zakat Foundation, the Rohingya Cultural Center opened its doors in 2016. The storefront center was established to be a touchstone and resource for the city’s growing Rohingya population, most of whom were resettled as refugees within the last five years. Volunteers at the center help with English classes, job placement and general support in navigating life in the US.

Read more at Public Radio International…

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