200 Rohingyans flee to Utah to escape ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar

Apr 4, 2018, 11:43 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2018, 11:10 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Umar Mohamad Arif admits he has a hard time watching news stories about his people in Myanmar. The Rohingyan refugee left that part of the world a decade ago under very similar circumstances as those fleeing the mostly Buddhist country today.

“I cannot look at it,” he said. “I cannot watch the videos, I feel sad.”

Mohamad Arif is now leading the way as a translator and Rohingyan community leader, helping the newest refugees settle into Utah. In nearly eight months, 700,000 Rohingyans have fled Myanmar to escape what the United Nations is calling ethnic cleansing, with 200 of them landing in Utah. Mohamad Arif said the stateless, Muslim population is escaping inhuman conditions.

“There is religious discrimination against us,” he said. “We can’t get education and jobs. We are not able to travel from one city to another city.”

Rashidah Munir’s parents experienced restriction from freedom of movement.

“They flees to Malaysia for the freedom and for education but they didn’t get it so we came to Utah,” Munir said.

The high school junior is now a student within the Granite School District, fulfilling her parent’s dreams of a brighter future.

Both Munir and Mohamad Arif shared their experiences Wednesday night during a ‘Get to Know Your Neighbor’ event put together by the Granite School District and the Salt Lake City’s Mayor’s Office.

It was Mohamad Arif’s goal to educate his neighbors about why his people are in the state in the first place.

“We would like to share exactly what is going on and how we can support our community,” he said. “It’s important for the world to know what’s really happening to the Rohingyan people.”

Salt Lake City’s refugee community liaison, Fatima Daire, said events like these bring a greater understanding to a people who have gone through so much persecution.

“Bringing people together to talk about their unique culture, their unique differences is really important,” Daire said. “It brings about impowerment for both sides of the community.”

There are 65,000 refugees in Salt Lake County, according to the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office.

Wednesday night’s event is part of a monthly series put on by the Granite School District.

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200 Rohingyans flee to Utah to escape ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar