The United States and human rights organizations are calling for a full investigation after a prominent Rohingya Muslim leader was shot dead in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Mohibullah, who was known by a name and was in his late 40s, was killed by strangers on Wednesday at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar.
Thousands of refugees attended his funeral prayer on Thursday evening before Mohibullah was buried in a cemetery in the camp.
The incident comes amid worsening violence in the sprawling settlement home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who were displaced from neighboring Myanmar by waves of state-sponsored violence in 2017.
Mohibullah was an international advocate of Rohingya rights, including traveling to the White House for a religious freedom meeting in 2019.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said the US was saddened by the murder and praised Mohibullah as a courageous and passionate advocate of Rohingya rights.
“We call for a full and transparent investigation into his death with the aim of bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. We will honor his work by continuing to stand up for Rohingya and raising the voices of the members of the community in making decisions about their future, “Blinken said in a statement on Thursday.
Mohibullah’s death underscores the ongoing fighting by the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group that has long been persecuted by the Myanmar government as they face not only displacement but also threats to their security in the camps, Human Rights Watch said.
“He has always defended the Rohingya’s right to a safe and dignified return and a say in decisions about their lives and future,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the group’s director for South Asia, in a opinion.
“His murder is clear evidence of the risks faced by those in the camps who work for freedom and against violence.”
The UN refugee agency condemned the attack and said it was in contact with authorities responsible for the safety of Rohingya refugees.
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“We urge the Bangladeshi authorities to conduct an immediate investigation and bring those responsible to justice,” it said.
As head of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, Mohibullah meticulously documented the testimonies of survivors in the camps. The detailed records he submitted have been cited in several investigations, including one by the International Criminal Court.
He addressed the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 and that same year was part of a delegation of victims of religious persecution that met with former President Donald Trump in the White House.
In his remarks to the UN Legal Council, Mohibullah said that the Rohingya had been confronted with “systematic genocide” in Myanmar, where the government denied them citizenship.
“Imagine you have no identity, no ethnicity, no country, no one wants you,” he said. “How would you feel? This is how we feel today as Rohingya.”
He said the Rohingya wanted to return home if they could be guaranteed citizenship and security.
“We are not stateless. Stop calling us that, ”he said. “We have one state, that is Myanmar.”
But with Mohibullah’s international fame, so did the number of death threats.
“Everyone in governments around the world who made their travel abroad possible was aware of the death threats they have received, particularly in the past 12 months,” Mohibullah’s attorney Eva Buzo said in a telephone interview with NBC News.
Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia activist, said the killing of Mohibullah “had a dissuasive effect on the entire community”.
The human rights group said that since last year at least 2,000 Rohingya refugees have fled their homes as a result of violence between two factions vying to control illegal drug trafficking in the camp.
The Associated Press contributed.