Rohingya Woman Relives Terrifying Two-Week Escape From Myanmar After Being Gang-Raped

A Rohingya woman was unable to eat or walk for days after she was allegedly gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers during deadly raids at her village.

The woman, only known as A., claimed she was alone with her two-year-old son when two soldiers broke into her house, assaulted her with a knife and raped her.

She said one soldier cut her flesh and both of them punched her in the face.

As she begged them to stop, she could hear her son cry and started praying to Allah for the soldiers not to kill her child.

The gang-rape was so violent that A. was unable to eat or walk for days. She hid in the nearby hills with her son until her husband found her. Together, they walked for 14 days until they crossed into Bangladesh.

A. is among 29 women and girls who recounted to the Associated Press (AP) their ordeal as they fled violence in Myanmar. They were interviewed in several refugee camps across Bangladesh.

The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority group that lives in segregated conditions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, mainly in Rakhine state. They are stateless people regarded as unwelcome migrants from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, and they have become one of the world's most persecuted ethnic minorities.

The interviews surfaced as more than 620,000 Rohingya have sought shelter in neighboring Bangladesh since August, fleeing a military operation in Rakhine that the U.N. described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". The army has denied all allegations of violence.

When journalists asked about rape allegations during a government-organized trip to Rakhine in September, Rakhine's minister for border affairs, Phone Tint, said: "These women were claiming they were raped, but look at their appearances—do you think they are that attractive to be raped?"

Rohingya Muslims
Rohingya Muslim refugees walk along a path inside the Thankhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar on November 25, 2017. 29 women and girls allege they were raped by Myanmar soldiers during a military operation in Rakhine state. ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

However, rights groups including Human Rights Watch have released several reports alleging rape has been endemic during the military's operation in Rakhine.

As stateless people, the Rohingya do not have access to basic services in Myanmar. According to the U.N., "freedom of movement, religion and education [are] severely curtailed" for more than 800,000 Rohingya in the country.

The Rohingya numbered around 1 million in Myanmar at the beginning of the year. However, due to the ongoing crisis, there are now an estimated 400,000 Rohingya left in the country.

The latest mass exodus was sparked following attacks by Rohingya insurgents that killed at least 11 people in Rakhine. The military retaliated in what was described as "clearance operations" to identify and root out any fighters found in villages across the state.

Myanmar's de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced scathing criticism for her prolonged silence and perceived inaction to resolve the ongoing crisis.

In her first address on the situation in September, she condemned human rights abuses, but failed to address U.N. claims of ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi did not use the word "Rohingya", explaining that it was too "emotive" and "highly charged" for an already affected population.

Burmese authorities refuse to refer to them as "Rohingya", a term that would denote their ethnicity.

The word is so contentious that even Pope Francis was urged not to use it during his official visit in Myanmar in November.

Yangon Cardinal Charles Maung Bo told Reuters ahead of Francis' visit: "We have asked [Pope Francis] at least to refrain from using the word 'Rohingya' because this word is very much contested and not acceptable by the military, nor the government, nor the people in Myanmar."