Stephane Lanoux & The Rohingya Community
“Being a Rohingya” photography project
The Rohingya community has been depicted as “among the world’s least wanted” and “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the violence against Rohingya a “slow genocide.” Despite deep concerns expressed recently by The Dalai Lama, President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the recent country transition towards a more democratic government, the situation will not improve anytime soon.
The Rohingya people have been my main motivation for a trip to Myanmar last April 2016. These pictures are rare. Few photographers accessed this area classified Red Zone. The Rakhine state has few visitors and limited touristic infrastructure. Check points installed around this community remind that the conflict is recent and the fear of new riots still subsists.
During my trip I entered without official approval 3 Rohingya villages around Sittwe and Mrauk U. It enabled me to approach and engage with this hidden population ruled by terror. The purpose of these pictures is to increase the awareness and illustrate the humanitarian crisis of a country waiting for Rohingyas to disappear.
Rohingya Human Rights and Refugee status
The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan. They are considered “stateless entities”, as the Myanmar government has been refusing to recognize them as one of the ethnic groups of the country. They are deprived of the right to free movement and of higher education. The Rohingya are not allowed to travel without official permission and were previously required to sign a commitment not to have more than two children. They are subjected to routine forced labor and have also lost a lot of arable land, which has been confiscated by the military regime.
Rohingyas have suffered from human rights violations under the military dictatorship since 1978, and many have fled to neighboring Bangladesh as a result. In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had assisted with the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, but allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps threatened this effort. In 2015, 140,000 Rohingyas remain in IDP camps after communal riots in 2012.
Despite the current Myanmar’s political transition towards democracy, positioning oneself against the Buddhist majority is still considered a risky political move. Even Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate who fought for decades for democracy and reform in Myanmar, has been surprisingly quiet on the issue. Recently, U Win Htein, a spokesman and leading figure in Aung Suu Kyi National League for Democracy (NLD), confirmed that the Rohingya plight was not top of the agenda for his party.
Stephane Lanoux is a passionate photographer living in Paris, France.
His humanist approach through street photography has developed over time thanks to his travels worldwide and more specifically to the Middle East and South Africa where he lived within the last years.
He exhibited first at the Dubai Photography Festival 2014 along with other shortlisted artists and has been regularly featured afterwards into various photography magazines.