Mohibullah, a Rohingya activist living in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp and the founder of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), was murdered outside his office on 29 September. Mohib was an endlessly energetic, outspoken advocate for his people . He was a giant not just in the victim rights movement in Bangladesh, but around the world – in 2020, the Knowledge Management Fund supported a project implemented by ARSPH and Victim Advocates International, where Mohib and his colleagues made educational teaching videos for victim rights movement in South Sudan looking for guidance and advice. Below are tributes to Mohibullah from members of VAI and ARSPH.
ARSPH: Mobibullah was one of the most important leaders for our people, the persecuted Rohingya Muslims. He advocated for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar with rights equal to those of other Myanmar citizens, which we have been denied for decades. He documented much of the Rohingya history, including the atrocities committed against us. He started ARSPH to give us a voice in international talks about our future. He was a perfect mentor and inspiration for youth and students. We nicknamed him ‘Peace Father’.
Mohibullah’s life was threatened many times, and he lived in fear that he would be killed. He asked for help from the UN and the Bangladesh government, but this was not forthcoming. He refused to go into hiding, so that he could continue to serve his people. Our people greatly admire his willingness to live at such risk, constantly facing death, because he had a strong and heroic spirit and insisted on marching towards the goal of our freedom and rights. For this, our comrade gave his life. He will live on in the hearts of every single Rohingya person who wishes for justice.
VAI: Mohibullah was our client, collaborator, friend, and teacher. Mohib constantly reminded us that the way services are provided to victims of atrocity crimes is, usually, done wrong – it assumes these groups of people are powerless, or passive recipients of whatever is offered to them. Mohib was not powerless. He did not accept what was on offer from international actors. He forged his own path; demanded better. He wanted assistance to be given a platform – he did not want to be told what to say.
When Mohib spoke, people listened. We listened; we designed projects around the vision of him and his team, and redesigned them when they wanted change. We had difficult conversations; breakthroughs; hilarious, life-affirming interactions. The clarity of Mohib’s vision and the extent of his successes inspired us to collaborate on a mentoring project, in which he used his experiences and expertise to give advice to South Sudan victim groups. Mohib in the videos we made for that project is how we will remember him: a teacher, a trailblazer, and a ray of hope for people fighting for justice all over the world.