This photograph depicts 30 year old Dildar Begum, who was raped by soldiers and lost 29 members of her family in August 2017 due to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people in Myanmar. The Myanmar army has been accused of violating international law by using sexual violence as a weapon of war, with the aim of humiliating and terrorizing the community and instilling in its victims a deep shame and fear of returning home.
An intense scorched-earth campaign was carried out across Northern Rakhine State beginning in August 2017, which saw Myanmar security forces burning down entire Rohingya villages and shooting those trying to escape. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya people were forced to flee to Bangladesh as a result, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights at the time called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The situation is now widely recognized by governments and civil society groups as genocide.
The Rohingya people have faced persecution in Myanmar for decades, despite centuries-deep roots in Rakhine state. The military first used ethnic cleansing tactics against them, including rape, destruction of villages and land confiscation, with Operation Dragon King in 1978. The Rohingya have been labelled as “illegal immigrants” by Myanmar ever since.