‘Like Birds in Cages’: Community Definitions and Concepts of Rights, Justice, and Citizenship in Rohingya Camps

Citation: Sutton, R. (Ed.) (2021). ‘Like Birds in Cages’: Community Definitions and Concepts of Rights, Justice, and Citizenship in Rohingya Camps (PSRP Research Report: Covid-19 Series). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh

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Summary: A participatory action research project was undertaken from November 2020 to February 2021 in which three Rohingya researchers asked 33 of their fellow Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps to share their own definitions and concepts regarding four terms: home, justice, rights, and citizenship. Out of the 33 respondents, 21 of the project respondents were youth aged 18-29; one third (11) were female and two were elders.

This report is the third in a three-part series that uses ‘participatory action research’ to uncover how displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar camps have experienced the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. As with the past reports, the emphasis is on Rohingya youth perspectives, targeting the viewpoints of those aged 18-29 years old. The overall aim of this round of research was to better understand Rohingya conceptualisations of terms that are often used in programming delivered by the international community that is intended to benefit Rohingya. An appreciation for different interpretations amongst Rohingya community members–and between Rohingya and those engaged in international humanitarian response efforts–is crucial for ensuring that service delivery is appropriate and is informed by what displaced people living in Cox’s Bazar want for themselves and their families now and in the future. The project explored questions such as ‘What is home’ at a time where ideas of home were fluctuating for Rohingya. Not only have fires devastated parts of the Cox’s Bazar camps and caused many to lose their houses, but as the research project was coming to a close the February 2021 coup in Myanmar cast hopes of returning ‘home’ in a new light.

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