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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Endurance beyond loss: Abdul’s quest for dignity in displacement

Updated: Jun 6

2022 © Ahtaram Shin

Abdul Motlab was shot in 2017 when trying to cross the Naf river. His leg was amputated and he required medical treatment for two years. He is now settled with his family in the camps but worried about his future. Abdul opened a small tea shop next to his shelter using his wife’s gold jewellery as investment capital.

‘I have seven children to feed and pay for their education. As a disabled person, how can I manage all these costs if I don’t have any income or livelihood?’ It has been three years since I opened the tea shop but I can hardly cover my family’s living costs from the income I make with this business. Last September, I was ordered to close the shop, so I worry that my livelihood will be destroyed and I will be unable to repay my debts.’ Abdul.

Watch the video below to see Ahtaram talking about his photograph of Abdul Motlab.

Ahtaram Shin is a photographer and writer with a multifaceted professional with roles spanning research, journalism, education, social work, and project management, primarily aimed at advocacy and capacity building. His advocacy efforts center around the Rohingya community, with a deep focus on human rights and combatting human trafficking.

Born in 1996 in Odaung village, located in Southern Maungdaw, Rakhine state, Ahtaram faced unique challenges as the youngest son in his family due to his father's absence. His father, a theologian and Islamic scholar, left for Saudi Arabia in 1997 and was unable to return to Myanmar until 2014 when his mother successfully reunited with him in Saudi Arabia. His mother, a remarkable woman, worked tirelessly to provide an education for Ahtaram and his siblings despite the obstacles imposed by the Myanmar government during their schooling years.


Ahtaram's dedication to education is evident throughout his trajectory. He taught in a government middle school in his village from 2014 to 2017 and continued his educational pursuits post the 2017 Rohingya crisis. After relocating to Bangladesh, he taught at Knowledge Garden Academy. In 2022, he earned a degree in political science through an online undergraduate program at Yangon Cosmopolitan University. He later received a UNHCR scholarship to complete online courses and further enriched his academic credentials with a diploma in Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills at Brac University. His dedication to education led him to work as a peace-building and social cohesion researcher with BRAC University. He facilitated the Language, Image, and Analytical Thinking program at OSUN Refugee and Host Community-led Research Hub at Brad College in the US, in 2023, part of the Open Society University Network. Now he is researching on the topic of Border Cross trading as junior researcher with Inya Institute

This photo taken by Ro Mujef Khan

An advocate for Rohingya youth empowerment, Ahtaram founded a Rohingya youth club and holds pivotal roles at the Rohingya Community Development Campaign. He oversees editorial content at Rohingyatographer Magazine. He also contributes as a senior cultural researcher, storyteller and organises cultural programs at the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre. 

Ahtaram's poetic prowess is evident in his contributions to the anthology "I am a Rohingya." A prolific writer, his articles are published in renowned platforms like The New Humanitarian, Amnesty International, Dhaka Tribune, The Diplomat, Reuters, and others. He currently has a poetry book awaiting publication. See here a list of his published works.

‘My dedication to social work and peace-building underlines my advocacy for marginalised communities and youth empowerment. My aim is to use my voice and skills for a just, equitable society.’ Ahtaram.

This feature is part of The Rohingya Experience, an exhibition in St Helier, Island of Jersey during July 2024, developed by Rohingyatographer, a collective of Rohingya refugee photographers in partnership with Jersey Overseas Aid.



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