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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Ingenious engineering in the refugee camp: The story of 15-year-old Rohingya innovator Mohammad Toyub

Updated: Apr 29

2022 © Md Jamal

Mohammad Toyub is a 15-year old who built a small-scale hydraulic excavator from spare parts collected around the refugee camp. His engineering skills made him a young celebrity among the Rohingya community and his story has appeared in several news articles including Reuters and the Dhaka Tribune.

‘When I was in Myanmar, I saw an excavator digging and I was inspired to make a toy like this. I collected scraps of steel, plastic and wood to make the different parts and use syringes for the hydraulics to operate the arm mechanism up and down.’ —Toyub said.

Watch the video below to hear Md Jamal explaining about his photograph of Mohammed Toyub.

Md Jamal’s parents fled to Bangladesh in 1992 along with 250,000 Rohingya. He was born a refugee in 1995 in the Kutupalong camp. He started taking pictures and using social media in his early 20’s. One day, an international journalist reached out and paid him for the rights to use one of his photographs for an article; with the money he bought a second-hand camera-phone and from that moment, his photographic career began.

In October 2016, he started to document the first Rohingya arriving in Bangladesh fleeing the crisis in Rakhine. By August 2017, when the main Rohingya exodus took place, he was already collaborating with various international media outlets such The Guardian, Reuters, Paris Match, Al Jazeera, Frontier Myanmar, Peoples Dispatch, BBC News Bangla, Tempo English, CNN and others. In 2020, one of his photographs became the front cover for the exhibition organised by the Oxford Human Rights Festival: Next Generation - Young Rohingya Refugees.

‘My driving force is to ask people everywhere: Why do we face such persecution? Why has the world allowed such injustice against us?’ —explained Md Jamal.


This feature is part of The Rohingya Experience, an exhibition set 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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