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  • Writer's pictureRo Yassin Abdumonab

Life underwater: Rohingya refugees' endless annual fight against climate-fueled monsoons

Updated: May 12


2021 © Ro Yassin Abdumonab

Ro Yassin Abdumonab took this picture in August 2021. It shows the devastation caused by the floods, resulting in numerous deaths, displacement of people from camps, loss of shelters, food, and belongings. Thousands of refugees were left homeless. The floods as a result of climate change, which had significantly impacted the camps and its residents, leading to erosion, landslides, flooding, and cyclones every year. The most challenging aspect was the temperature fluctuations and intense heat, causing health issues for the people.

"I wish more was being done to combat climate change and its devastating effects on vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, adequate action had not been taken yet to address these issues." —Yassin said.

Watch the video below to hear Ro Yassin Abdumonab discussing his photography practice and providing further context about his photograph of the devastating floods in the Rohingya refugee camp.



Ro Yassin Abdumonab began his career as a school teacher in Myanmar, teaching English, physics, and chemistry. However, in August 2017, escalating violence forced him to abandon his university studies and flee to Bangladesh.


"My journey to Bangladesh was horrible," he says, closely echoing his original words. "Escaping from burning and killing, we found refuge in paddy fields and forests, eating wild weeds to survive. The river crossing felt like an ocean, and I almost drowned. The days it took for me and my family to walk barefoot to the river at the Bangladesh border were an unforgettable nightmare."

Yassin has since transitioned into a freelance role, contributing as a photographer, videographer, translator, fixer, and writer for various international and local media outlets. These include The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Reuters, BBC, The Washington Post, ABC, and many others. Yassin is a core member of Rohingyatographer and plays a crucial role in the collective mentoring younger generations of Rohingya content creators.



When he first arrived at the refugee camp, Yassin had to assist international journalists as a fixer and interpreter. This exposed him to photography and videography, sparking his interest in documenting the Rohingya community's life.


Reflecting on his early work, Yassin shared, "I refrained from using my real name online due to safety concerns."

Motivated by well-known journalists, Yassin transitioned into photography, finding purpose in capturing his community's stories. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, he continued his work, covering significant events like the 2021 fire disaster. His photos gained international recognition, leading to assignments on various Rohingya crisis-related topics.


Yassin's expertise in photojournalism has garnered recommendations and inquiries, facilitating his work through social media and portfolio sites. He emphasises the importance of telling the Rohingya story repeatedly through photography, a sentiment echoed in his involvement with Rohingyatographer Magazine.


As a core member of Rohingyatographer, Yassin mentors young Rohingya photographers, empowering them to share their perspectives. Through their art, they educate others about the Rohingya experience, ensuring their voices are heard and remembered.


Reflecting on his mission, Yassin emphasised, "My camera gives a voice to my community, capturing every moment, every Rohingya story."

In teaching photography to youths, Yassin believes in the power of images to convey stories and preserve the Rohingya narrative. His message to aspiring photographers echoes his own journey:


"Make the best photos with whatever devices you have. What matters is your effort and imagination to tell impactful stories."

 

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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