Rohingya Muslim children's drawings depict horrific acts of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar military

Children make up about 60 percent of the more than 430,000 people who have poured in to Bangladesh over the last four weeks – Rohingya Muslims fleeing terrible persecution in Myanmar. They have seen family members killed and homes set on fire, and they have endured dangerous journeys through forests and on rickety boats. Sometimes they've done it alone. Unicef has so far counted more than 1,400 children who have crossed the border without a parent.

The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing, saying it is fighting terrorists. But the drawings of some of the children at one of the camps in Bangladesh are filled with traumatic scenes such as people being shot or burned alive by the military.

Twelve-year-old Kurshida drew a helicopter dropping bombs, and the military setting her home on fire and cutting her sleeping niece's throat with a machete.

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12-year-old Kurshida holds her drawing, which depicts a scene that she witnessed while fleeing her village: the military shooting everywhere, setting her home on fire, cutting her niece's throat with a machete while she slept, her newborn sister being shot, a helicopter dropping bombs, and her neighbours being shot while they tried to fleeAllison Joyce/Getty Images

Thirteen-year-old Nurul Haque drew the military setting homes on fire and stomping on the throat of his five-year-old neighbour.

13-year-old Nurul Haque holds his drawing which depicts a scene that he witnessed while fleeing his village: the military opening fire on people, setting homes on fire, stomping on the throat of his five-year-old neighbour and shooting people who were walking on the roadAllison Joyce/Getty Images

Eleven-year-old Manzur Ali drew several unimaginably horrific incidents that he says occurred while fleeing his village in Myanmar.

11-year-old Manzur Ali holds his drawing, which depicts a scene that he witnessed while fleeing his village: the military attacking with a helicopter, the army dropping to the ground and open firing on his neighboursAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts a scene that he witnessed while shopping at a market a few days before fleeing to Bangladesh: the Myanmar military stomping on the throats of people including neighbours and a relative of his, and setting people on fireAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts the military burning houses, dead bodies scattered on the road and Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh by foot and by boatAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts a scene that he witnessed while fleeing his village: his neighbour's house burning, the military telling people to come outside then shooting them, a woman hiding under a mango tree having her throat slit, a man whose intestines came out after he was shot, and his uncle being shot in the throatAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts a scene that he witnessed while fleeing his village: the military strangling his neighbour to death, shooting people, burning people alive, burning houses and shooting people who tried to fleeAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts a scene that he witnessed while fleeing his village: the military burning homes and setting children on fire and tearing the clothes off a little girl, and shooting and burning his neighbours as they fled their homesAllison Joyce/Getty Images
11-year-old Manzur Ali's drawing depicts a scene that his brother recorded on video and showed him; the military burning houses in Kaharpara village, shooting people in their sleep, and sexually assaulting and strangling a womanAllison Joyce/Getty Images

"These children have been through a terrible experience. They are heavily traumatised," says Fatema Khyrunnahar, a child protection officer with Unicef who has helped to set up what the agency calls "child friendly spaces" within the squalor and misery of the Rohingya camps. These are rare spaces where these children can be play with each other and have books read to them.

A Rohingya refugee girl plays at a Codec and Unicef child-friendly space in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshAllison Joyce/Getty Images
Rohingya refugee children play a game at a Codec and Unicef child-friendly space in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshAllison Joyce/Getty Images
Rohingya refugee children play with a frisbee at a Codec and Unicef child-friendly space in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshAllison Joyce/Getty Images
Rohingya refugee children reach for a toy at a Codec and Unicef child-friendly space in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshAllison Joyce/Getty Images
Rohingya refugee girls play with a doll at a Codec and Unicef child-friendly space in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshAllison Joyce/Getty Images

The term "ethnic cleansing" is defined as an effort to rid an area of an unwanted ethnic group – by displacement, deportation or even killing. "When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?" UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference.

UN High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi said the world has to help the "deeply traumatised" refugees facing enormous hardship. "They had seen villages burned down, families shot or hacked to death, women and girls brutalised," Grandi said. He called for aid to be "rapidly stepped up" and thanked Bangladesh for keeping its border open.

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