Aafique Mohammed lists the fortnightly rations doled out by United Nations personnel. “One kilogram of rice, a bit of oil.” He thinks for a second. “Dahl, some vegetables. There were a lot of people and little food. It was not ever, ever enough.”
It was all Mohammed ate for the first 13 years of his life, having been born inside Nayapara, the densely populated refugee camp and home of stateless Rohingya people who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
For the camp kids, though, just as coveted as any of those food items were the plastic bags in which they came. They snaffled them, then took them to meet their friends and start construction. “We’d put them all in one big bag and squeeze it, tie it with rope and make a soccer ball,” Mohammed says. “We would play with that, without shoes, in the dirt.”
A real football was a rare sighting in Nayapara, but Mohammed occasionally caught a glimpse of one courtesy of a Bangladeshi visitor. He memorised its shape as a prototype. Suffice to say, given the materials at hand, the result was not heavy-duty.
“As soon as you have 10 kicks, it’s ripped off one side,” he recalls. “So you have to get the plastic again, tie it with rubber bands. But all we did was play. We woke up in the morning and go kick the ball around, go back again, play football again. It was all we looked forward to. We were doing nothing [else], just waiting for someone to take us out of the camp.”
Mohammed did not see a professional football match of any description until shortly before he left the camp for Australia. There was no TV inside the 10x10m bamboo hut he shared with 16 family members, but the UN office nearby had one, and they let about 100 people in to watch 2010 World Cup matches.
Jul 24, 2021Police and civil authorities in the Indian capital have demolished a makeshift mosque in a Rohingya camp, say the refugees, weeks after a massive fire had engulfed the settlement. The mosque, made up of tarpaulin sheets and bamboo sticks, was bulldozed at about 7am local time (01:30 GMT) on Thursday, at the camp located in […]