Essay from Kristy Raines and Faisal Justin

The Story of a Forgotten People ~ Rohingya~
As told by Kristy Raines and Faisal Justin

Young South Asian man with short brown hair and a white and blue collared shirt and blue jeans in front of tents on the dirt.

The Story of a Forgotten People ~ Rohingya~
(As told by Kristy Raines and Faisal Justin)

There are some stories that make us laugh, make us cry, teach us something, or leave a lasting impression. This story has all of this. But this is a story that for now, has no ending…  Now looking back, I have to say, that I may have been the one who benefited most from this story. It will all make sense in the end… And this is where the story begins.

Faisal Justin's book Poetic Healing. Text is in white with a dark conifer forest in the background.

He goes by the name of Faisal Justin and we casually spoke while we worked in the same poetry group.  We both are poets and he had written his second book of poetry called, “Poetic Healing.”

Faisal and I had a conversation one day where he began telling me about his people; The Rohingya people.  I had never heard of them and when I look back, I wondered, why?  I never heard about them on the news, magazines, or anywhere else.  As Faisal started telling me the story, I was quite disturbed with what I was hearing.  But I knew that I wanted to help in some way. I know now that sending small donations, with good intentions, is not the way, though I am sure they are very much appreciated, which I did to help the children especially.  It will take so much more to make an impact. These People lost not only their homes, they lost their whole country and had to flee for their lives… Quite unbelievable.

But, I think the best way to really start this story, is to begin with the story of the genocide of the Rohingya people and how this even happened. Then I will let this unbelievable young man tell his remarkable story of how he survived in the refuge camp of Cox’s Bazar, and how his world change remarkably. I promise you, this has a happy ending for him and it is my hope that this story changes your lives and gives you a huge sense of gratitude of the word, “Freedom”.  I also hope that this story prompts everyone to contact governmental entities and sign petitions to help these people return to their homeland safely or at least find them a wonderful new one of freedom. It is all of our problem.. It is a matter of what is right. The Rohingya refugee crisis is one of the worst forced displacement situations crisis in the world.

Large group of people in headscarves and tee shirts, men, women, and children, near muddy water on a beach.

It has been seven years since over 742,000 Rohingya people, (half of whom were children), had to flee for their lives from the brutal massacres. Entire villages were burned to the ground, thousands of families were killed or separated and massive human rights violations were reported. The persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, also known as (Burma), persisted on a regular basis by the government and Buddhist nationalists. In late 2016, Myanmar’s armed forces and police launched a major crackdown against the people in Rakhine State which is located in the country’s northwestern region.

The Burmese military has been accused of committing ethnic cleansing and genocide.  More than one million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar, in successive waves of displacement.  Rohingya refugees are living in Bangladesh, with a majority settled in and around Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region — some of the largest and most densely populated in the world. The date, August 25, 2017 to be exact, was the exodus that many remember; when they fled in horror as they watched their family members and friends being brutally murdered, raped and run out of their own country.

Large group of Muslim people with headdresses and umbrellas.

Now, and for many years, the camps where they exist are over crowded, filled with illness, unacceptable medical care, unclean water, no jobs and kept captive in a what I would call a prison without walls.   

On top of the concerns of violence against the people, such as rape, human trafficking gang activity, starvation and losing hope, no jobs, and the cut of monthly allotments for food to 8 dollars a month, they weather the harsh climate of excessive heat, cold, cyclones and monsoons in  homes made from whatever materials they can find for shelter.  After this many years under these impossible living conditions, many are growing weary to go on. Some of the people living there who I have become close to have said that death would be far more better than going on. 

No one in this day and age should have to live like this. Many countries in the past talk of helping them, yet to let them down over and over.  Most of the people who were fortunate enough to receive an education or were aloud to go to school have started home schools, which in itself is dangerous for those that attempt to educate the young. It is illegal to do so for the Rohingya children.  In a genocide, no one has rights. I give these teachers so much credit for taking the chance.  And another thing.  The teachers and students are extremely intelligent and so young for knowing so much. They work hard, studying. They soak up and appreciate learning.  Without education the future for a thriving generation will not stand a chance.

If someone takes away education, a way to protect themselves, and tries  to take away people’s religion and hope,  and you have the basic recipe for a genocide. The teachers in the refugee camps get beat up and worse when they stand up to the tyranny.  But yes, they keep pushing forward for the sake of the generations to come. If the people fight back, they truly pay for doing so with their lives at times, but I give them so much credit for their service. I am hoping to become a loud and helpful voice for the Rohingya people, because when the brave raise their voice, they are met with beatings, abductions and are in the path of danger for doing so. Now that is bravery. I want to raise awareness so other’s around the world will do the same. In my eyes,  the Rohingya people are warriors and survivalists. They survive a inhumane life on a daily basis that no one deserves. I have gotten to know some of the Rohingya People in some of the the refugee camps and have formed bonds and friendships with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. So many are like family to me.

Education, writing, poetry and photography have become an outlet for the youth of the Rohingya and even a form of healing.  Only with awareness and help from other countries will the Rohingya get justice and hopefully a safe passage back to their homeland and a safe environment for them in their own country which they miss so much. These people have changed my life.  I love so much deeper and appreciate things so much more.  I was humbled by these friends I made. I have benefited greatly by meeting so many wonderful, loving, and extremely determined and forgiving people. The story now turns to one very young and brave man, and my friend, Faisal Justin, who had the drive and determination to change his destiny, and I am very honored to have him tell his story in his own words. I could never tell this story as well as he could. Thank you Faisal, for agreeing to tell your story.

Kristy Raines

White middle aged woman with reading glasses and very blond straight hair resting her head on her hand.
Kristy Raines

Title: From Discrimination to Freedom: A Journey of Hope and Resilience  ~Faisal Justin~

I was born and grew up in Key Nouck Thi village, Arakan state of Myanmar. By age 14, the tantalizing taste of freedom would forever elude my eager grasp. My childhood was a tragic nightmare and a pitiable existence that no soul should ever endure. We were forever confined into 3-4 kilometers encompassed by police checkpoints all around. It necessitated arduous permissions from the authorities to go and stay a night in a relative house in another village. The prospect of venturing into the neighboring city was strictly prohibited for those who, like me, hailed from a Muslim family and owned a title Rohingya. I spent my childhood full of insecurity for the fear of military as there were no choice for them to use as a slave. When I was a child, my parents used to console me by saying “Stop crying, my child, for the police are coming” from a very young age the deep-rooted fear of police placed in my heart.

“School is a place where teachers teach students the difference between flaws and rights” instead we were taught discrimination in school. We had to sit separately in the school benches between Buddhist students and Muslim students as instructed by the teachers. And often faced harassment from the opposite students and the teachers didn’t accept the complaints at all. Unbelievable but bitter truth. The Buddhist students held a privileged status while the Rohingya students were treated as second-class students. It’s totally heartbreaking to articulate the oppressive atmosphere extended beyond our educational institution, with police brutality, forced labor, and unspeakable violence perpetrated against my people. I still remember when I was class six, I returned from the tuition in the evening and then went to play football near my home. Suddenly, a group of military entered the village and collected bamboos from our yards. We were called from the playground and forced to carry those bamboos to the river in their boats. Regardless of the age and status, they used as salves.

My educational dream was vanished in 2017 when I was just a matriculation student. On Friday night in August 25, 2017, the militaries started gun shooting towards our homes, it was like hearing the sound of Christmas fireworks. I frighteningly woke up and wondered if I was in a nightmare but it was in real. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and homes were burned down to the ground. I had no hope of surviving in this world and I was quite sure that my dead was on that Friday. I already recited the dead Dua and ready to die with that gun bullets as there were no ways to rescue myself. There were also records that the whole families were killed. The 10th day of journey to Bangladesh refugee camps was something that awakens my heart every second. Through muddy roads and slippery high mountains consumed our tears and blood during monsoon, heavy rain and thunderstorms. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever found leaving home and looking back around stepping slowly filled with tears and heartache. My eyes witnessed that hundreds of thousands of our people were killed even during our journey to finding refuge and some of us were fortunate enough to escape the massacre and sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.

Clean cut South Asian guy with short hair and a blue tee shirt standing by a tree trunk in a forest.
Shantytown area with small homes on dry ground with a few trees and mountains in the distance.

I’ll remain ever grateful to the welcoming country Bangladesh for giving a place of refuge in their country while we were fighting with our lives.

“Being a refugee was not a choice.  By fate I needed to be.”

I can’t describe in words how bad it feels to having a refugee life and having a refugee status. The Bangladesh refugee camp was a place of desperation, with overcrowded tents, curfews, scarcity of food, and rampant criminal activity within. The loss of formal education for children and the constant fear of abduction added further challenges to an already dire situation. $8 per month for a person, can you imagine how a person can survive on 8 US dollars the whole month? Many suffered from starvation and also many lacked basic necessities.

Wreckage of a tiny hastily built shantytown home. Barren trees up close, green trees in the distance.

I’ve worked as a humanitarian and social worker for ICR (International Rescue Committee) and ACF (Action Contre la Fame). I was a teacher, sharing what I know with the community was my liability. I listened to everyone’s stories in the camp by monitoring door to door when I worked for NGOs. I was so devastated hearing all the awful and obstacles in the lives of my people. I couldn’t help but feel. I found a new challenge every single day that demotivated me to even give up on life. The perpetrators in the camp abhorred educated people, gave death threats and sometimes some even carried them out. Such a distressing situation forced me to leave the camp by any means possible.

Young South Asian man with a baseball cap and a blue collared shirt and a black jacket with the logo of the International Rescue Committee. Behind him is a young white woman with sunglasses, a glue jacket and top, brown pants, and a water bottle and notebook. Other people and buildings are in the background.

Driven by a desire for freedom and a better life, I discussed with my family and left the camp. I can’t forget the moment I stepped on the little boat and the waves badly shoved and lifted the boat. The boat was more likely to sink in the middle of the sea and that was another moment of my life when I lost hope of my life. With a very narrow mind and relentlessly calling upon God, finally I could get my destination. This treacherous journey took one night and one day across the sea to ultimately find Sittwe, a city in Arakan state. I was playing with my life and took very serious risk while I was going to Yangon the bustling capital of Myanmar from Sittwe after one week with a fake ID by plane.

However, life in Yangon presented its own set of challenges, from language barriers to lack of legal documentations. Forced to rely on the kindness of relatives, I navigated these adversities and eventually obtained a national identity card, which became a turning point in my journey. People who don’t know about me think I had the best life in Yangon. My life in Yangon was the worst of my life so far. I was in constant fear of the police without proper documentation, belonging a Muslim face and staying in someone else’s house. As a very sensitive man, I can’t tolerate sharp words from others but I had to bear according to the situations.

After six months, I went to the passport office to get a passport. Unfortunately, the authorities knew I was a fake guy trying to make a passport. My life was then in their hands, I was threatened a lot. After few hours they agreed to release me with money fine. The day passed and I returned home. I can’t explain by words how bad I felt as my life was at risk even to stay at home and my relatives were also afraid of keeping me. I had nowhere to go and I often decided to give up on my life.

With determination fueling my patience and actions, I sought an opportunity to escape my troubled past and made another attempt to make a passport with an agent after two months. With the help of the agent, I obtained a passport.

Clean cut South Asian guy with a black collared shirt, a bag, and a smile in front of a large gray stone building with a red banner.
Small white and yellow boats in front of a city scape with flowers and buildings with many stories right up next to each other.

I embarked on a heart-stopping journey to leave my fearful country Myanmar. Faced with the constant fear of being discovered due to language barriers and fake documents during immigrating Myanmar airport, my life was in a very serious risk and danger. But along with God’s help I could overcome the fear and could cross all those limits. My resilience and bravery were tested at every step.

I came to Thailand by plane from Myanmar and tried hard for a Netherlands visa, I failed terribly. I couldn’t get a visa. I went to four different countries just to get a Netherlands visa. I got one from a country and I was so excited but when my time came to attend the plane I was inhumanely rejected saying you’re not eligible for the Netherlands. My world was shattered and I almost felt unconscious. However, I did not give up trying to seek asylum in the Netherlands. I made one more attempt from another country then I got approved fortunately. And then I arrived at the Netherlands airport and asked for asylum.

The arrival in the Netherlands marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Grateful for the opportunities and support provided by the Dutch government, I find solace and peace in my newfound refuge. The process of seeking asylum may be long, but I express my heartfelt gratitude for the freedom and safety I have found in this welcoming country.

Looking back on my arduous journey, I reflect on the invaluable lessons I have learned throughout this transformative experience. My unwavering determination and resilience have taught me the power of perseverance and the ability to overcome even the most daunting obstacles. I express my eternal gratitude to the Netherlands and share my belief in the importance of embracing diversity and extending a helping hand to those in need.

In concluding my remarkable story, I leave readers with a message of hope and a reminder that, despite the challenges we face, anything is possible with a brave and willing heart. By standing up for one’s dreams and never giving up, individuals can triumph over the darkest of circumstances. My poignant tale may encourage readers to remember the importance of empathy, compassion, and the pursuit of a better world for all.


Smiling South Asian man takes a selfie in front of water and a skyscraper cityscape on a pier.

After a year in the Netherlands, I see yet another massive massacre in Arakan like I saw in 2017. I’m deeply saddened and distressed by the plight of the Rohingya’s in Arakan, Myanmar. It’s not so easy to be born in Myanmar where religion matters, race matters, face matters, above all being born as a Muslim is a big crime for the brutal government. Since decades, the government has been persecuting the Rohingya people and now again AA (Arakan Army) a terrorist group of Rakhine ethnic who are trying to take over Arakan are persecuting the Rohingya people. Dozens of people are killed every day, houses are burnt down. Thousands of people are now homeless in the town of Bhuthidang since the AA set fire to the entire town in May 2024. People had to leave the homes they loved and thousands died at the same time. Imagine hundreds and thousands of people staying on the ground without a roof in the baking heat with no food and even humanitarian actors with no way to reach them for some livelihood. All the roads are blocked by the AA and they take pleasure in seeing the suffering of these defenseless people.

The horrific acts of violence and brutality by the AA and military are truly heartbreaking. I’m very saddened and angry to see the profound suffering experienced by the innocent Rohingya victims. The pain and anguish felt by young girls being raped, young people being arrested or disappearing, and children losing their parents and then turning into orphans are genuinely heart-wrenching. I’m furious to see both AA and military taking refuge in Rohingya’s villages by the intention of harming innocent Rohingya people. Thousands of people died during the war and conflict between AA and military. Rohingya youths are arrested by the military and then used them as human shield during war against AA. In due time the AA burnt down the houses of Rohingya and brutally tortured. It clearly highlights how the innocent are often caught in the crossfire of political and ideological battles.

Their true intention is to clear all the Rohingya people from Arakan. The brutal killings and targeted violence aimed at wiping out the Rohingya people speak to a larger, more insidious plan to eradicate an entire group of people. The way they are killing now inhumanly, all the people will finish very soon. It’s a gentle reminder of the urgent need for the global community to step in and take decisive action to protect the fundamental rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their background or ethnicity or who they are. It is a reminder that the world must unite in solidarity to confront and address these grave injustices before it is too late.     – Faisal Justin

A Day in A Refugee Camp

 As the sun rises and sets

Baking heat waves on the roof

The tents that are too small

Skins boil under tarpaulins

Family gathering suffocates

A day in refugee camp isn’t easy

With limited head-count rations

The desire to have something died

 For they have rations not income

A day is long and very hopeful

And is filled with waiting and fret

A life that goes with full of tears

Children play in the dirt,

With the mud as the toys.

Their education is obscure And the future is uncertain

Parents smile through tears

Trying to make the children happy

With fears, stress and anxiety

A life in refugee camp passes by

Wondering what tomorrow will bring

For a life and future that is unsure

Since they’re displaced from home,

And forced to migrate violently.

The sun will rise again tomorrow

Another day in the camp will begin

With the same hope and fears

Constantly dream of a better life

The outside world is just an illusion

And always yearn to live a peaceful life

In conclusion, I would like to thank Faisal Justin for sharing his story of hope and bravery, with the world.  This was truly an amazing journey to not only a new life, but also to many more opportunities.   His story will no doubt inspire others to hold tight to their dreams and to never give up.

 It is also my hope, Faisal,  that your story will also help others around the world understand the Rohingya people, the horrific crimes committed against them that still going on today, the crisis in the refugee camps, and the ongoing suffering of the Rohingya people. I wish for justice for what they have gone through  and hope in the future there will be a complete resolution for them, with one day, a safe return to their homeland, Arakan.

Faisal,  You are now in a safe and healthy environment, my friend.  I hope you will now be able to lead a beautiful and happy new life. It was a pleasure working together on this story, Faisal.  Thank you..

-Kristy Raines-

If anyone is  interested in donating to help the Rohingya people, there are many Go-Fund-Me campaigns online, collecting funds to help in aiding different needs of the Rohingya people.  Some are emergency campaigns, some are for the women, and some are for the education of the children.  Just go to and type in the search, “Rohingya”.  Many campaigns will show up and you can choose whose campaign you’d like to donate to. For me, they are the best choice.  I feel more comfortable that my money is actually going to the people.

You can also find Faisal’s books on Amazon.

For more information, please visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C to see exhibition in person,  or go to the site to see and see it.  Here is the link.

3 thoughts on “Essay from Kristy Raines and Faisal Justin

  1. I can’t thank Christina Deptula of Synchronized Chaos enough for publishing the article that I and Faisal Justin wrote and submitted to the Magazine. I hope that all will read and learn of his journey to a new life after escaping one of the largest refugee camps of Rohingya people and made his way to a new life in The Netherlands. I am grateful and honored.

    • Thanks my dear brother Mohammed faisel for showing the about our painful life through your story
      Best regards
      Your colleague Reyazol Mostawfa

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