Rohingya crisis

When 60,000 Rohingya refugee teenage girls hide their faces

A woman dressed in a burqa walking past a man tending crops in the Kutupalong megacamp. More than 19,000 women from the camps have received counselling in connection with violence, usually from the men in their family.
A woman dressed in a burqa walking past a man tending crops in the Kutupalong megacamp. More than 19,000 women from the camps have received counselling in connection with violence, usually from the men in their family.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Madam Noor Beghum (right) with her four children and the man who took pity on them and took her family in to live together with his family, outside his home at the Kutupalong camp. Madam Beghum, who saw her husband hacked down, recounts how several s
Madam Noor Beghum (right) with her four children and the man who took pity on them and took her family in to live together with his family, outside his home at the Kutupalong camp. Madam Beghum, who saw her husband hacked down, recounts how several soldiers raped her that night in Myanmar. When she emerged from unconsciousness the next morning, she gathered her four children and escaped to Bangladesh.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Rohingya women getting medical advice from a volunteer doctor at the NGO-run BRAC clinic, which helps pregnant women at the Kutupalong megacamp. Some 48,000 women, many of whom are victims of rape or violence, are expected to give birth in the camps
Rohingya women getting medical advice from a volunteer doctor at the NGO-run BRAC clinic, which helps pregnant women at the Kutupalong megacamp. Some 48,000 women, many of whom are victims of rape or violence, are expected to give birth in the camps this year.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

They swelter inside - rape, violence an ever-present danger. Little water, few toilets are another ordeal, resulting in an overwhelming stench.

Whether it is on the treacherous slopes of the Kutupalong megacamp, in the makeshift learning centres in nearby Balukhali or on the winding paths of Nayapara, there is one face that you never see: the face of a teenage girl. It is as if she has been airbrushed from the scenery.

Between them, the camps hold more than 60,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17. But even in this cramped, makeshift township, where shanties lean on each other and there is no place to hide, these young females have been banished from public view.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'When 60,000 teenage girls hide their faces'. Print Edition | Subscribe