Learning from a Rohingya man who carried his parents to escape

"Since I've been here, people have often treated me like an alien. I'm a triple-threat to certain ignorant people: I'm a woman, I'm black and I'm a Muslim."

I’m a woman, I’m black and I’m a Muslim. I’m also grateful.

I was scrolling on Twitter when
 I saw a Rohingya Muslim man who had carried his parents for nearly 100 miles to escape a Myanmar (formerly Burma) death squad. The Rohingya Muslims are considered by many to be one of the most persecuted ethnic groups ever. United Nations officials have accused the Myanmar government of carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims. Instances of gang rapes, whole villages being burned and other human rights atrocities have been widely reported. 

The story of that Rohingya Muslim man carrying his parents on his shoulders for 100 miles over 10 days makes me reflect and appreciate my life and situation even more.

I was born in 2001 in Mogadishu, Somalia. When I was a few months old, my family escaped the war in Somalia and moved to a Kenyan refugee camp.

I’ve spent the past eight years in the United States. Since I’ve been here, people have often treated me like an alien. I’m a triple-threat to certain ignorant people: I’m a woman, I’m black and I’m a Muslim.

Although I’m not running from death squads, I can feel that man’s pain. The challenges the Rohingya Muslims are facing in southeast Asia are worse than I face in the United States, but I have to deal with a big weight on my shoulders, too—worrying if that person on the street staring at me is going to attack me.

I worry about walking alone. Violence is never far from my mind or my family’s minds. For example, this summer my oldest sister and I were planning on traveling to Iowa for a mini-vacation. We were going to go to a water park, to just drive and chill, to explore the area.

Images of an anti-Muslim protest, shown on Facebook Live and elsewhere, though, worried us. My mom had also seen stories about Nabra Hassanen, a Virginia teenager who was murdered leaving a mosque just weeks earlier. We canceled our plans. Those and other experiences have opened my eyes and made me realize just how unsafe this world can be to people like me.

The Rohingya Muslims’ stories 
I read, hear and watch make me grateful. They go through so much, so much that I have never experienced, and I hope I never do. Even though I have a target on my back for some people, when I think of the Rohingya Muslims’ situation it makes me appreciate the opportunities I have, the rights and freedoms I have, and the help and support I have here in the United States.

I now see I want to spend my life helping those who need it most. I’m going to try harder in school and life, and strive for excellence so I can make an impact in the world. I want to be a person who makes people feel safe not only with my words but with my actions, too.

I want to carry people on my back as best I can.

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