The baby in the fire

rohingya baby fire

All weekend I keep thinking about the Rohingya baby in the fire.

(And so this is Christmas. And what have you done?)

The New York Times correspondant Jeffrey Gettleman reported on the violence and likely genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In one account he reported a Rohingya mother, Rajuma, whose baby was ripped from her arms and tossed into a bonfire.

In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.

By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes, she says.

 (Another year older. A new one just begun.)

It’s almost possible to ignore news. It’s probably possible to tune out the American experience of living in Trumpland at the moment, if one chooses to. Just focus on the dreary day-to-day, and don’t look too closely at anything.

(And so this is Christmas. I hope you have fun)

Tune in the holiday specials of yore. Sing the same carols and repeat the same traditions. Bake cookies and knit scarves for the poor. The critical waves of impact haven’t reached my shores. Not yet. So might as well lay back and pretend all is well.

In Tula Toli, Rajuma fought as hard as she could to hold onto her baby, Muhammad Sadeque, about 18 months old.

But one soldier grabbed her hands, another grabbed her body, and another slugged her in the face with a club. A jagged scar now runs along her jaw.

The child was lifted away from her, his legs wiggling in the air.

“They threw my baby into a fire — they just flung him,” she said.

(The near and dear ones. The old and the young)

Try as I might, I cannot stop thinking about Rajuma and baby Muhammad. I wonder if she heard the flesh of her baby sizzling in the fire, of him screaming as he burned alive. I wonder about the smell, and how long she will live now, with that loss and that memory, in her raped body.

Rajuma said two soldiers then pulled her into a house, tore off her veil and dress and raped her. She said that her two sisters were raped and killed in the same room, and that in the next room, her mother and 10-year-old brother were shot.

How am I even related to these men, these soldiers? Am I even the same kind of organism? Are these soldiers human? Are they actually still people after all?

How have we not progressed beyond such brutal violence upon ourselves by now?

(War is over, if you want it
War is over now
)

–Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono

With thanks to Jeffrey Gettleman & Sergey Ponomarev of the NYTimes.

  2 comments for “The baby in the fire

  1. Lisa
    December 25, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I feel that rift myself more strongly every day. It’s scary, horrifying, unbelievable. It’s like a nightmare has ripped itself into consciousness and left us to decide how to go forward. Do we fight it to our death? Do we try to maintain the civility that is being bludgeoned to death before our eyes? Are we going to take the high road and hope others see that as the path forward, or do we need to set fire to the evil itself and in doing so, burn with the loss of our ideals, our morality and our souls? How do we stop the crazy and turn the tide? Is there time for goodness to prevail? If we lose touch with the goodness, will it be lost forever? It’s an existential dilemma. I look for wise leaders and a path forward.

    • December 25, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      I hear what you are saying, Lisa. I think there’s some strange comfort in saying: “It’s always been this way” but then you wonder: will humans ever evolve? Will they ever improve? It’s exhausting to imagine we keep playing out the same cycles over and over.

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