– A story of a migrant
December 1977, Myanmar
The Burmese government began its preparations for Operation Dragon King. Operation Dragon King, was a military operation carried out by the immigration officials in northern Arakan, Burma(the present day Myanmar). The official purpose of Operation Dragon King was to register citizens in northern Arakan and expel so-called foreigners- The Rohingyas.
My lovely home was in the midst of beautiful mountains and fertile lands. I woke up every morning to the chirps of birds. It was such a peaceful life I can ever imagine.
I belong to the Rohingya community and we were an ethnic minority that used to live in northern Arakan, Burma (present-day Rakhine State, Myanmar).
Life surprises you every time, it can turn you upside down within a fraction of second. January 1978
Our citizenship was denied, and we were also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs. We were forcibly evicted by the military officials.
and Some of the women in our community were raped and murdered. The brutality of the government and military made us leave the house.
That was the beginning of our refugee journey.
In search of shelter, we moved to many places in Bangladesh, but were defeated every time. Lastly, we decided to move near to the border of India.
All the struggles we had were just to survive.
We somehow managed to get into a tiny house with a single room and a bathroom. We were considered illegal because we didn’t have official documents.We were struggling to meet both the ends. After multiple requests, my father got a small job in a nearby cement factory and is bearing all the financial responsibilities.
I always wanted to go to school and study well, to help my family, and to help other people in our community and that was still a dream.
Every day we wonder where we will be tomorrow. Yes, it’s an unknown future.
And the people who once welcomed us in Bangladesh had become weary. It was the monsoon period and more than 100 refugees had already died on their way from Bangladesh to India via sea route.
But for the second time in my life, I felt I had no choice but to flee.
A total of 150 refugee families started to India via sea route. We paid our life savings to the smugglers to get us on to an old fishing boat. It was so packed that my knees were bent to my chest. The sea went black. I heard people screaming, and water crashing. I felt like I was going to drown. The boat turned upside down due to overcapacity and sank, with 300 people trapped below the deck.
I saw my parents drowning right in front of my eyes, but couldn’t help them. Sensing his end was near, a refugee approached me with his nine-month-old granddaughter, handed her to me and in no second he was also killed by the sea. A merchant boat which came that way a few hours later, rescued us and finally we reached Kolkata.
A refugee camp was set up and we were provided shelter.
I was 19 yr old at that time and was incharging a 9-month-old baby Ashia. I lost my family and was away from my home. The only tiny ray of hope left in my life was that little baby. I did a lot of odd jobs to feed her.
I still remember that day when a woman approached me saying that she could suggest a job which was a lot easier than the jobs I do. I was elated but that did not last long when I came to know about the job. She suggested a Waitress job and that was not in any hotel rather it was on the streets.
A lot of refugees were attracted into prostitution by paying much money. Soon the refugee camp was turned into a brothel house. All these situations made me leave the refugee camp. I was again on the streets, but with the small baby this time, searching for shelter and food.
Few people came forward to help me, but that wasn’t true. I was kidnapped, given sedatives, and was thrown into a brothel house. I was forced into prostitution. Life offered me a job and shelter, but I was just given because I didn’t choose it.
Even Ashia was also provided shelter not at the cost of their sympathy but when she turns 13 she will be the new tool to their business. There were a lot of these companies around Kolkata at that time. Their first clients were the workers.
That Kolkata, had more brothels in the city than the number of cricket rounds. The bribed Police held their support for the brothel house just for the sake of money. The entire system was laid on the foundation of 2 things, one was money and the other was desire.
One of my attempts to escape from that place was successful but it was after 10 years I entered the house. In all my previous attempts I was chased down and was forcibly thrown back into the world where I don’t belong to.It was a bit strange this time because I wasn’t either followed or searched by them or more luckily, they could not find me this time.
I decided to forget about my past and write a new chapter in both of our lives. I want to look upon my daughter and provide her a good life.
I was again in search of a job. Many men used to ask me for a sexual favour as if they saw the word “prostitute” written on my face. All these things made me feel that the world was the same both inside and outside the brothel house. After a few months, I came to know that I was affected with an STD and soon my chapters were going to end. Probably that’s the reason I was not chased by those people.
A child plays with a toy whenever he feels bored. Sometimes knowingly or unknowingly he may hurt the toy. Once it is broken it will be of no use and he just throws it away. We prostitutes were also treated in the same way. Our bodies were paid and ruined but our soul had to accept it forcibly and it will be pure till death.
This was not a job or service we opted for. We were forced into this.
We were thrown on a bed, our hands were tied, legs were spread and our pain was someone else’s pleasure.
I joined Ashia with the missionary groups with a hope of providing better life rather than letting the society to turn one more girl into a sex worker.
A girl who dreamt of good education, a happy life with her family had ended up being a prostitute.
This was the story of one woman in a million refugees.
I am Sameera, a Sex Worker and I’m not ashamed of being a prostitute.