For the first time, a Rohingya speaks up to expose the persecution facing his people
“I am three years old and will have to grow up with the hostility of others. I am already an outlaw in my own country, an outlaw in the world. I am three years old, and don’t yet know that I am stateless.”
Habiburahman was born in 1979 and raised in a small village in western Burma. When he was three years old, the country’s military leader declared that his people, the Rohingya, were not one of the 135 recognized ethnic groups that formed the eight “national races”. He was left stateless in his own country.
Since 1982, millions of Rohingya have had to flee their homes as a result of extreme prejudice and persecution. In 2016 and 2017, the government intensified the process of ethnic cleansing, and over 700,000 Rohingya people were forced to cross the border into Bangladesh.
Here, for the first time, a Rohingya speaks up to expose the truth behind this global humanitarian crisis. Through the eyes of a child, we learn about the historic persecution of the Rohingya people and witness the violence Habiburahman endured throughout his life until he escaped the country in 2000.
First, They Erased Our Name is an urgent, moving memoir about what it feels like to be repressed in one’s own country and a refugee in others. It gives voice to the voiceless.
“This is the gripping, chilling inside story of the incubation of a genocide. In a corner of Asia where hatred has raged for decades, Habib’s moving family history emerges as a powerful and, to my knowledge, unique historical document. His compelling storytelling relates how playground prejudice against the Muslim Rohingya of Arakan escalated into pogroms, terror, and apartheid. As he makes his arduous and dangerous escape, he writes “death is always snapping at our heels”. What an incredible story. There are many who, after the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia, or Rwanda have said “Never again”. It just did, in Burma, and here’s how.”
Jonathan Miller, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Channel 4 News
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“The book is written in simple language and tells the story without embellishment. There is no need for flourishes; it is relentless.”
Gay Alcorn, The Guardian
“Written in a simple style appropriate to the childhood it records, the memoir is a devastating testimony of persecution.”
David McKechnie, The Irish Times
“Here is the first account by a Rohingya of the decades-long oppression of his people, as well as a memoir of his own journey. Chilling and eye-opening.”
“The greatest barriers to stories such as Habiburahman’s being heard, though. Are invalidation and indifference. Do not be indifferent to this urgent, humane book. Read it, share it, talk about what has been happening — and in so doing safeguard the humanity of Habiburahman, the Rohingya and all asylum seekers, as well as the imperilled humanity of this country.”
Maria Takolander, The Saturday Paper
Robyn Douglass, SA Weekend, starred review
“Habiburahman was a boy when Myanmar outlawed his ethnic group, the Rohingya, stripping its members of citizenship and turning them into a stateless people. His book is a rare account of growing up during the subsequent catastrophe for the Rohingya … a useful addition to the literature of human rights abuses.”