Religious Violence

‘We will fight until the last drop of blood’: A meeting with insurgent group fighting for Rohingyas

In hiding, the Harakah al-Yaqin has lost ground among the persecuted community they claim to fight for, but has not lost spirit.

The Faith Movement of Arakan, also popularly known as Harakah al-Yaqin, is an insurgent group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state which claims to be fighting for Rohingya rights. They were responsible for the series of attacks on Myanmar border posts on October 9, 2016, which killed nine policemen and triggered Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya people. Aiming to spread word about their “true motives”, some of the top al-Yaqin leaders spoke to the Dhaka Tribune’s Adil Sakhawat in a highly secretive meeting.

The now-in-hiding Harakah al-Yaqin fighters are practicing extreme caution these days when speaking with any outsider.

Getting in touch with them took a lot of effort and convincing – this correspondent spoke with four contact persons to gain their approval for a meeting.

On the day of the meeting, the last contact person met with this correspondent and set some ground rules.

This handout photograph taken on December 12, 2016 and released on December 13, 2016 by the Myanmar State Counsellor Office shows a military official, centre, briefing Myanmar Vice President Myint Swe (2nd man on the right, in blue jacket), head of the Rakhine State Investigation Commission, during his visit to Gwazon, a Muslim majority village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border, where a military officer was killed by a group of attackers on November 12. Image Credits: AFP
This handout photograph taken on December 12, 2016 and released on December 13, 2016 by the Myanmar State Counsellor Office shows a military official, centre, briefing Myanmar Vice President Myint Swe (2nd man on the right, in blue jacket), head of the Rakhine State Investigation Commission, during his visit to Gwazon, a Muslim majority village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border, where a military officer was killed by a group of attackers on November 12. Image Credits: AFP

“You cannot reveal our names, locations and the time of the meeting,” he warned.

He took this correspondent to an unknown place on a motorcycle, where another man was waiting.

After a meticulous body search, the first man asked this correspondent to turn the mobile phone off and put on a blindfold.

The next part of the journey was on foot for two hours.

The final meeting place turned out to be amid a forest in the no man’s land between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

‘Not terrorists’

Taking the blindfold off, this correspondent came to meet three other Harakah al-Yaqin members, one of whom claimed to be the second-in-command of Ata Ullah, the Harakah al-Yaqin spokesperson as seen in videos released by the group.

The second-in-command began the conversation by claiming that Harakah al-Yaqin was not a terrorist group.

“We agreed to speak with you only to make our motives clear,” he said. “We are not terrorists. We formed this group for revolutions, to save our existence in Arakan [Rakhine]… We are waging a movement against the oppression of Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government.”

When asked whether they had any connection with other insurgent groups – local or international – the second-in-command denied vehemently.

“We never conducted any attack on people of other religious groups. Our fight is only against the Myanmar government.”

Speaking in Arkanese and broken Bangla, the second-in-command had to communicate with this correspondent through an interpreter, another Harakah al-Yaqin fighter.

He admitted that Harakah al-Yaqin was, in fact, responsible for the series of attacks on Myanmar Border Guard Police outposts along Bangladesh-Myanmar border on October 9.

“Our aim was to loot their arms and ammunition for our guerrilla training,” he said. “We were all a part of the attack.”

He said they were trained by Ata Ullah and some other senior leaders of Harakah al-Yaqin who are trained in modern guerrilla war tactics. They visited Rakhine several times in 2015 to provide the training, he added. “We have 25-30 members who were trained in modern guerrilla tactics.”

Building support

In the four months before the attacks, Ata Ullah and his men also tried to convince local villagers to support their movement, the second-in-command claimed.

“You cannot imagine how some of the Rohingya villagers cooperated with us. Some even joined us in the attacks with bamboo,” he claimed.

All the arms and ammunition gave them a stronger footing in Rakhine, but in two weeks – according to the HaY leader – the took a hit when the Myanmar Army launched the crackdown on Rohingyas.

“The army also attacked HaY [Harakah al-Yaqin] hideouts at Hargoizzapara, Zammoinnapara and SotoGozobil areas in Maungdaw with helicopters,” the leader said. “We were not equipped to fight the aerial attack and were forced to retreat.”

He claimed the army knew they would not be able to face the rebels on the ground, so they used helicopters.

Now weakened, Harakah al-Yaqin members went into hiding in the villages and the border areas, frequently changing locations.

“Some of us managed to flee to Bangladesh,” he added.

The second-in-command took a pause and offered this correspondent some wild potatoes and bananas. “This is all we have to survive,” he said.

All five Harakah al-Yaqin fighters were jittery and scanning the area for any suspicious movement during the entire conversation.

Losing ground

The military crackdown also turned local Rohingyas against Harakah al-Yaqin, the second-in-command continued. “When the army raided and tortured innocent Rohingyas, they became scared and lost faith in us,” he said. “They began to flee Arakan.”

Asked whether any Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh had joined their group, the leader said: “We have Rohingya brothers from everywhere.”

Sources in the refugee camps and some Harakah al-Yaqin members said some refugees left Bangladesh to join the group, and no one knows where they are now.

Some Harakah al-Yaqin followers in Cox’s Bazar said they were instructed to remain in hiding and wait for further instruction. “But the instruction never came,” said one of the followers. “After a while, we gave up and came back.” They also said they had no intention of re-joining the insurgent group, now hated by most Rohingyas.

Myanmar Rohingya refugees bury the body of six-month-old Alam in a refugee camp in Teknaf, in Cox’s Bazar district, on November 26, 2016. Image Credits: AFP
Myanmar Rohingya refugees bury the body of six-month-old Alam in a refugee camp in Teknaf, in Cox’s Bazar district, on November 26, 2016. Image Credits: AFP

Back in no man’s land, the leader claimed losing the grounds and followers had not broken their spirit.

“Our Rohingya brothers around the world are trying to negotiate with world leaders to put pressure on the Myanmar government, but it is not working,” he said. “So that makes us bound to do armed revolution against the government for our rights.”

He said there was no question of surrendering. “We will fight until the last drop of our blood is spilled.”

This is where the leader ended the conversation.

Issuing another warning to not reveal their names and locations, the fourth contact person brought this correspondent back to the first rendezvous point the same way.

This article first appeared on the Dhaka Tribune website.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.