Rahima Akter hid her Rohingya identity to enroll at a private university in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, but her dreams of pursuing higher education were dashed after she was suspended by her university earlier this month.
Rahima, now 20, was born in the Kutupalong refugee camp after her family fled Myanmar in 1992, is a LLB (Hons) student of Cox’s Bazar International University (CBIU).
The private university recently suspended Rahima after it found that the girl belongs to ethnic Rohingya community.
The girl has become the face of the struggle of Rohingya refugees who want to study, as Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya to enroll in schools or colleges.
CBIU Registrar Kutub Uddin told that a three-member probe committee was formed to investigate the allegations and the academic council of the university suspended Rahima from all academic activities until the probe report is submitted.
Last October, Rahima was featured in a video story by the Associated Press in which she talked about being a Rohingya and her dream to study human rights so she could raise her voice for her persecuted community.
Nearly a year after it was published, the video went viral after which she was expelled from the university.
“I was hiding my identity only so I could study. I feel guilty but I did not have an option. Is getting an education a crime? she asked.
For years, schools and colleges in Bangladesh admitted these students without causing a furore. That started to change from January 2019, as Bangladeshi authorities began to track down and expel Rohingya refugee students, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in April this year.
Bangladesh distinguishes between “registered” Rohingya refugees and those who arrived since August 2017 whom it refers to as “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals”.