First They Erased Our Name, A Rohingya speaks by Habiburahman and Sophie Ansel -Our Review
Told without fanfare or embellishment, ‘First they Erased Our Name’ is nevertheless one of the most compelling memoirs you will read this year.
Growing up happy and carefree in a mountainous village deep in the Arakan province, Habib cannot understand why his near blind grandmother harps on about always remembering the abuses of the past. Intelligent and a little wild, he loves racing through the streets and running into the jungle with his Christian and animalist friends. His father and mother try to be indulgent, but as the Buddhist majority military junta come knocking at their door, upending their shop, confiscating and breaking goods and making them pay endless taxes for the privilege of movement, does young Habib begin to understand the systematic abuses being heaped on his family.
Although Rohingya history in the region can be traced back to the 8th century, since 1948 Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight “national indigenous races”. Throughout history they have been systematically enacting ‘cleansing’ programs’. The latest was in 2017 and over 700,000 people have lost their homes and livelihood, many subjected to regular abuse, imprisonment, rape and quite often torture. It’s a hard concept for the Western World to understand that your most basic right to exist as a race can be called into question, for the in Myanmar the to say word ‘Rohingya’ and align yourself to that race is a crime.
With great clarity, this memoir lays open the complex problems facing the Rohingya through the eyes of young Habib and Australia’s increasingly stale response to the humanitarian crisis. A compelling and worthy read for all Australians’.
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books