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Rohingya girls rescued from traffickers in Bangladesh

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Banglapress Desk: At least 23 teenage Rohingya girls have been rescued after being brought from refugee camps to the capital, Dhaka, to be sent to Malaysia by air, Bangladesh police said on Sunday.
Dhaka police also arrested four human traffickers including a Rohingya couple and recovered more than 50 Bangladeshi passports from them on Saturday.
Police spokesman Mokhlesur Rahman said they raided a residence in the northern part of the city and found the teenagers hiding in a room behind a tailoring shop.
“They were promised jobs in Malaysia and brought from refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar,” he told AFP news agency, referring to the Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh’s southeastern coastal district.
The girls – aged between 15 and 19 – could have been potential victims of forced prostitution, the official said.
“We have filed cases against the four arrested persons and sent the girls back to their camps in Cox’s Bazar,” Rahman said.
Abul Khair, local police chief of Ukhiya, where Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp is situated, said he received the girls and would send them to their homes in the camps.
Perilous journeys
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a brutal military clampdown in Myanmar in August 2017 and arrived in Bangladesh to join another 300,000 already living in the refugee camps.
Desperate for a better life and an economic future, the refugees and in particular teenage girls easily fall prey to human traffickers roaming in the overcrowded camps.
According to Rohingya activists and rights groups, dozens of women are now regularly arriving in Malaysia to marry Rohingya men, reviving a form of transnational human trafficking that once moved thousands of Rohingya a year.
Bangladesh: Women, children trafficking rife in Rohingya camps
Thousands of Rohingya refugees have risked their lives travelling to Malaysia and Thailand, mainly by boat, when the Bay of Bengal is calm before monsoon season sets in at the end of May.
Bangladeshi authorities have stopped more than 300 Rohingya this year alone from attempting such perilous boat journeys on rickety fishing boats.
Many have also attempted to fly to Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries by procuring Bangladeshi passports and travel documents.
“Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar have few options. They cannot work and have no formal access to education,” John Quinley, a researcher with Fortify Rights, told Al Jazeera.
“Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fear forced repatriation or relocation to the island. All these push factors could lead to a real uptick in Rohingya families – including girls – moving to Malaysia, some for child marriage,” he added.
Jishu Barua, an aid worker specialised in human trafficking prevention, said he dealt with 100 cases of human trafficking in the camps in the last six weeks.
“But this figure represents only a small portion of what is actually going on,” he told AFP.
Muslim-majority Rohingya have faced persecution in Myanmar for decades. Myanmar stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, rendering them stateless.
A former top US defence official, meanwhile, warned on Sunday of a “real risk” of a miscalculation between the two sides as the war of words intensifies.
The US military has deployed forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move US officials said was to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to its troops in the region.
The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.
“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past. But now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force.
“If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).
Speaking to CNBC in an interview to be broadcast on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the military deployments came in response to intelligence about potential Iranian attacks and aimed both to deter them and to be able to respond if necessary.
“We’ve seen this reporting,” Pompeo said. “It’s real. It appears to be something that is current, that is things we’re worried about today.
“In the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest – whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East – we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way,” he said, adding “our aim is not war”. Iranians angry over new US sanctions on Tehran

‘Psychological war’
William Fallon, former commander of the US Central Command, told Al Jazeera he does not expect the situation between Iran and the US to escalate despite “the media hype”.
Fallon said tensions between Tehran and Washington have been ongoing for decades and he saw no serious outcome despite all of the recent heated rhetoric coming from both sides.
“Ridiculous reporting” is exaggerating the situation in the Gulf when in fact it’s the same scenario militarily as it has been for years between the arch rivals, he noted.
“The US has been coming in and out of the Gulf for decades and is committed to open, clear and free passage of ships in the Gulf,” said Fallon.
Iran’s parliament held a closed session on Sunday to discuss the developments in the Gulf.
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, who heads the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told the official IRNA news agency Iran isn’t looking to deepen the crisis.
He said the US position will weaken with time, and there are currently no grounds for negotiations with Washington.
Major-General Hossein Salami, appointed head of the Revolutionary Guard last month, told parliament the United States had started a psychological war.
“Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,” his spokesman Behrouz Nemati said.
Iran’s nuclear programme explained
‘Unforeseen consequences’Robert Gates, former US defence secretary, told CBS News a miscalculation by military forces in the Gulf was a “very real risk right now”.
Gates said a conflict between the United States and Iran would have “tremendous unforeseen consequences in the Middle East” that would be “very, very dangerous”.
United Arab Emirates said four commercial ships were subjected to “sabotage operations” on Sunday, but didn’t identify who was responsible.
The incident in the Gulf of Oman came as the United States has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said “things are heating up” in the Gulf.
“If there’s some sort of conflagration between Iran and the United States, between Iran and its neighbours, I’m not ruling out that they will activate Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad from Gaza, or even that they will try to fire missiles from Iran at the state of Israel,” Steinitz, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel’s Ynet TV. Aljazeera

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