The State of the Futureless

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In late 2016, the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma), a country in Southeast Asia, began the brutal wipeout of the country’s minority Rohingya people immediately after an attack occurred on Myanmar soldiers along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border by suspected Rohingya militants. The majority Rakhine Buddhist population, ever since the 2016 attack, have committed major crimes against the minority Rohingya population to “protect their state” from the growing Rohingya population[1]. In Kevin Frayer’s “Desperate Journey”, he takes us into an illustrative and graphic depiction of the escape of the Rohingyas to neighboring Bangladesh, where they’re subjected to inhumane conditions - with no sight of help anywhere to be seen. With extensive and high-quality pictures accommodating the heart-wrenching experiences of the refugees, Kevin Frayer formulates an effective piece due to his use of powerful imagery in aiding his overall emotional appeal to the readers.

The abuse of the Rohingyas, a stateless ethnic group mostly consisting of Muslims, dates back to post-independent Myanmar. The Rohingyas were left out of the 1948 Union Citizenship Act, which listed ethnicities who could automatically receive Burmese citizenship. Although they were eligible to apply for citizenship, this was significantly decreased in 1962 after a military coup denied more and more Rohingyas not only citizenship but the right to education and work. In 1982, Burmese president Ne Win enforced the 1982 Nationality Law for the ability of Rohingya to receive citizenship by requiring that applicants needed documentation proving that they lived in the nation before 1948. This caused them to be officially stateless and have since been denied by the government. Burmese politicians ever since have not made the lives of Rohingya any better, including restricting their places of worship, ability to marry, and perpetrating massive riots and systematic violence against them. The violence has peaked in 2016 after the attack and hasn’t gone down ever since.

Evidently in “When I visited in late October...” and “One afternoon in September, I went to an area…”[2], Kevin Frayer’s job as a journalist is advantageous. A journalist’s aim is to “boldly unearth the truth about newsworthy people, places and events"[3]. With his job being considered, his article posing personal accounts of the refugees he’s interacting with and high-quality imagery, his purpose is to address and inform the Westerners, who most likely are ignorant regarding the situation, about the Rohingya crisis. According to “anonymity of it [the genocide] is tragic,” it can be concluded that the author is alluding that the situation is being ignored by the public[2]. Even major leaders, such as Myanmar’s “de-facto leader” Aung San Suu Kyi and American president Donald Trump, have been depicted as people who are not taking enough action, with the former even defending the genocide, stating that the genocide is “targeting insurgents"[2]. Frayer attempts to break the blanket of unawareness by providing at least some light to an entirely dark conflict.

Rohingya people in Rakhine State, 2012

Frayer emotionally appeals to the reader extensively regarding the persecution of the refugees he’s with. He personally relates to them as he’s there in the moment, sharing the “anxiety” of the crowd and noting the “distraught” women and overall chaos of the island’s environment[2]. Despite the area being “so loud”, he details the story of the crying boy, who begs for food from a random man who he’s “wrapped his arms around”[2]. As a journalist, the readers are able to see that despite his job’s purpose of reporting tragic events, it is hard for Frayer to “compare that magnitude of sadness to anything else I have seen”[2]. Lastly, he religiously follows his “the more photographs, the better” approach for this story, intelligently placing black-and-white images all across the article to leave lasting impressions on the readers[2]. Frayer’s approach to emotionally amplify the reader is effective through the use of personal accounts, his reflections on those personal accounts, and extensive imagery.

Frayer organizes his article in a way where the readers are left with a lingering sympathy. He begins this article by providing a personal account of the arrival of the refugees, noting that it is safer for refugees to arrive in the dark vs. in broad daylight. Historically with “dark” being associated with “scary”, Frayer bringing up the time of arrival shows that these refugees live in a totally different situation than the Westerners, who are comfortable in bed at night, do. After mentioning the silence of the refugee center in Bangladesh, Frayer dips into the historical context of the genocide in order to provide extensive background for the readers to understand. The last account depicts the chaotic environment of the refugees seeking aid, specifically ending off with the personal account of the crying boy. The whole article is marred with photos depicting the paragraph previous to it, providing context and visual imagery. The black-and-white images are the standout aspect of the article, intended to tangle the heartstrings of those who view them by setting a gloomy tone. The first image focuses on the crying boy, which emphasizes the boy and the situation that not only he is in, but millions of other Rohingyas. The last image shows a group of men performing an Islamic prayer amidst the situation there, showcasing that the only thing these refugees are able to hold onto, in the absence of aid, help, and coverage, is faith. Faith that their situation will improve somehow. Frayer’s emotional appeal of this tragic situation is what leaves a mark, long after one is done reading the article.

Frayer’s emotional and detailed depiction of the personal accounts of the Rohingya refugees is effective in appealing to the readers. In times where information is easily readable, Frayer contributes to this by detailing an underlooked situation and placing it in an easy spotlight for people who are unfamiliar with the situation in Myanmar to enlighten themselves. With Frayer’s outstanding efforts of anchoring this situation to the public, readers may hope for a future for the stateless.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Could Aung San Suu Kyi face Rohingya genocide charges?". BBC News. 2017-12-18. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "Desperate Journey: The Rohingya Flee Myanmar". TIME.com. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
  3. "Duties & Responsibilities of Journalists". Work - Chron.com. Retrieved 2021-12-20.