In Butterworth, 10-year-old Mohamed Noor is playing football with his friends in an alley behind a row of shophouses. The children are speaking fluently in Bahasa Melayu. At sunset, Mohamed Noor waves goodbye to his friends and goes home to his parents’ rented room, where his mother is busy preparing dinner. Mohamed excitedly tells her about his friends – not in Bahasa, though, but in his mother tongue, Rohingya.
Mohamed is an ethnic Rohingya born in Malaysia. His parents were born in Myanmar – his father, Umar*, in Hasurata, a village in the Maungdaw township. When Umar was 18, his village was razed to the ground by the Rakhine people; both his parents were burnt to death.
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