Soldiers rape and assault Marma girls in Chittagong Hill Tracts

The Marma, like other tribes of the CHT, have faced years of violence, land-grabbing and intimidation.
The Marma, like other tribes of the CHT, have faced years of violence, land-grabbing and intimidation.
© Mark McEvoy/Survival

Two sisters from the Marma indigenous tribe of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh are being held against their will after being raped and sexually assaulted at gun point, allegedly by members of the Bangladesh security forces.

The Jummas, a collective name for the tribes living in the CHT, continue to face endemic violence, land-grabbing and intimidation on their ancestral land. Jumma women and girls are frequently subjected to rape and sexual assault at the hands of Bengali settlers and the armed forces.

The Marma girls, aged 19 and 14, describe men in army uniforms entering their house during a raid in the early hours of January 22. They report that the older sister was raped and the younger was sexually assaulted during an attempted rape.

The army and other security forces have denied the attacks took place, and the authorities are now not allowing the girls to be released from hospital. Their room is being guarded by police who are refusing to allow human rights activists or journalists to talk to the victims.

The sisters fear for their own, and their family’s, safety. Those who have been able to speak to the girls report that they are traumatised, not only by the initial brutal attacks but also by the numerous interrogations by male police officers and the entry of male security personnel into their hospital room throughout the day and night.

The girls speak only their tribal Marma language and have been refused access to familiar indigenous food brought to the hospital by well wishers.

Raja Devasish Roy, the Chakma king, Survival and other human rights activists have called for the girls to be released from the hospital and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.