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Hounded and ridiculed for complaining of rape

When soldiers went searching for militants in Myanmar's Rakhine state last October, the result for members of the Rohingya minority was disastrous. Villages were burned, men were killed, women were sexually abused. And when one woman complained of rape, she was accused of lying by the office of the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and hounded by vengeful soldiers.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, 25-year-old Jamalida Begum tells me what happened in the days after her husband was shot dead in the village of Pyaung Pyaik, north-western Myanmar.

Jamalida fled with her two children and watched from a distance as the army set houses in the village on fire. Satellite images confirm that at least 85 buildings were destroyed.

Five days later she returned with some of her neighbours to find her belongings and home destroyed. They sheltered together in one of the few homes that had survived - but at dawn the next day the soldiers came back.

"They chose 30 women. Half were young girls aged between 12 and 15," says Jamalida.

The soldiers took them to the village school.

"Then they chose four from among the 30," Jamalida says.

"It was me and three teenage girls. Then we were separated. The army took me to the east of the school near the pond. Another seven soldiers took the other three girls to the hill to the south of the school.

"They shouted at me to open my shirt and my thami (wrap-around skirt). When I refused they started beating me, grabbed my clothes and pushed me to the ground. Three soldiers raped and tortured me for an hour. Blood came out of my lower part and my legs got cramped. They punched me into the eyes saying I was staring at them. It turned my eyes red like fire coal. They left me bleeding and drove away in their Jeeps."

The soldiers were sent into northern Rakhine state to conduct "clearance operations" after militants from Jamalida's ethnic group, the Rohingya, launched an attack on three Burmese police posts on 9 October last year - killing nine officers and seizing guns and ammunition.

Media captionMyanmar: Who are the Rohingya?

A wave of reports of human rights abuses followed, including scores of allegations of rape.

For weeks Myanmar's human rights icon turned leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, denied the allegations, insisting soldiers were adhering to the law, while at the same time refusing to allow independent journalists or observers to access the area.

(c) BBC News,

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