The UN's Human Rights Council says it is "very likely" Myanmar's Rohingya minority has faced crimes against humanity and possibly genocide at the hands of Myanmar security forces and their helpers.
Addressing an urgent meeting held by the 47-member rights body in Geneva, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described reports of "acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes, murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls, and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques".
Award-winning photojournalist Allison Joyce met Rohingya rape survivors at refugee camps in Bangladesh. IBTimes UK shares their harrowing stories of abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military.
Mumtaz Begum, 30, said that one morning the military attacked the village of Tula Toli in Myanmar and burned homes. Everyone ran and hid but the military found them. They shot her husband in front of her and as he lay dying, he asked the military for some water. They responded by shooting him again, and he died.
Then the military took her and five other women to a house, with some of their children. They started raping her and the other women and when the children screamed, they hit them in the head with machetes. They hit one of her sons, splitting his skull open, and he died. They also hit her daughter, but she survived and escaped the house.
When the military was done raping her and the other women, they set the house on fire. Mumtaz crawled through the flames and her clothes caught fire and the roof caved in, but she was the only woman who managed to escape. The other five women burned to death. She hid in the forest until a group of people found her and carried her to the border and into Bangladesh.
Mumtaz says "I want justice and I want to tell the world all the things the military did. They raped and killed us. We want justice."
Mumtaz Begum, 30, becomes emotional as she touches the wounds she received when the military set her house on fire after raping her Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Mumtaz Begum shows some of the scars she received when her burning clothes stuck to her body Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Sunuara, 25, says she had a good life in Myanmar before the attacks on 25 August. She was wealthy, with rice paddy fields, 42 cows and two cars. One day the military attacked the village of Boulibazar and soldiers came to her home.
Her husband was staying in another village with relatives and her other children were staying with her parents. Only her 16-year-old son was home with her, and in front of her eyes the military shot him in the stomach and then cut off his head with a machete. Then they tied her wrists and ankles with rope to her bedposts and nine men took turns raping her for six hours. She was eight months pregnant at the time, and the military punched and kicked her stomach. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, her husband and brother found her.
For six days they carried her to the border while she drifted in and out of consciousness. They crossed into Bangladesh where she gave birth at a hospital, but the baby died a day later.
Sunuara, 25, poses for a photo in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Roshida Begum, 22, says that the military threw petrol bombs in the village of Tula Toli, setting houses on fire and randomly shooting people. She fled and hid on a river bank, but the military found her and others. Her husband swam across and escaped. They shot the young boys and stole any jewellery the women were wearing. They took little children and babies and threw them into the river.
"Then they took us to a pond and made us kneel up to our necks in the water," she says. "A helicopter was circling overhead again and again. My baby was just 25 days old, but they grabbed him from my arms and smashed him on the ground so hard he died. The military took me and five other women into a house and raped us. After they were done, they slit our necks with machetes. They thought I was dead and they left and set the house on fire. I was the only one who escaped."
She hid in a paddy field and in a forest until she came across another woman and her daughter, and together they walked towards Bangladesh. For eight days they walked, surviving by drinking water from the paddy fields. They took a boat into Bangladesh and she went to the MSF clinic, where she spent 18 days recovering. Her husband found her there, and when she was discharged they moved into a camp.
In the attack, she lost her mother, father, brother, all together she lost 17 members of her family. "In Bangladesh, sometimes I'm happy, but then I'll see an old man and miss my father, or I'll see a woman with a baby, and I'll miss my son. I can't help but cry. I want justice from the world, why did they kill my mother and father and sisters? I hope the world will give me justice. They killed my parents and relatives for no reason. "
Roshida Begum, 22, shows where the Myanmar military slit her throat Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Roshida Begum shows off her scars Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Dildar Begum, 30, says the military stormed into her house in Tula Toli. They took her husband out of the house and to the river bank and shot him. Then they came back into her house and grabbed her two-year-old son from her arms and stabbed him in the head, and then they killed her four-year-old son.
Two soldiers held her arms while another raped her, she says. They then beat her and she pretended to be dead. When they left, they set her house on fire. Her 10-year-old daughter, Nurkalima was severely injured when the military beat her over the head with the blades of machetes, but she helped her mother crawl past the bodies of two of her children and out of the burning house.
For five days she hid in the hills and when the military left, she went back to Tula Toli on her way to the Bangladesh border. All that was left of her village was smoke and ash where houses used to be. There were bodies everywhere, so many that they were uncountable. She came across some men who carried her for two days to the border, where they were able to cross into Bangladesh by boat.
"I don't see any future for me here in Bangladesh. My husband is dead, who will earn money for me and my daughter? I want justice. My kids were killed, I want justice for them." she says.
Dildar Begum, 30, becomes emotional while her 10-year-old daughter, Nurkalima, looks on Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Dildar Begum's scars from being beaten over the head with a rifle Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Myanmar's army began what it called "clearance operations" on 25 August following an attack on police posts by Rohingya insurgents. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh said their homes were set on fire by soldiers and Buddhist mobs, and some reported being shot at by security forces. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said actions by Myanmar's government to "dehumanise" the Rohingya minority were likely to fan more violence and affect more communities across the region.
Myanmar's ambassador in Geneva, Htin Lynn, denied any state efforts at "dehumanisation" of the Rohingya, saying it "could be an act of extremist individuals. My government is doing everything possible to deter these extremist acts," he said.
(c) 2017 IB Times