Warning: Distressing content
The soldiers arrived, as they often did, long after sunset.
It was June, and the newlyweds were asleep in their home, surrounded by the fields of wheat they farmed in western Myanmar. Without warning, seven soldiers burst into the house and charged into their bedroom.
The woman, a Rohingya Muslim who agreed to be identified by her first initial, F, knew enough to be terrified. She knew the military had been attacking Rohingya villages, as part of what the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing in the mostly Buddhist nation. She heard just days before that soldiers had killed her parents, and that her brother was missing.
This time, F says, the soldiers had come for her.
The men bound her husband with rope. They ripped the scarf from her head and tied it around his mouth.
They yanked off her jewellery and tore off her clothes. They threw her to the floor.
And then the first soldier began to rape her.
She struggled against him, but four men held her down and beat her with sticks. She stared in panic at her husband, who stared back helplessly. He finally wriggled the gag out of his mouth and screamed.
And then she watched as a soldier fired a bullet into the chest of the man she had married only one month before. Another soldier slit his throat.
Her mind grew fuzzy. When the soldiers were finished, they dragged her naked body outside and set her bamboo house ablaze.
It would be two months before she realized her misery was far from over: She was pregnant.
Sickening sameness to their stories
The rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical, the Associated Press found in interviews with women and girls who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. These sexual assault survivors from several refugee camps were interviewed separately and extensively. They ranged in age from 13 to 35, came from a wide swath of villages in Myanmar's Rakhine state and described assaults between October 2016 and mid-September.
Foreign journalists are banned from the Rohingya region of Rakhine, making it nearly impossible to independently verify each woman's report. Yet there was a sickening sameness to their stories, with distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves.
The testimonies bolster the U.N.'s contention that Myanmar's armed forces are systematically employing rape as a "calculated tool of terror" aimed at exterminating the Rohingya people. The Myanmar armed forces did not respond to multiple requests from the AP for comment, but an internal military investigation last month concluded that none of the assaults ever took place. And when journalists asked about rape allegations during a government-organised trip to Rakhine in September, Rakhine's minister for border affairs, Phone Tint, replied: "These women were claiming they were raped, but look at their appearances — do you think they are that attractive to be raped?"
Doctors and aid workers, however, say that they are stunned at the sheer volume of rapes, and suspect only a fraction of women have come forward. Medecins Sans Frontieres doctors have treated 113 sexual violence survivors since August, a third of them under 18. The youngest was 9.
The U.N. has called the Rohingya the most persecuted minority on earth, with Myanmar denying them citizenship and basic rights. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees now live in sweltering tents in Bangladesh, where the stifling air smells of excrement from a lack of latrines and of smoke from wood fires to cook what little food there is. The women and girls in this story gave the AP their names but agreed to be publicly identified only by their first initial, citing fears they or their families would be killed by Myanmar's military.
Each described attacks that involved groups of men from Myanmar's security forces, often coupled with other forms of extreme violence. Every woman except one said the assailants wore military-style uniforms, generally dark green or camouflage. The lone woman who described her attackers as wearing plain clothes said her neighbours recognised them from the local military outpost.
Many women said the uniforms bore various patches featuring stars or, in a couple of cases, arrows. Such patches represent the different units of Myanmar's army.
The most common attack described went much like F's. In several other cases, women said, security forces surrounded a village, separated men from women, then took the women to a second location to gang rape them.
The women spoke of seeing their children slaughtered in front of them, their husbands beaten and shot. They spoke of burying their loved ones in the darkness and leaving the bodies of their babies behind. They spoke of the searing pain of rapes that felt as if they would never end, and of dayslong journeys on foot to Bangladesh while still bleeding and hobbled.
They spoke and they spoke, the words erupting from many of them in frantic, tortured bursts.
N, who says she survived a rape but lost her husband, her country and her peace, speaks because there is little else she can do — and because she hopes that somebody will listen.
"I have nothing left," she says. "All I have left are my words."
Screams from villagers: 'The military was coming'
Two months after the men came quietly in the night for F, they came boldly in the daytime for K.
It was late August, she says, just days after Rohingya insurgents had attacked several Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine. Security forces responded with swift ferocity that human rights groups say left hundreds dead and scores of Rohingya villages burned to the ground.
Inside their house, K and her family were settling down to breakfast. They had only just swallowed their first mouthfuls of rice when the screams of other villagers rang out: The military was coming.
Her husband and three oldest children bolted out the door, fleeing for the nearby hills.
But K was nearly 9 months pregnant, with swollen feet and two terrified toddlers whose tiny legs could never outpace the soldiers' strides. She had no place to hide, no time to think.
The door banged open. And the men charged in.
There were four of them, she thinks, maybe five, all in camouflage uniforms. Her young son and daughter began to wail and then, mercifully, scampered out the front door.
There was no mercy for her. The men grabbed her and threw her on the bed. They yanked off her earrings, nose ring and necklace. They found the money she had hidden in her blouse from the recent sale of her family's cow. They ripped off her clothes, and tied down her hands and legs with rope. When she resisted, they choked her.
And then, she says, they began to rape her.
She was too terrified to move. One man held a knife to her eyeball, one more a gun to her chest. Another forced himself inside her.
When the first man finished, they switched places and the torture began again. And when the second man finished, a third man raped her.
In the midst of her agony, she thought of nothing but the baby inside her womb, just weeks away from emerging into a world that would not want him, because he was a Rohingya.
She began to bleed.
She blacked out.
As she awoke, her great aunt was there, tearfully untying her. The elder woman bathed her, clothed her and gave her a hot compress for her aching thighs.
When K's husband returned home, he was furious: not just at the men who had raped her, but at her. Why, he demanded, had she not run away?
She was pregnant and in no condition to run, she shot back. Still, he blamed her for the assault and threatened to abandon her, because, he told her, a "non-Muslim" had raped her.
Fearful the men would return, she and her family fled to her father's house in the hills above the village. When they saw soldiers setting fire to the houses below, they knew they had to leave for Bangladesh.
K was too crippled by pain to walk. Her husband and brother placed her inside a sling they fashioned out of a blanket and a stick, and carried her for days.
Inside her cocoon, she wept for the baby she feared was dead.
She screamed at them to stop
A few days after the men burst into K's house, 10 soldiers arrived at R's.
She was just 13-years-old, but R had already learned to fear the military men.
Her parents had warned her to steer clear of them, yet it was her father who first fell prey to their wrath. One day last year, R says, soldiers stabbed him in the head with a knife, killing him.
Yet R's family had nowhere else to go. And so they stayed in the village. R busied herself by learning Arabic, doting on her chicken and its hatchlings and caring for her two younger brothers.
And then one day in late August, R says, the soldiers barged into her house. They snatched up her little brothers, tied them to a tree outside and began to beat them. R tried to run out the front door, but the men caught her.
Her body is barely pubescent, her limbs still gangly like a child's. But her youth could not protect her.
R fought back against the men, but they dragged her out of the house. The skin tore away from her knees as her legs scraped along the ground.
The men tethered her arms to two trees. They ripped off her earrings and bracelets, stripped off her clothes.
R screamed at them to stop. They spit at her.
And then the first man began to rape her.
She froze. She was a virgin. The pain was excruciating.
The attack lasted for hours. She remembers all ten men forcing themselves on her before she passed out.
One of her older brothers later found her on the ground, bleeding.
R's two little brothers were missing, but their mother had no time to search for them. She knew she had to get her daughter over the border and to a doctor quickly to get medicine in time to prevent a pregnancy.
R was barely conscious. So her two older brothers carried her across the hills and fields toward Bangladesh. R's mother hurried alongside them, terrified for her daughter, terrified that time was running out.
Only handful of victims seek treatment
That R's family sought treatment for her at all is an anomaly. Despite still suffering pain, bleeding and infections months after the attacks, only a handful of the women interviewed by the AP had seen a doctor. The others had no idea free services were available, or were too ashamed to tell a doctor they were raped.
In a health center overflowing with women and wailing babies, Dr. Misbah Uddin Ahmed, a government health officer, sits at his desk looking weary. He pulls out a stack of patient histories for those treated at his clinics and begins to flick through them, reading the case summaries out loud:
Sept. 5, a patient 7 months pregnant says three soldiers burst into her home 11 days ago and raped her. Also Sept. 5, a patient says she was asleep at home when the military broke in 20 days ago and three soldiers raped her. Sept. 10, a patient says the military came to her house one month ago and beat her husband before two soldiers raped her.
Ahmed says the women who manage to overcome their fear and make it to his clinics are usually the ones in the deepest trouble. So many others, he adds, are suffering in silence.
Though the scale of these attacks is new, the use of sexual violence by Myanmar's security forces is not. Before she became Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi herself condemned the military's abuses. "Rape is rife. It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country," she said in a 2011 videotaped statement to the Nobel Women's Initiative.
And yet Suu Kyi's government has not only failed to condemn the recent accounts of rape, it has dismissed the accounts as lies. In Dec. 2016, the government issued a press release disputing Rohingya women's reports of sexual assaults, accompanied by an image that said "Fake Rape."
Ahmed seems bewildered that anyone would ever doubt these women. Look at what I have just shown you, he says, gesturing toward his stack of files chronicling one atrocity after another.
Gynaecologist Arjina Akhter has witnessed the results of those atrocities. Since August, so many women began showing up at her two clinics, she stopped asking them to fill out patient history forms so she could treat them faster. Among other women, she estimates between 20 to 30 rape survivors visited her clinics in September and October.
She ticks off the injuries: Two women with lacerations to their cervixes they said were caused by guns shoved inside their bodies. One woman with horrific tearing she said was caused by a nail driven into her vagina. Several women with severe vaginal bleeding.
More recently, she says, women who were raped months ago have been coming to her in a panic, asking for abortions. She has to explain to them that they are too far along, but reassures them that officials will take the babies if they cannot care for them.
Still, for some Rohingya women, giving up the babies they never asked for was not an option.
Which is how it was for F.
Nightmare repeats itself
More than three months had passed since the men burst into F's home, and her despair had only deepened.
Neighbours had taken her in and cared for her. But her house was gone, her husband was dead. And the timing of the attack left little doubt that the baby growing inside her belonged to one of the men who had caused all her grief.
She could only pray that things would not get worse. And then, one night in mid-September, they did.
F was asleep along with the neighbours — a couple and their 5-year-old son — when the men broke down the door, jolting everyone awake.
There were five of them this time, she remembers. They quickly grabbed the boy and slashed his throat, and killed the man.
Then they turned to the man's wife, and to F. And her nightmare began again.
They stripped off the women's clothes. Two of the men noticed the swell of F's stomach and grabbed it, squeezing hard.
They threw the women to the floor. F's friend fought back, and the men beat her with their guns so viciously the skin on her thighs began to peel away.
But the fight had gone out of F. She felt her body go soft, felt the blood run between her legs as the first man forced himself on her, and then the second. Next to her, three men were savaging her friend.
When it was finally over and the men had gone, the two women lay immobile on the floor.
They lay there for days, so crippled by pain and catatonic from the trauma that they could not even lift themselves to use the toilet. F could smell the blood around them. As the house baked under the punishing sun, the stench from the decaying bodies of her friend's husband and son finally overwhelmed her.
She would not die here. And neither would her baby.
She reached out for her friend's hand and clasped it. Then F hauled herself to her feet, pulling her friend up with her. Hand in hand, the women stumbled to the next village. They spent five days recovering there and then, alongside a group of other villagers, began the 10-day journey to Bangladesh.
The monsoon season had begun, but there was nowhere to shelter. So F kept walking through the downpours. She was starving, and her battered body ached with each step. Generous strangers offered her sips of their water, and one man gave her a few sweet rolls.
One day, she came across a 9-year-old boy lying along the side of a road, wounded and alone. He had lost his parents, he told her, and the soldiers had tortured him. She took him with her.
Together, the two made it to the shores of the Naf River and boarded a boat to Bangladesh.
Which is where they live now, in a tiny bamboo shelter between two filthy latrines. And it is here that F prays her baby will be a boy — because this world is no place for a girl.
Bleak limbo of Bangladesh
For now, the women are left to wonder how long they will live in the bleak limbo of Bangladesh, and if they will ever return to their homeland.
R, the teen, is not pregnant. Her mother sold all her jewelry and got her to the hospital in time. But R can't stop thinking about her little brothers, and her sleep is plagued by nightmares.
Since the rape, she has struggled to eat, and her once-curvy frame has shrunk. Before the rape, she says softly, she was pretty.
K, who feared the baby inside her had died, gave birth to a boy on the floor of her tent in a dizzying rush of relief. She had kept her son alive through it all.
But her trauma persists. The thrum of a helicopter hovering over the camp sends her into a panic and she recites the Muslim prayer for the moments before death. She is convinced the aircraft is Myanmar's military, coming to kill them all.
When told she is strong, she looks up with tears in her eyes.
"How can you say that?" she asks. "My husband says he is ashamed of me. How am I strong?"
F, whose body is starting to ache under the strain of her pregnancy, finds her mind often drifts toward how she will care for the child in the future. She believes God has kept them both alive for a reason.
Her parents, her brother, her husband are gone now. This baby will be the only family she has left. For her, the most haunting reminder of the agony she endured also, somehow, represents her last chance at happiness.
"Everybody has died," she says. "I don't have anyone to care for me. If I give this baby away, what will I have left? There will be nothing to live for."
ALLAH SAVED US
A was at home praying with her four children in late August when about 50 soldiers surrounded her village and opened fire on the men.
A began to shake; she had heard of soldiers raping women in other villages.
Three men burst into her house and told her to get out. She refused. They beat her.
Her children screamed. The soldiers slapped them, then threw them out of the house.
Two of the soldiers hit her until she fell. One pressed his boot against her chest, pinning her down. They took off her jewelry and stripped off her clothes.
Then all three raped her, punching and kicking her when she screamed. One pressed a knife to the back of her neck, making her bleed. She still bears a faint scar.
After the attack, she bled so heavily she thought she was dying. A farmer told her that her husband had been shot to death, so her brother, mother and daughter helped her make the painful trek to Bangladesh.
"They wanted to wipe us out from the world," she says of the military. "They tried very hard, but Allah saved us."
In the first few days after the attack, she cried all the time. Now she cries silently in her mind.
THE BABY GIRL WAS DEAD
M was at home feeding her son rice in late August when a bullet from the military blasted through the bamboo wall of her house and struck her teenage brother.
Her husband and children ran out of the house. But M was 8 months pregnant, and did not want to leave her brother behind. For two days, she stayed by his side, until he died.
Soon after, four soldiers charged into her house.
They began slapping and punching her. Three soldiers dragged her outside the house, stripped her and beat her. When she screamed, they put a gun in her mouth.
The first man began to rape her, while the other two held her down and punched and kicked her pregnant belly.
After the second rape, she kicked them so ferociously, they finally left.
M felt intense cramping in her belly. She gave birth that night at home. The baby girl was dead. M buried the infant in an unmarked grave by her house.
Her husband returned, and they made the three-day walk through the hills to Bangladesh.
"They humiliated us, they destroyed our land and farm, they took our cows, they took our produce," she says. "How would I go back? They destroyed our livelihood."
WHEN WILL I HAVE PEACE?
H was reciting the sunrise prayer at home in late August with her husband and six children when she heard a commotion outside.
A dozen soldiers burst through her door and started beating her husband. They grabbed three of her children by their feet, carried them outside and bashed them against trees, killing them.
Her husband screamed, and H ran out of the house. As she fled, she heard gunshots behind her. She never saw her husband again.
She made it with her three other children to the nearby hills, where other women from her village were hiding. But soldiers descended upon the women and dragged them away to rape them.
They ripped off H's clothes, took her jewelry and tied her hands behind her back with her headscarf.
One man held her head and hands back, while another held her legs. The third raped her. Then they switched. All three men raped her.
Her crying children refused to leave her side during the assault. The soldiers slapped them, kicked them, tried to shove them away. They refused to budge.
When the soldiers finished, her 8-year-old daughter tried to cover her naked body with her torn clothing.
It took her and her children four days to reach Bangladesh.
"I've lost my husband, I've lost my children, I've lost my country. When will God take me back to my country?" H says. "When will I have peace?"
I BURN INSIDE FOR MY CHILDREN
When seven soldiers stormed into the house in October, 2016, S's husband fled. The soldiers began beating her parents.
A soldier beat S with his gun, ripped two of her babies from her arms and dropped them on the floor. They tore the clothes off S, her mother and several other young women in the house, and took S's earrings and money she had hidden in her clothes.
Two soldiers took S to a field. They covered her mouth with their hands to stop her screams. They held her down and raped her.
When it was over, she hid in the hills but eventually returned home.
In August, S was at home with her family when the military began firing rocket launchers at houses, setting them ablaze. Her husband and two eldest children fled, but she stayed behind to pack up her baby girls and a few belongings. One baby was in a swing, the other sleeping on the floor.
A rocket launcher hit the house. The babies went up in flames before her eyes.
There was nothing she could do. So she ran. She hid with the rest of her family in the hills for several days before making the 3-day trek to Bangladesh.
"I burn inside for my children, but what can I do?" she asks. "They burned to death. I guess that was my destiny."
SHE TOLD NO ONE
The military surrounded N's village one early morning in late August. Around 18 soldiers stormed her house, and dragged N outside with her sister-in-law and mother-in-law.
The women were taken to the center of the village, where soldiers robbed them of their jewelry.
Three men then took her to the hills and stripped her naked. Two men held down her hands while a third raped her. Then they switched positions. All three raped her.
During the attack, they showed her their knives and beat her. She was too frightened to fight back.
When it was over, they left her there. She returned home and told no one about the rape.
She was in agony after the assault and bled for eight days.
SHE SAW HER VILLAGE BURNING
There was no warning before five soldiers suddenly stormed into 16-year-old S's house one morning in early August.
They searched the home for money and valuables. Then they slashed her husband's neck, killing him. The men briefly left to ransack other neighboring houses, before returning.
Two soldiers pulled her into a room, snatched her 3-month-old son from her arms and put him on the floor. They searched her clothes for valuables and took her earrings. Another three men came in and began to beat her with guns while the others stripped off her clothes.
One soldier held down her hands, and another put his gun in her mouth. All five men raped her.
When she struggled, they beat her. She could hear her baby crying and was terrified the men would kill him.
When they were finished, they let her get dressed and then dragged her bleeding body outside to the center of the village. Soldiers were dragging other women they had assaulted out of surrounding houses. The men beat S and the other women again, then left them.
S ran back to her house, grabbed her baby and ran. As she fled, she saw soldiers lining men and boys up and shooting them. When she made it to the hills, she looked down and saw her village burning.
SHE NEVER SAW HER SON AGAIN
The soldiers had been harassing T's family for days: Showing up and stealing their food, urinating in their rice, hitting T and, once, stripping off her clothes.
And then one morning in mid-August, five men dragged her husband out of the house, where they slashed his neck. They grabbed her 10-year-old son and dragged him outside; she never saw him again. Her 12-year-old daughter managed to flee.
The soldiers took off T's earrings and nose ring, then stripped off her clothes. When she screamed, they kicked her.
Then they pinned her to the floor. Two men held her while the first man raped her. Then they switched. One man put a gun in her mouth to silence her screams.
Afterward, she bled for two days. Months later, her back still hurts from the attack.
When they finished, they ate the food in her kitchen and stole her chicken and duck. They also dragged away the body of her husband.
She ran into the hills and found her daughter and father. They tried to find safety in neighboring villages, but the military kept showing up. With nowhere to go, they headed toward Bangladesh.
ALL I HAVE LEFT ARE MY WORDS
N's husband was walking down a road in late August when several villagers saw soldiers grab him and drag him into the hills. Later that day, children in the hills came upon his head, along with several other corpses. Soldiers were milling around near the bodies.
N stayed in her house with her 8-year-old daughter for the next few days, unable to stop crying. Then suddenly, around 80 soldiers descended on the village. Five soldiers came to her door and shouted: "Who's inside?"
N was terrified. The men barged in.
One man held her as she screamed and fought. They covered her eyes with tape, and hit her head with a gun. Two held her in place while three others began rifling through her clothing. There was nothing for them to steal; she'd already hidden her valuables.
They ripped her clothes off and beat her in the head with a gun until she blacked out. When she awoke, her vagina was swollen, bleeding and covered in sores. She had clearly been raped; by how many men, she does not know.
She was in too much pain that day to leave the house. She and her daughter fled the next day for Bangladesh. She bled for eight days, and three months later still has trouble urinating.
"I have nothing left," she says, blinking back tears. "All I have left are my words."
SHE BLED FOR SIX DAYS
N, 17, was at home with her parents and siblings in late August when she heard the crackle of gunfire. Suddenly, 10 men burst into the house. They began slashing open sacks of rice looking for valuables.
Then the soldiers tied her hands with rope behind her back and put tape over her mouth.
Five of the men held her frantic family back, hitting them with their guns. They ripped off her clothes, snatched her earrings and took the money she had hidden in her new blouse.
When she tried to protest, they hit her with their guns.
They threw her to the floor. Five men then took turns raping her, while the others helped hold her down.
Her parents were forced to watch. When they screamed, the soldiers beat them. Eventually, they stood in silence as their daughter was assaulted.
After the men left, N's parents untied her and washed her. She bled for six days.
The family left for Bangladesh the next day. N was in too much pain to walk, so her father carried her over the border.
IT WAS JUST ALL PAIN
Around 100 soldiers surrounded A's village one afternoon in late August. A's husband fled, leaving her alone in the house with their 2-year-old son.
Two soldiers came into her house. One soldier threw her baby on the floor, then grabbed A by the neck. Both men slapped her and pointed their guns at her.
They tore off her clothes. She wept and begged them to stop. One of the men took off her earrings. Then they shoved her to the ground, laughing at her.
One soldier pressed his knife to her right hip and cut into her flesh. Both of them punched her in the face.
The men then took turns raping her. She could hear her son crying. She prayed to Allah, terrified the men would kill her and her boy.
"It was just all pain," she says now.
As the soldiers walked out, they fired their guns toward the sky.
After the rape, she couldn't eat for days and struggled to walk. She hid in the nearby hills with her son until she found her husband. Together, the family walked for 14 days until they finally crossed the border into Bangladesh.
TEARING HER FLESH WITH THEIR TEETH
M was at home with her husband, her sister-in-law and her sister-in-law's brother in late August when security forces stormed their village. The husbands fled, leaving M alone in the house with her sister-in-law, who was in the shower.
Three men kicked the door open. They tied M's arms behind her back.
They dragged her sister-in-law out of the shower. They bit her face and body, tearing her flesh with their teeth. All three men raped her, then stabbed her torso and her breasts with their knives, killing her.
One of the men came over to M, stripped her clothes off and took her earrings.
He unzipped his pants, pushed her down onto her back and then raped her. He choked her and punched her in the face and chest, and bit her eyebrow.
She was terrified she would be killed like her sister-in-law. She screamed so loudly that her neighbours came running. The men then fled.
She has no plans to return to Myanmar.
"How can I go where there is all this pain and suffering?" she says.
SHE DOES NOT KNOW HOW THEY DIED
D was at home one evening in late August when she heard noise outside. Her two older sons and husband rushed out of the house, leaving her alone with her 3-year-old boy.
Three men entered her home. She screamed and her son began to cry.
They took her nose ring and earrings, then ripped off her clothes.
One man restrained her arms and held a knife to her hip while the other two men raped her. She feared the men would kill her, so she stifled her screams.
After two hours, the men finally left. When her husband returned, he found her naked. But she was too ashamed to tell him what had happened to her.
She was so swollen and bled so much that she found it difficult to walk for nearly three weeks after the rape.
They fled to another village. While there, people from her village told her that her home had been burned, and that they had seen the dead bodies of her eldest sons. She does not know how they died.
D and her family arrived in Bangladesh in October.
SHE FEARED HER BABY WAS DYING
S was pregnant and at home with her family in late August when 20 soldiers surrounded her village. All the men in the area fled, including her husband.
Four soldiers burst into the house, grabbed her two crying toddlers and beat them. She tried to run, but they caught her and dragged her deeper inside the home to a bathing area.
One man threatened her with a gun, another with a knife. They ripped her clothes off, and took her gold earrings and gold chain. They threw her to the floor.
One man held her left arm, one held her right arm and one held down her legs, while the fourth man raped her. Then they switched. All four men raped her. When she screamed, they threatened to shoot and stab her.
They kicked and punched her so hard, she feared the baby inside her was dying. Finally, they left.
After the attack, she felt sharp pains in her belly and bled for a month. For two weeks, she thought the baby had died. Finally, she felt something moving inside her.
Her husband never returned home. She does not know whether he is dead or alive.
IF WE CAN LIVE PEACEFULLY
It was mid-afternoon one day in late August when about 10 men in camouflage uniforms entered M's house. Her three children began to scream and cry. Five men took her husband away, and four forced her out of the house and into the nearby hills.
One of the men held a gun to her. They tore her clothes off and took her earrings. They bit her face and her body and hit her.
They tied her mouth with her own headscarf. And then three of the men held her down while the other man raped her. The attack lasted for hours; all four of the men raped her.
The men eventually released her and she stumbled back to her house. Her husband was not there.
After resting for five days, she took her children and began the three-day journey to Bangladesh. She had to use a walking stick to move her battered body.
Despite the horror she endured, she would consider returning to her homeland — if she is assured of her family's safety.
"If we can live peacefully side by side like we do here in Bangladesh, then I will go back," she says.
WE'VE HAD ENOUGH TORTURE
F was at home in late August when she heard screaming outside. Her husband went to investigate and saw that about 300 soldiers and Buddhist villagers had surrounded the area. The men began burning houses and arresting people. Soldiers separated the men from the women.
About eight soldiers and villagers grabbed F's husband and tied his hands behind his back. They tore off her and her mother's jewelry. Then they took the women outside and set fire to F's house.
Around 100 men took F, her mother and about 20 other women to another village. The soldiers beat them with guns, kicking and slapping them.
Once they reached the next village, the women were forced to lie down on the ground next to each other. The men tied their wrists together with rope and began to rape them.
Ten men raped F, beat her with their guns, kicked her and slapped her. She could hear her mother crying and calling "Allah" as she, too, was raped.
It was dark when the men finally left. F managed to wriggle her wrists free of the rope and ran into a field. In the morning, she returned to search for her mother, but she had vanished. She saw at least five women lying dead on the ground, their throats cut.
She has no idea what has become of her husband. And she cannot imagine returning to her homeland.
"We've had enough torture," she says.
SHE DOES NOT KNOW IF HER HUSBAND IS ALIVE
S was lying in bed with her husband and son after dinner in late August when around 10 soldiers burst into the house. A few took her husband outside. Five stayed behind, and one pointed his gun at her.
She tried to run, but they grabbed her and kicked her back, stomach and chest. They stripped off her clothes and took her necklace and earrings. Three men raped her.
Her young son began to cry. A soldier pointed his gun at the child and he screamed louder.
S was in agony. After the men were finished, they took her outside, naked. Her son followed them. About two dozen other women, also naked, had been dragged outside as well.
The soldiers forced the women to march toward a rice paddy, beating and kicking them as they walked. S felt blood running down her legs. Once they arrived, the men ordered them to lie down. S fought back and soldiers kicked her. She fell to the ground.
Three more soldiers began to rape her.
When at last the assault was over, S fled back toward her house with her son, only to find her home had been burned along with many others. She does not know if her husband is alive.