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'You Always Keep Worrying': Rohingya Refugee In Milwaukee Says About His Family In Myanmar

Emily Files
Anuwar Kasim and his three children in their Milwaukee home.

On Feb 1., the democratically-elected government of Myanmar was taken over in a military coup. The southeastern Asian country, also known as Burma, has dealt with political instability since 1948, when it declared independence from British rule.

This is the same military which for decades has been persecuting a Muslim ethnic minority in the country who call themselves Rohingya. Since the 1990s, over a million Rohingya have fled the country and become refugees around the world.

Milwaukee has one of the largest communities of Rohingya people in the entire United States, many of whom still have family still in the country.

Anuwar Kasim escaped a military work camp in Myanmar when he was 30 years old, he spent time as a refugee in Malaysia and in 2015, resettled in Milwaukee with his two daughters and his wife.

He says the coup has been stressful for him because there have been internet blackouts, which make it difficult to contact family.

“If you cannot talk to them then you always keep worrying, you know, what has happened to them. You know whether they are safe or not or that they have food to eat,” says Kasim.

President Biden has called for the release of political prisoners being held in the country, like leader of the democratically-elected National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi, and has announced sanctions targeted at the military, including withholding $1 billion in Burmese government funds that the United States currently holds.

Kasim says he wants the U.S. to stay involved with Myanmar and above all else, he wants peace for the Rohingya people.

“I’d like to see peace, people be able to [live] peaceful life, do whatever they want to do, you know, good life, economic prosperous life,” he says. “For the Rohingya, for us, whether it is NLD government or the military government, we just wanted to live peacefully.”

In 2021, Simone Cazares was WUWM's Eric Von Fellow and then a reporter.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.