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Sesame Street creates Rohingya characters to help refugee children

Aziz (left) and Noor (right) are two new Rohingya Sesame Street characters [Handout]

Date of publication: 18 December, 2020

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The popular television show has launched two new Rohingya characters in a bid to help traumatized refugee children
Children’s television show Sesame Street has created two new muppets in an effort to aid the tens of thousands of refugee children displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar.

Six-year-old Rohingya twins Noor and Aziz Yasmin will now be part of the show’s troupe of muppets, which includes much-loved characters Elmo, Big Bird, Ernie, and Bert.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees live in Bangladesh, and the camps there are thought to be among the largest in the world.

The refugees have escaped brutal persecution by Myanmar's army. An estimated 24,000 Rohingya have been killed and more than a hundred thousand homes have been destroyed by Myanmar police and soldiers, who have also raped women and girls and murdered children.

The new characters are intended to help Rohingya children deal with anxiety and overcome the trauma they have experienced. In one recorded scene, for example, one character becomes afraid of the dark and the other helps him calm down by teaching him breathing techniques.

The muppets will be part of a series of educational videos shown in the Rohingya language in the refugee camps, according to Sesame Workshop, a non-governmental organisation associated with the show.

They follow in the footsteps of other characters created for Syrian refugee children.

"Noor and Aziz are at the heart of our efforts to bring early education ... to children and caregivers ... impacted tremendously by the dual crises of displacement and the Covid-19 pandemic," said Sherrie Westin, the president of social impact at Sesame Workshop.

"For most Rohingya children, Noor and Aziz will be the very first characters in media who look and sound like them ... [they] will bring the transformative power of playful learning to families at a time when it’s needed more than ever before."


Earlier this week, Bangladesh began relocating thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

"The authorities should immediately halt relocation of more refugees to Bhashan Char, return those on the island to their families and community in mainland Bangladesh," Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International's South Asia Campaigner, said in a statement.

"The relocation of so many Rohingya refugees to a remote island, which is still off limits to everyone including rights groups and journalists without prior permission, poses grave concerns about independent human rights monitoring," he added.


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