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Defying Odds, Laws, Rohingya Refugee Marries Bangladeshi

FILE - Newly arrived Rohingya refugees stand in a line to receive food rations in Kutupalong, Bangladesh, Sept. 30, 2017.

Amid the crisis in the Rakhine state of Myanmar that has forced half a million Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh, a refugee has found love with a local.

But because of strict laws forbidding citizens of Bangladesh from marrying Rohingya, the couple is on the run.

Bangladeshi Shoaib Hossain Jewel, 25, and his 18-year-old Rohingya bride Rafiza have been evading authorities since they were married a month ago, according to police from Jewel's hometown of Singair.

Rafiza, along with her parents, sought shelter in the home of a Muslim cleric in Singair, but following protocol authorities transferred them to central refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar — 650 kilometers away.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, Jewel followed Rafiza and searched multiple camps for her, finally succeeding and marrying her despite a 2014 law banning locals from marrying Rohingya, as the government feared refugees were marrying to gain Bangladeshi citizenship.

But Jewel's family supports his decision, saying it was made for love and not for citizenship.

"If Bangladeshis can marry Christians and people of other religions, what's wrong in my son's marriage to a Rohingya?" Jewel's father, Babul Hossain, told the French news agency, AFP. "He married a Muslim who took shelter in Bangladesh."

In recent weeks, more than a half-million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar, where they face human rights violations and discrimination that a number of lawmakers and international organizations have qualified as ethnic cleansing.

Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar security forces in late August. Since then, analysts and rights workers say the military has carried out a brutal crackdown, burning villages and killing women and children as they fled.

Myanmar authorities say clashes have stopped, but the exodus continues daily, by the thousands into neighboring Bangladesh.