Sesame Street Creates New Muppets for Rohingya Refugees

BANGKOK – Six-year-old couple Noor and Aziz live in the world’s largest refugee camp. They are Rohingya Muslims who have fled racial cleansing in their native Myanmar for asylum in nearby Bangladesh. They are also Muppets.

On Thursday, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that runs the “Sesame Street” early education TV show and operates in more than 150 countries, featured Aziz and Noor as the latest Muppets in the world. -a series of characters.

The couple will appear alongside Elmo and other famous Muppets in educational programs about math, science, health and other topics that will be shown in the camps.

They speak Rohingya, the language of a group of people who refused to recognize Myanmar authorities as legitimate ethnicity. Elements of the Sesame Workshop curriculum will be introduced to Rohingya.

“They are among the most isolated children on earth,” said Sherrie Weston, president of Sesame Workshop’s social influencer, who has traveled to Rohingya refugee camps several times to help put together a couple characters and story series. Muppet. “For most Rohingya children, this is the first time that characters in the media have been, have been, and reflect on their rich culture. ”

More than half of the residents of Rohingya refugee settlements in Bangladesh are children. Many suffered trauma after security forces in Myanmar evicted them from their cities, killing some of their fathers and assaulting their mothers.

A study by Doctors Without Borders, released as a result of a brutal campaign in 2017 that forced more than 750,000 Rohingya to flee the country in just a few months, found that at least 730 children under the age of five were killed. killed from late August to late September of that year.

A legacy of violence is emerging in Bangladesh and has been incorporated into the history of the Muppets. Noor, one of the Muppet twins, is afraid of loud noises, just as many Rohingya children are today, as gunfire stays in their memory.

Sesame Workshop has sought to promote diversity and social justice. Muppets and their young playmates on Sesame Street have had autism, HIV and Down syndrome. They have been homeless and struggling with the stigma of a prison parent. An Afghan Muppet highlighted the importance of educating girls.

Noor and Aziz, as conceived by Sesame Workshop, are fun and getting along well. Aziz, a boy, helps the family with housework and is full of Rohingya folklore. Noor, a girl, is confident and loves to learn. The programmer chose to show them specifically as a couple so that they could play together as a girl and a boy in a way that other sisters in the traditional Muslim community would not be able to do so easily.

“Shaping girls and boys to be equal, with characters who are passionate about learning, it’s important that we not only inspire young girls, give them a sense that they are not. but we are not showing many boys that girls can have equal roles and responsibilities, ”said Ms Weston.

The programming features the Rohingya Muppets as living in a vast expanse of tent shelters where more than a million stateless people have been lost with little hope of returning to Myanmar. UN officials have said their exodus marks the genocide.

Life in Rohingya refugee camps can be far harder than the back stories of Noor and Aziz suggest. Girls, who are often kept out of school, tend to marry before they reach adulthood to ease the financial burden on their families. This year, hundreds of Rohingya girls spent months at sea in overcrowded fishing vessels trying to get to Malaysia, where they were promised as brides to Rohingya men working as sailors. unwritten work. Dozens died on the journey.

On Friday, in Kutupalong, one of the largest Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, Ajmat Ara, 8, shook her head when asked if she knew of a girly collection of characters known as the Muppets. Unlike many girls, she is lucky and goes to a school run by an educational charity.

“We learn English and Burmese in school,” she said, before we ran out to play.