KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A ping
on Kathijah's phone. The Rohingya girl picks up the message, it
is from her brother Ishak in Myanmar.
"Kat, r u safe?" he writes. "It was a raid, they found us.
Had to run," he said, before sending a video message of him
running in a jungle that was abruptly cut off.
It was a conversation between Kathijah, a fictional
character, and her brother in Myanmar on a new smartphone app
that gives users a glimpse into the daily struggles of Rohingya
refugees who flee political persecution back home.
The "Finding Home" app effectively takes over one's phone by
recreating the mobile operating system of Kathijah's handset,
prompting users to answer phone calls, text messages or scroll
through her photo gallery.
Advertising agency Grey, which built the app in partnership
with the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said the "revolutionary" app
aims to increase public empathy toward the plight of refugees.
"We wanted to find a way of getting people to really
empathise what these people go through, to feel it as if they
were going through it," Graham Drew, Grey Malaysia executive
creative director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The app focuses not just on her life back home, but also on
how the 16-year-old Kathijah is trying to build a new life in
One conversation involves her talking to a friend about how
she is taking classes in English and Malay.
There are some 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, about a third
of whom are Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence and
apartheid-like conditions in western Rakhine state in
Many are children who experience struggles similar to
"The refugee story is often a deeply personal one, and
difficult for people to understand," UNHCR Malaysia
representative Richard Towle said in a statement on the launch
of the app on Tuesday.
"We hope that this application will allow a viewer to walk a
mile in a refugee's shoes in order to understand what they go
through every day in order to find safety."
The interactive conversations featured in the app were
constructed based on interviews with refugees, according to
The plight of the Rohingya hit international headlines again
in recent months after Myanmar security forces were accused of
carrying out mass killings and gang rapes during their campaign
against Rohingya insurgents.
It sparked international criticism but a senior Myanmar
government official denied there was any ethnic cleansing
against Rohingya Muslims.
(Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Ros Russell;
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