My Refugee Story

Bhutan, South Central Asia

"My name is Gyanu Dulal and I am a refugee from Bhutan.

Bhutan is a small Himalayan Kingdom between China and India. It is ruled by the people of the Tibetan Origin. Nepalese were taken to Bhutan with an agreement between the King of Nepal and Bhutan to cultivate the fertile agricultural land in the southern part of the country in the early 17th. Century and at different period of times many Nepalese families migrated to Bhutan since they were welcomed by the government and granted land ownership and the citizenship in 1958. In the early 80s, the government brought many changes in the country and adapted the policy of One Nation One People and Nepalese were deprived of the basic rights to practice their religion, cultural, speech, and language. Nepalese demanded for human rights, equality, and democracy but the government turned down the demand and called them terrorist and gave the ultimatum to leave the country or face the consequences of the punishment or death. The Bhutan Army and police forces started arresting, detaining and torturing, raping girls and women and looting the families.

Like many families of the village, I left the country with my parents and reached Nepal where the camps have been started to be pitched on the bank of the river. Hundreds of trucks unloaded the people on the river bank every day and there was not management to help these people with food water and shelter. We had to beg in the surrounding village to survive and sleep under the open sky. Hundreds of children and people of all ages died every day. After several months national and international agencies got involved and camps were set up. I spent 18 years of my life in the refugee camp, in scarcity fighting for life every day. I met my wife and got married and have two children born and brought up there. There were several bilateral talks between the government of Bhutan and Nepal to solve the issue but the talks were not fruitful and finally the option of third country resettlement was proposed by the UNHCR to solve the problem permanently.

I came to Utah in May 2008 with my wife and two children. International Rescue Committee resettled me and my family and helped with the initial assistance. It was very difficult in the beginning to start a new life in the new world with everything so new and different. But the little broken English I have helped me to communicate with the caseworker and other staffs of the agency and ask for assistance. I got my first job at the Airport and my wife got at the Primary Children Hospital and started working after two months of our arrival.

My children are doing very well in their studies. My son is in the University of Utah majoring in Bio Medical Engineering and my daughter is graduating this year and has been accepted at the University. She also wants to major in engineering. We have come a long way in these seven years of our life in the United States and have faced and overcome so many challenges. This is a country of opportunities but we need to be very careful to grab those opportunities as saying goes, 'Opportunities knock but once' and if we are not able to grab those opportunities, we will fall into the gaps and can’t succeed. But for the refugees who have spent years of their precious life in the refugee camps, being resettled in the advanced third world is like they are being taken to the deep dense forest and left on their own to find the way out. They need a friend, companion to guide them out of the forest and lead to the right path.

I feel myself successful in my effort so far since I live in my own house; have been able to pay the mortgage since we both have good job and my children doing well at School. I love to help those who are new in the country and show them the right path.

My plan in the future is to open a family trust or a nonprofit and help the poor and needy people in Nepal or elsewhere in the field of Education and Health. All my siblings who are here in Utah and my children have the same thought and I am sure I will be able to achieve this great mission of me and my family."

- Gyanu Dulal

Political Landscape

Bhutan Ethnic Cleansing Conflicts

In the 1890’s immigrants from Nepal known as Lhotshampas moved to Bhutan and were granted citizenship years later during the Bhutanese Citizenship Act in 1958. The Lhotshampas, being from Nepal, continued to practice their Nepalese traditions and culture for decades. About 30 years later, however, Bhutan’s King, Jigme Singey Wangchuk adopted a “One Bhutan, One People” policy creating a mandatory Bhutanese only culture throughout the country. The Lhotshampas were no longer able to practice their Nepalese traditions by law and many resisted the new King’s movement. The resistance led to widespread reports of arrest, detentions, rape, torture, and killings. The unstable environment in Bhutan forced the Lhotshampas out of the country and into Nepal. However due to their granted citizenship from Bhutan in the late 1950’s Nepal no longer recognized the Lhotshampas as Nepalese citizens rendering their community homeless. Refugee camps along the boarder of Nepal continue to house many Lhotshampa refugees today.

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