Rohingya activist forced into hiding in Malaysia

Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani has not set foot outside his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur for nearly a year.

He is a Rohingya Muslim refugee and activist who fled persecution and ethnic strife in Myanmar.

For nearly three decades, he has called Malaysia home.

But now, the 51-year-old sees it as a prison.

"I cannot continue normal life in Malaysia. I do not believe. I'm still scared. For a year, I've not set foot outside, I've not seen the earth outside."

Allegations spread online that he had demanded Malaysian citizenship, triggering a relentless wave of hate speech and death threats against him and his family.

He denies the claims.

More than 100,000 Rohingya live in Malaysia.

The Muslim-majority country has long been seen as friendly to the persecuted minority.

But sentiment turned a year ago with the Rohingya being accused of spreading the coronavirus.

Hate speech has spread widely online.

A significant portion targeted Zafar, who heads a prominent Rohingya refugee rights organization.

"This is very difficult. I cannot calm down. I cannot relax my body, my brain, my heart... I cry asking why people are doing this to me."

Zafar's children no longer attend school due to safety concerns.

The family receives abusive calls and messages daily.

Last year, he began taking medication to cope with depression.

Zafar applied to be moved to another country, but said his request was rejected - with the UN refugee agency saying he did not meet its criteria for resettlement.