Tough Girls in a Rough Game: Normalizing public discussion of ‘She things’ in Bangladesh — Nazia Hussein

Guest post by NAZIA HUSSEIN

On 28- 29 May, 2015 the play titled It’s a She Thing was first staged in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, eleven young Bangladeshi women decided to develop a local adaptation with their own accounts of sexual, aesthetic, psychological and emotional experiences of being a woman. Many of the stories were written by the performers themselves while some were taken from Naripokkho, a nationwide women’s advocacy organization. Continue reading “Tough Girls in a Rough Game: Normalizing public discussion of ‘She things’ in Bangladesh — Nazia Hussein”

And then they came for Oyasiqur Rahman Babu !

Courtesy : m.bangladeshtime.com

….It is not the young who are writing obituaries for the old,…I have seen the blood shed by so many young people steadily mounting up until now I am submerged and cannot breathe. All I can do is take up my pen and write a few articles, as if to make a small hole in the mud through which I can draw a few more wretched breaths. What sort of world is this ? The night is so long, the way so long….

( Lu Xun, Written for the Sake of Forgetting, P 234, Selected Works of Lu Xun, Vol III, Beijing)

Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu , aged 27 years is dead. A travel agency executive by profession and a secular blogger by passion he was killed by radical Islamists in Tejgaon, Dhaka when he was going to office in Motijheel. The three assailants – who did not personally know each other – met just for planning the murder and then executed it with military precision.

Thanks to the courage exhibited by trans genders living nearby who caught hold of these murderers while the locals who watched the act before their eyes just dithered to move. Zikrullah, a student of Hefazat-e-Islam’s Hathazari Madrasa in Chittagong, and Ariful, student of Mirpur Darul Uloom Madrasa – were caught while the third member of the team, Abu Taher of Mirpur Darul Uloom, managed to flee the spot. The arrestees said they had killed Oyasiqur for writing on religious issues. It is a different matter that none of them had read his blog, they even did not know what blogging is, they  just executed the order issued by some mastermind. Continue reading “And then they came for Oyasiqur Rahman Babu !”

Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Banya

That Elusive Thing with Feathers – After the Killing of Avijit Roy: Abdul Bari

Guest Post by ABDUL BARI

Avijit Roy was brutally murdered in Dhaka a few days ago. His wife, after heroically trying to shield his person with her own body, now lies in an ICU bed, fighting for her life.  I was an infrequent visitor to his website, Muktomona. Visiting it was like running your tongue over that tooth you’re missing, or reflexively checking whether you had your keys with you in the morning. Its presence was a reminder that, no matter how circumscribed, the nation-state of Bangladesh still had men and women who liked to think unconventional thoughts; give expression to unpopular ideas; endeavored to stand, as it is, in the very edge of what the societal limit of what could be expressed, and then take another firm step, not back, but forward. Continue reading “That Elusive Thing with Feathers – After the Killing of Avijit Roy: Abdul Bari”

Statement on David Bergman Case in Bangladesh: Concerned South Asian Journalists and Others

Guest Post. Statement by Concerned South Asian Journalists, Writers, Historians and Activists

We, the undersigned journalists, writers, historians and activists from South Asia,  are deeply concerned about the use of ‘contempt of court’ law to curb freedom of expression. The conviction and sentencing on December 2, 2014, of Dhaka-based journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal 2 on charges of “contempt of court” for citing published research on killings during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, is a serious set-back to Bangladesh’s commitment to free speech and independent scholarship.

At the outset, we reiterate our belief that those responsible for genocide and international crimes during the Liberation War must be prosecuted and punished through an open and transparent process.

Continue reading “Statement on David Bergman Case in Bangladesh: Concerned South Asian Journalists and Others”

Ghulam Azam : Death of a War Criminal

Wily strategists meet their nemesis in unexpected ways.

Ghulam Azam, the once all powerful leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, who died recently, might have brooded over this old dictum, in his last days in detention. It was only last year that he was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment for his crimes against humanity which he committed when people of the then East Pakistan – todays Bangladesh – had risen up against the occupation army of Pakistan in the year 1971.

It was not surprising that the funeral of this man who evoked intense hatred and loathing from a large cross-section of the population of B’desh for his role during and after the liberation of the country witnessed protest demonstrations all over the country. There were even demands that his body be sent to Pakistan for final rites and should not be buried here.

“The janaza (funeral prayer) of a war criminal can never be held at the national mosque,”

Ziaul Hasan, chairman of Bangladesh Sommilito Islami Jote, an alliance of progressive Islamic parties, said at a human chain near the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque where Azam’s body was taken for funeral prayers. (The Telegraph, 27 th Oct 2014). Continue reading “Ghulam Azam : Death of a War Criminal”

A tale of two passports, the year 1979, and walking to India: Fawzia Naqvi

Guest Post by Fawzia Naqvi

For the first time Pakistan’s elected President has completed his full five-year term and has willingly stepped down to transfer power to another elected President, a herculean achievement for a country with chronic dictatoritus.  The people of Pakistan must be congratulated for ensuring that democracy becomes an enduring grace and not just a good idea in some unforeseeable future.  So while there is earsplitting cacophony of debate and disagreement on virtually all issues, there is near unanimous political consensus that the army should remain in the barracks and that there should be peace with India. The time is now. And Pakistanis have accomplished this in an era when Pakistan is suffering its worst hellish nightmare of daily bombings and killings by terrorists, and a loss of over 40,000 of its own citizens in the last decade or so.  Pakistan teeters on the precipice of a very dark abyss, and has been inching ever closer to this dangerous edge for the last 34 years if not more. The first disturbing sign which I can remember was when the state institutionalized bigotry by officially declaring the Ahmadi community non-Muslim in 1974, opening up a hornets nest of discrimination, violence and unequal citizenship.  A tragic disaster, and fatal capitulation to right wing elements, by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. No one is really safe in today’s Pakistan but clearly those less safe, those hunted and killed are the Shias, the Christians, the Ahmadis and the Hindus. Those doing the killings have given insidiousness to the meaning of “the land of the pure.”

Continue reading “A tale of two passports, the year 1979, and walking to India: Fawzia Naqvi”

Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh

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Talibaner aar ek naam – hefazat-e-Islam!” (Another name for Taliban, Hefazat-e-Islam)               

– Slogan raised at Shahbagh square

 

To such a degree has Religion fuelled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against Humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us, however, steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopted a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against Humanity.

(Wole Soyinka, Source: http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Religion-Against-Humanity)

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The above quote was part of a long intervention made by Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the first one from Africa, as part of UNESCO International High Panel, in a Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.(21 September 2012) . The immediate context for Soyinka’s speech – was the desecration and destruction of centuries old tombs of Muslim saints in Timbuktu, Mali by radical Islamist group Ansar-al Dime which had ‘discovered’ them to be unIslamic. There were rumours  that the ‘invaluable library-treasures of Timbuktu may be next.’ on their agenda. Cautioning people about the fact that “[t]he science-fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s 007 credentials – License to Kill.” he urged leaders to “..[u]nderstand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. “

One was reminded of Soyinka’s words when one was witness to the march organised by the newly emergent group Hefazat-e-Islam ( can be loosely translated as ‘Defenders of Islam’) on the streets of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh and the consequent mayhem that followed.  Continue reading “Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh”