MANDELA’S VISIT TO BANGLADESH

MANDELA’S VISIT TO BANGLADESH

Mandela visited Dhaka in March 1997 to celebrate Bangladesh’s 25th year of independence. At the time, he was the president of South Africa. Also present were Palestine’s president Yasser Arafat and Turkey’s president Suleyman Demirel.

They visited Sriti Shoudho, laid laurels for the fallen martyrs of the war, and planted trees around the premises. Following the festivities the three leaders visited Suhrawardy Udyan, where Nelson Mandela delivered his only speech in Bangladesh. Here are excerpts from that speech:

“I have come to Bangladesh to pay homage to a nation that has fought for its sovereignty. Celebrating this blood-soaked independence, I am here to say today that escaping the clutches of oppression and autocratic rule is never easy.

“I have deep respect for Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Standing in this great country today, I also want to be a friend of Bangladesh. While Bangladesh celebrated its independence, our democracy was in its infancy. We were just crawling from the darkness of racism towards the light of freedom.

“Despite being so far away, the people of Bangladesh were not callous to what South Africa was facing. You all know that freedom is not complete till everyone is free. Standing here as a friend of Bangladesh, I want to say that we will fight hunger, poverty and any other problem facing us.”

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DECEMBER 07, 2013

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HOW DID OUR MUSLIM LEADERS MYSTERIOUSLY VANISH? – THE CIA HAS THE ANSWER!

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DHAKA CONDEMNS ISRAELI ATROCITIES, EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIANS

DHAKA CONDEMNS ISRAELI ATROCITIES, EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIANS

Bangladesh attends the OIC extraordinary summit in Istanbul

Bangladesh on Friday conveyed that its people and government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina strongly condemn and fully reject Israeli atrocities.

Bangladesh also deplored the US relocation of the embassy, and expressed full support, sympathy, and solidarity with Palestinian brothers and sisters in their legitimate cause of an independent, viable, and contiguous state of Palestine under a two-state solution.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, who is leading a seven-member Bangladesh delegation, conveyed Bangladesh’s position at the Seventh Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

The summit focused on the massacre by Israeli forces of peaceful Palestinian civilian protesters as well as on the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan convened the summit in his capacity as chair of the OIC Summit.

Ali participated as chair of the 45th Council of Foreign Ministers of OIC, said the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh delegation includes Defence and Security Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister, Maj Gen (retd) Tarique Ahmed Siddique, Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the OIC, Ambassador Golam Moshi, Bangladesh Ambassador to Turkey, M Allama Siddiki, and other senior officials of the Foreign Ministry and Bangladesh missions.

Ali began his busy day by attending the Council of Foreign Ministers, preparatory to the summit, while Tarique led the Bangladesh delegation at the council meeting.

The council was preceded by the Senior Official Meeting (SOM) on Thursday that prepared the draft Final Communiqué, and the Bangladesh delegation to the SOM was led by AFM Gousal Azam Sarker, director general of the Foreign Ministry.

The council has reached consensus on the Final Communiqué for adoption by the summit Friday night.

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MAY 18, 2018

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BANGLADESH PM SHEIKH HASINA CONDEMNS ISRAEL’S USE OF FORCE IN PALESTINE

BANGLADESH PM SHEIKH HASINA CONDEMNS ISRAEL’S USE OF FORCE IN PALESTINE

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has condemned the use of force by Israel in Palestine and described it as human rights violation.

“The Prime Minister’s condemnation came when Turkish PM Binali Yildirim called her this evening,” PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told the media.

Ihsanul Karim said that the Turkish Prime Minister called his Bangladesh counterpart at 7:30 pm and talked to her for nearly 15 minutes.

During the telephonic conversation, Sheikh Hasina expressed anguish over shifting of the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The Prime Minister also reiterated Bangladesh’s complete support to independent Palestine.

The Press Secretary said that the Turkish PM invited Bangladesh PM to attend the OIC Special Summit on Palestine to be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on May 18.

Sheikh Hasina welcomed this initiative, terming it as a timely step.

At least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during Monday’s violent clashes on the Gaza-Israel border co-inciding with the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, media reports said.

It came a day after the United States transferred its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem in a move that infuriated the Palestinians.

At least 2,400 others were wounded in the in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, since the 2014 Gaza war.

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MAY 16, 2018

Posted in ANALYSIS OF RESPONSIBILITY & ROLE OF MEDIA, CURRENT ISSUES, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, Friends & Foes - World Reaction, HISTORY OF BENGAL, IDENTITY & PATRIOTISM, INTERNATIONAL - PERCEPTION ON BANGLADESH, ISLAM, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, MEDIA, NON ALIGNED MOVEMENT, OIC - Organization of Islamic Countries, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, REGIONAL COOPERATION, Regional Policy, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SHEIKH HASINA, SOCIETY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty, UNITED NATIONS, WORLD - GEOPOLITICS | Leave a comment

PM SHEIKH HASINA SLATES ISRAEL’S USE OF FORCE IN PALESTINE

PM SHEIKH HASINA SLATES ISRAEL’S USE OF FORCE IN PALESTINE

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today condemned the use of force by Israel in Palestine in recent time, describing it as human rights violation.

The prime minister’s condemnation came when Turkish Premier Binali Yildirim phoned her this evening, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told BSS.

He said the Turkish prime minister phoned his Bangladesh counterpart at 7:30 pm and talked to her for nearly 15 minutes.

During the telephonic conversation, Sheikh Hasina expressed anguish over shifting of the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The prime minister also reiterated Bangladesh’s complete support to independent Palestine.

The press secretary said the Turkish premier invited the Bangladesh prime minister to attend the OIC Special Summit on Palestine to be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on May 18.

Sheikh Hasina welcomed this initiative (holding of summit), terming it as a timely step.

At least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during the Monday’s violent clashes on the Gaza-Israel border coinciding with the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, media reports said.

It came a day after the United States transferred its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem in a move that infuriated the Palestinians and was widely condemned.

At least 2,400 others were wounded in the bloodiest day in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war.

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MAY 15, 2018

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REMEMBERING THE PAST: BANGLADESHI FIGHTERS FOR PALESTINE OF THE 1980’s

REMEMBERING THE PAST: BANGLADESHI FIGHTERS FOR PALESTINE OF THE 1980’s

Volunteers from Bangladesh fighting with Palestinians in Beirut, Lebanon 1982. (Photo: Magnum Photos-Chris Steele Perkins)

YAZAN AL-SAADI

A photograph and a grave. These are two relics of a time, now mostly forgotten, of when thousands of Bangladeshis came to Lebanon in the 1980s as volunteers and fighters for the Palestinian cause. They were no less important in the struggle for Palestinian liberation than others, and their stories deserve to be remembered.

There are many books, films, and reports of international volunteers and organizations that supported and continue to support the Palestinian cause. From armed groups of yesteryear like the Japanese Red Army and the Irish Republican Army to non-violent, ever-growing contemporary organizations like the International Solidarity Movement and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, support for Palestine has always been and continues to be part and parcel of the international scene.

“8,000 Bangladeshi youths had volunteered to fight for the Palestine Liberation Organization,” – US Library of Congress

But not all stories of these extraordinary men and women, traveling far from their homes, motivated by a strong desire to combat injustice, at times facing great peril, are publicly known or detailed sufficiently.

This seems very true for those from the South Asian region, especially Bangladesh. They came to provide a multitude of supporting activities, ranging from transporting weapons and goods between locations in Lebanon to actively engaging in combat against forces threatening the Palestinian cause.

A memory in black and white

In 1982, prior to the Israeli occupation of Beirut, British war photographer Chris Steele-Perkins was down by the shore line and came across a group of Bangladeshi fighters.

They were and would be the only ones he personally met during his tenure in Lebanon. Steele-Perkins did not exchange many words with them, however, he was able to snap an iconic photograph of these men. It would become one of the few remaining images of these fighters.

The relationship between Bangladesh and Palestine, particularly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), can be traced as far back to the early years of the Bangladeshi state, after a fight for liberation against Pakistan in 1971. It was a brutal, devastating war that resulted in millions dead, and millions more becoming refugees, but ultimately resulted in the creation of the modern state of Bangladesh.

While at first, most Arab states were hesitant to recognize the newly-established state, relations quickly warmed in 1973 when Bangladesh supported Egypt, Syria, and the Palestinians’ fight against Israel during the October War, including sending a medical team and relief supplies.

“There were around 1,000 to 1,500 of them. There were even some battalions that were completely Bangladeshi”- Fathi Abu al-Aradat Soon after,

Bangladesh was included as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement at the Algiers Summit in 1973, and Arab countries mounted pressure on Pakistan to recognize Bangladesh in 1974.

A relationship with the PLO was established around that time period, in which Bangladesh allowed the opening of a PLO office in the capital, Dhaka, and PLO officials were frequent guests at events hosted by the Bangladeshi political and diplomatic corps, a May 1976 US state department cable released by WikiLeaks showed.

The affinity with Palestine became so strong and so entrenched within the Bangladeshi society that in 1980 a postal stamp was created, but never issued, depicting a kuffiyah-draped Palestinian freedom fighter, the al-Aqsa mosque in the background shrouded by barbwire, and words that saluted Palestinian freedom fighters as “valiant” in English and Arabic.

According to a September 1988 US Library of Congress report, the Bangladeshi government reported in 1987 that “8,000 Bangladeshi youths had volunteered to fight for the Palestine Liberation Organization,” an announcement that came after Yasser Arafat visited the country that year and received a warm welcome from media and political circles.

The report also states that a few Palestinian military figures were also sent to Bangladesh to participate in training courses.

Today, there are few documented records in regards to the exact number of Bangladeshi volunteers in Lebanon, or a break-down of what groups they had joined.

Al-Akhbar contacted the Bangladeshi embassy in Beirut in regards to any information on this topic. Although officials at the embassy acknowledged the existence and history of Bangladeshi fighters for Palestine, they stated that detailed information was unavailable.

Similarly, the Palestinian embassy was a dead-end due to the fact that much of the PLO documents were burnt by the Israeli army during its ferocious invasion and occupation of Lebanon.

What lingers of these fighters are but Palestinian officials’ fleeting memories.

“There were around 1,000 to 1,500 of them. There were even some battalions that were completely Bangladeshi, but most of them were spread to different groups,” Fatah’s secretary of PLO factions in Lebanon, Fathi Abu al-Aradat, told Al-Akhbar.

“I remember they were highly disciplined. They were known to have incredible will. When the Israelis invaded and captured some of the Bangladeshi fighters, they used to say to them, ‘PLO, Israeli No’ even when they were tortured,” he said. “They had great relations with the rest of the fighters. They really believed in the cause.”

Although Fatah was known to have a significant number of foreign fighters among their ranks, it was another Palestinian faction, the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), that was a major recipient of fighters, including those from Bangladesh.

The PFLP-GC, a far-left militant group led by Ahmed Jibril and backed by the Syrian government, had split from the main PFLP party that was led by George Habash, after a dispute over ideological and tactical issues occurred between Habash and Jibril (Abu Jihad) in 1968.

“They were with the PFLP-GC,” Ziyad Hammo, a PFLP official and member of the governing municipality of Shatila camp, told Al-Akhbar.

“They had a lot of military talent but they were mainly supporting services such as transporting weapons or guarding certain offices,” Hammo noted. “If they wanted to fight, they went to fight.”

“I remember three or four of them. There were two who were placed as guards in the Bekaa, and another one in Baablek. People really forgot they were Bengali, they spoke perfect Arabic,” the PFLP official added.

But the question remains: why are there very few accounts of these volunteers’ aid to the cause?

“In the PLFP, we try to remember these men. For example, the Japanese Red Army is very valued and we tried to recover and maintain that history. But with the Bangladeshis, I guess, there aren’t many stories and anecdotes about them because their role was limited. At least for the PFLP, I can’t speak for other Palestinian factions,” Hammo opined.

“I gather most of them left after 1982, once the UN sent its forces into Lebanon. Some of them died or were captured and later released, and perhaps a few stayed in Lebanon to live the rest of their lives working. It’s been 32 years, and I think most of them got old. We all got older,” he added.

Kamal Mustafa Ali: the ‘heroic martyr’

On the outskirts of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in southern Beirut is the Palestinian Martyr Cemetery, where those who perished struggling for the Palestinian cause lay. Among the many tombstones of Palestinians who have died since the 1970s, those of a few foreigners can be spotted. A few Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Tunisians, a Russian, a Kurd, and also one of a Bangladeshi man named Kamal Mustafa Ali.

The tombstone of Kamal Mustafa Ali in the Palestinian Martyr Cemetery in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp. (Photo: Yazan al-Saadi)

“In the PLFP, we try to remember these men.”- Ziyad Hammo

There is no mention of who Kamal Mustafa Ali was, not even a birth date. What is etched on the marble slab is a Quranic verse from the House of Imran chapter. It states: “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of God as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision.”

Below the verse is his name and nationality, and when and how he died as a “heroic martyr.” Ali died on July 22, 1982 during a battle at the Castle of the High Rock, also known as the Beaufort Castle, located in the southern Lebanese governorate of Nabatiyeh.

The castle, which is said to have been established as a military fortification site prior to the Crusaders’ arrival in the early 12 century – due to its strategically located position on a high hill overlooking a large swath of territory – became a site for many heated battles, quickly exchanging hands from power to power.

The PLO controlled the castle in 1976, using it mainly as a base to conduct resistance activities along the border, deploying around 1,000 fighters within its walls and surroundings.

The President and the Prime Minister attending the Silver Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence along with visiting foreign dignitaries Present Demirel of Turkey, Presedent Nelson Mandela of South Africa and President Yasser Arafat of Palestine.

When the Israelis invaded on June 6,1982, the castle was the site of the first major battles prior to Israel’s push north towards Beirut. Even though the PLO lost hold of the castle in the span of two days – after intense pounding by Israeli artillery and airstrikes – the Israelis control of the castle was never easy.

The occupying Israeli forces were met with constant resistance by Palestinian groups, and then Hezbollah and other Lebanese resistance groups, until they were forced to retreat in 2000.

Kamal Mustafa Ali perished, as the tombstone noted, during one of those early attempts to retake the castle.

His body was only recovered in 2004, after an exchange deal between Hezbollah and Israel was brokered by German mediation. Four Israeli soldiers corpses were exchanged for more than 400 prisoners, the remains of more than 50 fighters, and a map of deadly landmines that Israel planted in southern Lebanon and the western Bekaa region.

According to the caretakers of the Palestinian Martyr Cemetery, Ali’s bones were sent back home to his family in Bangladesh, and a grave was erected in the cemetery to commemorate his sacrifice.

It rests there side-by-side with other bodies and names of Palestinians and non-Palestinians, watched and cared for by Palestinian hands who do not know much of the man. It is the only remaining, physical marker in Beirut of the sacrifices made by Bangladeshi volunteer fighters for the Palestinian cause during the 1980s.

Addendum: Al-Akhbar has recently received the following response to this report from Naeem Mohaiemen, a visual artist and Anthropology doctorate candidate at Columbia University researching post-1971 Bangladesh history. His films include “United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part 1),” about the 1977 hijack of JAL 472 to Bangladesh by the Japanese Red Army. He has been investigating the Bangladeshi Lebanese fighters and believes the officially reported numbers are “inflated.”

He argues that, “Prime Minister Sheikh Mujib’s attendance of the 1974 Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) meeting was a realpolitik move for the damaged, new state– aligning with the Arab Bloc was also a question of survival, via influx of oil dollars. His successor, the military government of General Ziaur Rahman, pushed Islamization (via Arabization) even further. The inflated numbers come from this context of wanting to signal a significant contribution to the Palestinian cause, and PLO commanders then replicated those numbers as part of a logical strategy of projecting internationalist military strength. Such inflation of numbers temporarily won the PLO a media war, but it also blindsided them about the potential scale of defeat during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon”

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JULY 3, 2014

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SHEIKH HASINA – DEFIANT SUPPORT FOR PALESTINE

 

 

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PM SHEIKH HASINA THE MOTHER OF HUMANITY : BRITISH MEDIA

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SHEIKH HASINA ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE

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WILL BANGLADESH’S QUIET SUCCESS STORY LAST?

WILL  BANGLADESH’S QUIET SUCCESS STORY LAST?

‘As matters stand, the country’s prospects are excellent,’ but dangers lurk says former World Bank chief economist

Night view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: public domain

Night view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: public domain

Bangladesh has surprised the world with an unexpected run of economic success in recent years, which has seen the country transformed from one of South Asia’s poorest to a rising star. Little more than a decade ago, the situation was so dire that when the country reported faster economic growth than Pakistan it was considered a fluke.

It was no anomaly. Bangladesh’s annual GDP has exceeded Pakistan’s by around 2.5% per year since then, and is now poised to surpass Pakistan in terms of per capital GDP in 2020, even when adjusted for purchasing power parity.

That is according to Kaushik Basu, a former chief economist at the World Bank, who outlines some important reforms that have helped bring about the success story in commentary published by The Asset on Friday. But, he adds, it is by no means guaranteed that the reforms will continue.

“In my view, Bangladesh’s economic transformation was driven in large part by social changes, starting with the empowerment of women,” Basu writes.

The changes have been supported by a wide range of initiatives spearheaded by nongovernmental organizations as well as the government, he says, including grassroots initiatives in economic inclusion.

“Among Bangladeshi adults with bank accounts, 34.1% made digital transactions in 2017, compared to an average rate of 27.8% for South Asia,” according to World Bank data cited in the article. “Moreover, only 10.4% of Bangladeshi bank accounts are ‘dormant’ (meaning there were no deposits or withdrawals in the previous year), compared to 48% of Indian bank accounts.”

But Basu sees a number of potential pitfalls ahead, and not just the corruption, cronyism and inequality that accompany an economic rise.

“There is an even deeper threat posed by orthodox groups and religious fundamentalists who oppose Bangladesh’s early investments in progressive social reforms. A reversal of those investments would cause a severe and prolonged economic setback. This is not merely a passing concern: vibrant economies have been derailed by zealotry many times throughout history,” he argues.

“Bangladesh needs to be vigilant about the risks posed by fundamentalism. Given Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s deep commitment to addressing these risks, there is reason to hope for success,” Basu writes in conclusion. “In that case, Bangladesh will be on a path that would have been unimaginable just two decades ago: toward becoming an Asian success story

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APRIL 28, 2018

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MARCH 23, 1971

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CIVIL WAR BREAKS OUT BETWEEN EAST AND WEST PAKISTAN NBC NEWS, MAR 26, 1971

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EAST. PAKISTAN BECOME INDEPENDENT COUNTRY – ABC NEWS, MAR 26, 1971

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IN WORLD MEDIA – EVENING NEWS ON 26TH MARCH

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HISTORIC 7 MARCH SPEECH: CONTEXT AND SIGNIFICANCE

HISTORIC 7 MARCH SPEECH: CONTEXT AND SIGNIFICANCE

47 years ago, Bangabandhu gave the finest speech of his life at the erstwhile historic Race Course Maydan. Disregarding the intimidation and threats of the Pakistani Army’s tanks, guns and machineguns, and in the presence of a million audience, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared in a booming voice:

“This time, the struggle is for our liberation, this time the struggle is for our independence”.

IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DID BANGABANDHU GAVE THAT SPEECH?

Under the leadership of Sheikh Muibur Rahman, the Awami League won an absolute majority in the National Assembly elections of Pakistan held on 7 December, 1970. In that election, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League won 167 out 169 seats in East Pakistan, with the other two seats going to PDP. After the 7 December elections, the then military ruler of Pakistan General Yahya Khan called for session of the National Assembly on 3rd March, 1970.

But the leader of West Pakistan’s PPP Z A Bhutto and the military establishment of Pakistan started their conspiracy to resist the elected Awami League from gaining their rightful governing powers.

1 MARCH

The President of Pakistan was supposed to address the nation on this day. The entire country waited to hear what he had to say via their TVs and radios. But to the dismay of these people, instead of Yahya, another spokesperson announced that: “Till next announcement, President Yahya Khan has indefinitely suspended the session of the National Assembly. He has commented that the current situation in Pakistan as a deep political crisis”.

This deeply angered Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He called for the liberation of the Bangali people. In a press conference he stated that this is no political crisis but the expression of the autocratic attitude of the Paksitani rulers. He added that the Bangalis have rejected this announcement and called for a general strike on behalf of the people for 2nd March in Dhaka and 3rd March nationwide.

He also asked the Bangalis to wait for his next instructions. Subsequently, the Bangalis for the first time called for their independence with slogans like: “Brave Bangalis Take Up Arms, and Liberate Bangladesh”. The Shadhin Bangla Chatro Shongram Parishad (Independent Bangla Students Struggle Council) was formed.

2 MARCH

Dhaka was a city of strikes, processions and curfew on this day. The highlight of the day was the raising of the flag by Chatro Shongram Parishad at university.

From the morning, all processions were headed to the university. Such gathering of students was hitherto unseen at that time. It spread from New Market to Public Library via the Nilkhet Road. The flag of independent Bangladesh was flown proudly at the Bottola (shed of banyan tree) on this day by Chatro Shongram Parishad led by Chatro League. Following the rally, a massive procession moved around Dhaka with sticks and rods.

One of the most notable things was the fading away of the use of the word ‘Pakistan’ from the vocabulary of Bangalis of East Pakistan from that day. In his press conference in the evening, Bangabandhu Sheiklh Mujibur Rahman repeatedly uttered the term ‘Bangladesh’.

The government backed goons came out on the streets to resist the general strike of the common people. At least 50 were admitted Dhaka Medical College Hospital with gunshot wounds. They were mostly from the Tejgaon area. Azid Morshed and Mamoon of Tejgaon Poly Technique College died after being brought to the hospital with gunshot wounds.

The martial law administrator imposed curfew on that day. It was announced that until further announcement, the curfew would remain in place from 7.00 pm to 7.00 am every day. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a press conference in the evening strongly condemned the shooting of unarmed people. Mujib announced half-day nationwide general strikes between March 3 to March 6 from 6.00 am to 2.00 pm. The following day he announced a rally at Paltan after meeting with Chatro Shongram Parishad.

MARCH

A mourning day was observed in remembrance of those killed. In a meeting of Chatro League and Sromik League as the Chief Guest, Bangabandhu observed with a heavy heart: “Whether I am here or not, Bangalis’ liberation struggle should not stop. The blood of Bangalis cannot go in vain. If I am not here, my colleagues will lead. If they are killed, then those who survive, will lead. The struggle must go on at any costs. The rights must be established”.

Bangabandhu announced earlier that his next instructions would come at the Racecourse Maydan on 7 March.

4 MARCH

4 March 1971 was tumultuous from the mass demonstrations. As the day passed, the one point demand as in the aspiration for independence became even more stronger. On this day, thousands of people came out on the streets breaking the curfew imposed by the military junta.

In Khulna, there were clashes among Bangalis and non-Bangalis on this day. In Dhaka, the Awami Legaue Parliamentary Group strongly condemned the repression of general strikes and processions. Due to the continuous strikes, Dhaka along with the whole nation came to a virtual standstill. East Pakistan Women’s Council leaders poet Sufia Kamal and Maleka Begum in a joint statement called for a demonstration on 6 March at Baitul Mukarram area.

Something significant happened on this day. The name of Radio Pakistan Dhaka was changed to Dhaka Betar Kendro. This event of that day added a new momentum to the movement which facilitated the path towards liberation.

6 MARCH

One day before March 7, on March 6, General Yahya Khan had a phone conversation with the majority leader of the Pakistan National Assembly, Awami League President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It was also announced on March 6 that the session of the National Assembly would sit on 25 March at Dhaka.

Due to the prevailing situation, the cornered East Pakistan military establishment tried to sporadically send messages to Sheikh Mujib and Awami League that independence not be declared on 7 March. Tanks were put in place keeping the 7 March rally in mind. Military grade weapons were stockpiled and kept on standby. Major Siddiq Sadiq in his book wrote that the GOC of East Pakistan told Bangabandhu clearly: “If anything is said contrary to the unity of Pakistan, it would be met with strong force. Tanks, cannons, machineguns all have been kept ready for wiping out traitors (Bangalis). If need be, Dhaka would be raised to the ground. There will be no one left to rule or be ruled”.

7 MARCH

It was in this difficult and crisis filled context that Bangabandhu delivered his historic speech at the Racecourse Maydan on March 7. By stipulating four conditions for the Pakistan military establishment, Bangabandhu concluded his thunderous speech by saying: “This time, the struggle is for our liberation, this time the struggle is for our independence”.

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PUBLISHED ON MARCH 6, 2018
Posted in - REVOLUTIONARY VOICES -, ACHIEVEMENTS - SUCCESS, ANALYSIS OF RESPONSIBILITY & ROLE OF MEDIA, BANGABANDHU - Father of our Nation, BENGAL - Heritage, BENGAL - Heritage, Culture & Archeology, BENGALI NATIONALISM, CHALLENGES, Culture & Archeology, Friends & Foes - World Reaction, HISTORY OF BENGAL, IDENTITY & PATRIOTISM, INTERNATIONAL - PERCEPTION ON BANGLADESH, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, LIBERATION - 1971 BIRTH OF A NATION, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty | Leave a comment

HISTORICAL 7TH MARCH SPEECH OF BANGABANDHU

HISTORICAL 7TH MARCH SPEECH OF BANGABANDHU

My dear brothers…..

I have come before your today with a heavy heart.

All of your know how hard we have tried. But it is a matter of sadness that the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rangpur and Rajshahi are today being spattered with the blood of my brothers, and the cry we hear from the Bengali people is a cry for freedom a cry for survival, a cry for our rights.

You are the ones who brought about an Awami League victory so you could see a constitutional government restored. The hope was that the elected representatives of the people, sitting in the National Assembly, would formulate a constitution that would assure that people of their economic, political and cultural emancipation.

But now, with great sadness in my heart, I look back on the past 23 years of our history and see nothing but a history of the shedding of the blood of the Bengali people. Ours has been a history of continual lamentation, repeated bloodshed and innocent tears.

We gave blood in 1952, we won a mandate in 1954. But we were still not allowed to take up the reins of this country. In 1958, Ayub Khan clamped Martial Law on our people and enslaved us for the next 10 years. In 1966, during the Six-Point Movement of the masses, many were the young men and women whose lives were stilled by government bullets.

After the downfall of Ayub, Mr. Yahya Khan took over with the promise that he would restore constitutional rule, that he would restore democracy and return power to the people.

We agreed. But you all know of the events that took place after that.

………..

I ask you, are we the ones to blame?

As you know, I have been in contract with President Yahya Khan. As leader of the majority part in the national Assembly, I asked him to set February 15 as the day for its opening session. He did not accede to the request I made as leader of the majority party. Instead, he went along with the delay requested by the minority leader Mr. Bhutto and announced that the Assembly would be convened on the 3rdof March.

We accepted that, agreed to join the deliberations. I even went to the extent of saying that we, despite our majority, would still listen to any sound ideas from the minority, even if it were a lone voice. I committed myself to the support of anything to bolster the restoration of a constitutional government.

When Mr. Bhutto came to Dhaka, we met. We talked. He left, sing that the doors to negotiation were still open. Moulana Noorani and Moulana Mufti were among those West Pakistan parliamentarians who visited Dhaka and talked with me about an agreement on a constitutional framework.

I made it clear that could not agree to any deviation from the Six Points. That right rested with the people. Come, I said, let us sit down and resolve matters.

But Bhutto’s retort was that he would not allow himself to become hostage on two fronts. He predicted that if any West Pakistani members of Parliament were to come to Dhaka, the Assembly would be turned into a slaughterhouse. He added that if anyone were to participate in such a session, a countrywide agitation would be launched from Peshawar to Karachi and that ever business would be shut down in protest.

I assured him that the Assembly would be convened and despite the dire threats, West Pakistani leaders did come down to Dhaka.

But suddenly, on March I, the session was cancelled.

There was an immediate outcry against this move by the people. I called for a hartal as a peaceful form of protest and the masses redial took to the streets in response.

And what did we get as a response?

He turned his guns on my helpless people, a people with no arms to defend themselves. These were the same arms that had been purchased with our own money to protect us from external enemies. But it is my own people who are being fired upon today.

In the past, too, each time we the numerically larger segment of Pakistan’s population-tried to assert our rights and control our destiny, the conspired against us and pounced upon us.

I have asked them this before : How can you make your own brothers the target of your bullets?

Now Yahya Khan says that I had agreed to a Round Table Conference on the 10th. Let me point out that is not true.

I had said, Mr. Yahya Khan, your are the President of this country. Come to Dhaka, come and see how our poor Bengali people have been mown down by your bullets, how the laps of our mothers and sisters have been robbed and left empty and bereft, how my helpless people have been slaughtered. Come, I said, come and see for yourself and then be the judge and decide. That is what I told him.

Earlier, I had told him there would be no Round Table Conference. What Round Table Conference, whose Round Table Conference? You expect me to sit at a Round Table Conference with the very same people who have emptied the laps of my mothers and my sisters?

On the 3rd, at the Paltan, I called for a non-cooperation movement and the shutdown of offices, courts and revenue collection. You gave me full support.

Then suddenly, without consulting me or even informing us, he met with one individual for five hours and then made a speech in which he trend all the blame on me, laid all the fault at the door of the Bengali people!

The deadlock was created by Bhutto, yet the Bengalis are the ones facing the bullets! We face their guns, yet its our fault. We are the ones being bit by their bullets- and its still our fault!

So, the struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation, the struggle this time is a struggle for independence!

Brothers, they have now called the Assembly to assassin on March 25, with the streets not yet dry of the blood of my brothers. You have called the Assembly, but you must first agree to meet my demands. Martial Law must be withdrawn; the soldiers must return to their barracks; the murderers of my people must be redressed. And …. Power must be handed over to the elected representatives of the people.

Only then will we consider if we can take part in the National Assembly or not!

Before these demands are met, there can be no question of our participating in this session of the Assembly. That is one right not give to me as part of my mandate from the masses.

As I told them earlier, Mujibur Rahman refuses to walk to the Assembly trading upon the fresh stains of his brothers’ blood!

Do you, my brothers, have complete faith in me….?

…. Let me the tell you that the Prime Ministership is not what I seek. What I want is justice, the rights of the people of this land. They tempted me with the Prime Ministership but the failed to buy me over. Nor did the succeed in hanging me on the gallows, for your rescued me with your blood from the so-called conspiracy case.

That day, right here at this racecourse, I had pledge to you that I would pay for this blood debt with my own blood. Do you remember? I am read today to fulfill that promise!

I now declare the closure of all the courts, offices, and educational institutions for an indefinite period of time. No one will report to their offices- that is my instruction to you.

So that the poor are not inconvenienced, rickshaws, trains and other transport will ply normally-except serving any needs of the armed forces. If the army does not respect this, I shall not be responsible for the consequences.

The Secretariat, Supreme Court, High Court, Judge’s Courts, and government and semi-government offices shall remain shut. Only banks ma open for two hours daily for business transactions. But no money shall be transmitted from East to West Pakistan. The Bengali people must stay calm during these times. Telegraph and telephone communications will be confined within Bangladesh.

The people of this land are facing elimination, so be on guard. If need be, we will bring everything to a total standstill…….

Collect your salaries on time. If the salaries are held up, if a single bullet is fired upon us henceforth, if the murder of my people does not cease, I call upon you to turn ever home into a fortress against their onslaught. Use whatever you can put your hands on to confront this enemy. Ever last road must be blocked.

We will deprive them of food, we will deprive them of water. Even if I am not around to give you the orders, and if my associates are also not to be found, I ask you to continue your movement unabated.

I say to them again, you are my brothers, return now to the barracks where you belong and no one will bear any hostility toward you. Only do not attempt to aim any more bullets at our hearts: It will not do any good!

….. And the seven million people of this land will not be cowed down by you or accept suppression any more. The Bengali people have learned how to die for a cause and you will not be able to bring them under your yoke of suppression!

To assist the families of the martyred and the injured, the Awami League has set up committees that will do all they can. Please donate whatever you can. Also, employers must give full pay to the workers who participated in the seven days of hartal or were not able to work because of curfews.

To all government employees, I say that my directives must be followed. I had better not see any of you attending your offices. From today, until this land has been freed, no taxes will be paid to the government any more. As of now, the stop. Leave everything to me. I know how to organize movement.

But be very careful. Keep in mind that the enemy has infiltrated our ranks to engage in the work of provocateurs. Whether Bengali or non-Bengali, Hindu or Muslim, all is our brothers and it is our responsibility to ensure their safety.

I also ask you to stop listening to radio, television and the press if these media do not report news of our movement.

To them, I say, “You are our brothers. I beseech your to not turn this country into a living hell. With you not have to show your faces and confront your conscience some day?

If we can peaceably settle our differences there is still hope that we can co-exist as brothers. Otherwise there is no hope. If you choose the other path, we may never come face one another again.

For now, I have just one thing to ask of you: Give up any thoughts of enslaving this country under military rule again!”

I ask my people to immediately set up committees under the leadership of the Awami League to carry on our struggle in ever neighborhood, village, union and subdivision of this land.

You must prepare yourselves now with what little you have for the struggle ahead.

Since we have given blood, we will give more of it. But, Insha’Allah, we will free the people of this land!

The struggle this time is for emancipation! The struggle this time is for independence!

Be ready. We cannot afford to lose our momentum. Keep the movement and the struggle alive because if we fall back the will come down hard upon us.

Be disciplined. No nation’s movement can be victorious without discipline.

Joy Bangla!

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Published on March 1, 2018

Posted in - REVOLUTIONARY VOICES -, BANGABANDHU - Father of our Nation, BENGAL - Heritage, BENGALI NATIONALISM, CURRENT ISSUES, HISTORY OF BENGAL, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, LIBERATION - 1971 BIRTH OF A NATION | Leave a comment

VIETNAM, ARGENTINA, BANGLADESH…ARE THEY THE NEXT BRICS?

Posted in ACHIEVEMENTS - SUCCESS, CHALLENGES, CURRENT ISSUES, ECONOMY, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, GLOBAL INDICATORS & BENCHMARK, GLOBALIZATION, INDUSTRIES, INTERNATIONAL - PERCEPTION ON BANGLADESH, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty, STRATEGY & POLICY, WORLD - GEOPOLITICS | Leave a comment

BANGLADESH REGISTERS THOUSANDS OF ORPHANS IN ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMPS

BANGLADESH REGISTERS THOUSANDS OF ORPHANS IN ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMPS

A Rohingya refugee boy sits on the ground at Tang Khali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 18, 2017.

JOE FREEMAN

YANGON — The Bangladeshi government has registered thousands of orphans in Rohingya refugee camps as officials and aid groups attempt to figure out a plan to deal with large numbers of unaccompanied minors.

Nearly 600,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar since attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on August 25, sparking a military response that rights groups and the United Nations have described as ethnic cleansing.

A majority of those who have fled are children, and many may have lost their parents in Myanmar or along the way. Children in UNICEF’s child-friendly centers have drawn gruesome pictures of military raids and violent attacks on villagers, though Myanmar vigorously denies targeting civilians.

WATCH: UNHCR Drone Footage of Rohingya Refugees

Difficult task

Pritam Kumar Chowdhury, the deputy director of the Social Welfare Department in Cox’s Bazar district, said there may be more than 15,000 orphans, though he says verifying individual claims is difficult with scant additional information.

“In Bangladesh, when we identify any orphan, our officials visit their house to confirm it. But here it is not possible to go to Myanmar to verify the claims. So whatever they are saying we are collecting that information,” he told VOA, adding that the government is also talking to neighbors and people whom the children may have traveled with from Myanmar.

“But there is no evidence, rather we are depending on the verbal statement. We are maintaining our strategy to complete the formalities. We are not claiming it is 100 percent correct but it is not all a wrong list.”

Jean-Jacques Simon, a spokesperson for UNICEF, said in an email that out of the 14,740 children registered as “orphans” with the government, half of the cases have been reviewed and entered into the Ministry of Social Welfare database.

There were only 15 known cases of children actually living completely alone in the camps. UNICEF says it is in contact with the government at the local level “to know where these 15 children are right now and to ensure their protection.”

Chaotic situation

The dusty roads of the camps and makeshift settlements in southern Bangladesh are teeming with children, some attended by adults and others not, and the chaotic situation makes them vulnerable to abuse and other risks.

“We really need to have a space for the children,” said Dr. Erum Mariam, the director of the BRAC Institute of Educational Development.

BRAC, an NGO based in Bangladesh, has helped organize clothing donations for children, build child-friendly spaces, and provide on-site counselors.

“We are really working on many different levels now,” she said.

The government has also floated the idea of building orphanages, and discussed the idea with aid groups this week, Mariam said.

If the idea does move forward, it’s important to have the capacity to make it work, she added.

“There has to be so much engagement with the children, and understanding, understanding the trauma,” she said.

Pritam, with the Social Welfare Department, said more concrete options will be considered once officials have a clearer idea of the scope of the problem.

“Their fate will be decided by the government. But until then, we are concentrating on registration. Whatever the decision will be will come afterwards,” he said.

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OCTOBER 19, 2017

Posted in - KNOW YOUR ENEMY -, CHALLENGES, CURRENT ISSUES, DEFENCE & SECURITY, Distribution & Poverty, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, NON ALIGNED MOVEMENT, OIC - Organization of Islamic Countries, Poverty, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, REGIONAL COOPERATION, Regional Policy, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SAARC, SOCIETY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty, STRATEGY & POLICY, UNITED NATIONS, WORLD - GEOPOLITICS | Leave a comment

WORLD’S BIGGEST REFUGEE CAMPS RANKED: BANGLADESH PREPARES TO HOST 800,000 ROHINGYA AS CRISIS DEEPENS

WORLD’S BIGGEST REFUGEE CAMPS RANKED: BANGLADESH PREPARES TO HOST 800,000 ROHINGYA AS CRISIS DEEPENS

 Agence France-Presse

UN refugee agency estimates there are an unprecedented 65.5 million refugees in the world today 

The camp would be the largest in the world and has raised concerns about the risks of concentrating vulnerable people, such as the spread of disease.

Around 550,000 Rohingya have fled communal bloodshed in Myanmar since the latest violence began in August 25.

While some have joined the roughly 33,000 fellow Rohingya living in the official camps of Kutupalong and Nayapara since the 1990s, most have set up alongside hundreds of thousands more already living in makeshift camps and villages outside those settlements.

The UN’s refugee agency estimates there are an unprecedented 65.5 million refugees in the world today, split between urban centres or informal settlements, and more formal camps.

Here are some of the largest of these camps, based on UN figures.

Bidibidi, Uganda: 285,000

This vast settlement in far northern Uganda has sprang up over the past year as people flood out of South Sudan, fleeing civil war and severe food shortages.

A village in the Yumbe district on the South Sudan border, Bidibidi became a refugee settlement in August 2016 and now hosts nearly 285,000 people, according to figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Uganda hosts more than half of the nearly two million South Sudanese who have fled their country since war erupted in 2013.

The Adjumani district in the same border area of Uganda contains many further camps and settlements where there are together about 233,000 more South Sudanese.

Dadaab, Kenya: 239,500

The sprawling Dadaab complex 100 kilometres from Kenya’s border with Somalia has housed Somali refugees for around 26 years.

The majority fled the outbreak of civil war in Somalia 1991 and many never returned, going on to have children and grandchildren.

Dadaab is made up of four camps, some of which have come to resemble towns, but is considered a single area.

There were about 239,500 people in Dadaab at the end of September, according to UN figures. The population peaked at around 485,000 in 2012 following a new influx after famine in Somalia.

A voluntary repatriation programme is helping some to return.

The Kenyan government decided last year to close Dadaab, about 450 kilometres northeast of the capital Nairobi, saying it was a training ground for Shabaab Islamist militants from Somalia.

The decision was overturned by Kenya’s High Court on the grounds that it violated the country’s international obligations and amounted to the persecution of refugees.

Kakuma, Kenya: 185,000

This camp on the outskirts of the town of the same name in northwestern Kenya was established in 1992 following the arrival of thousands of people fleeing from southern Sudan during the 1983-2005 war.

Many were young boys who risked being forced into combat.

The camp also took in some of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who fled around the fall of the military government in 1991.

About half of the refugees there today are from South Sudan and a quarter from Somalia, with those from Ethiopia down to under four per cent.

Nyarugusu, Tanzania: 139,630

Just 37 kilometres from the border with Burundi, this camp was opened in November 1996 to host people fleeing conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tens of thousands of Burundians arrived in 2015 when their country plunged into crisis after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term.

Burundians now account for around 47 per cent of the camp’s population.

Tanzania hosts around 60 per cent of the 410,000 Burundians who are refugees.

Zaatari, Jordan: 80,140

About 5.2 million Syrians have left their country since conflict erupted in 2011, the largest migration in the world today.

Most are in neighbouring countries, where only nine per cent are in camps, the UN says.

About 20 per cent of those in Jordan are in camps, the largest of which is Zaatari with about 80,140 people, according to figures for August.

Some 80 kilometres north of the capital Amman, Zaatari was established in 2012 and evolved from a collection of tents into an urban settlement.

There are also more than 3.2 million Syrians in Turkey, which hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, the UN says. However only about 10 per cent are in camps, the largest being the Akcakale tent camp with around 26,400 people.

The government of Lebanon estimates it hosts 1.5 million Syrians. Most of them live informal tented settlements in the Bekaa Valley.

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OCTOBER 17, 2017

Posted in CHALLENGES, CURRENT ISSUES, DEFENCE & SECURITY, Distribution & Poverty, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, IDENTITY & PATRIOTISM, INTERNATIONAL - PERCEPTION ON BANGLADESH, OIC - Organization of Islamic Countries, Poverty, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, REGIONAL COOPERATION, Regional Policy, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SAARC, SOCIETY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty, STRATEGY & POLICY, UNITED NATIONS, WORLD - GEOPOLITICS | Leave a comment

I VISITED THE ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMPS AND HERE IS WHAT BANGLADESH IS DOING RIGHT

I VISITED THE ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMPS AND HERE IS WHAT BANGLADESH IS DOING RIGHT

SABRINA KARIM

Nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh from Myanmar since September 2017. The Bangladeshi government’s plan to start repatriating them beginning this Tuesday, Jan. 22, has been postponed due to concerns about their safety.

That the Bangladesh government agreed to the delay, speaks to its benevolent attitude toward the Rohingya refugees. In a recent trip to Bangladesh I witnessed this benevolence firsthand. I saw roads adorned with pro-refugee banners. Even those with opposing political views have come together to support the Rohingyas.

Posters hailing the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Sabrina Karim, CC BY

The Bangladesh case stands in stark contrast to what happened in Europe in 2015, which faced an influx of a similar number of refugees, where many European countries saw rising anti-refugee sentiment among its political parties and a lack of a cohesive refugee management plan in the European Union.

In Bangladesh, I witnessed how the refugee camps were being run in an efficient, effective and compassionate manner.

The refugee problem

In August 2017 the Bangladeshi government allowed into the country a large influx of Rohingya refugees, who were escaping massacre by the Burmese military. The Burmese government claims that it was rooting out Rohingya terrorists who had attacked military posts. The United Nations, however, called these attacks “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Since then, a massive number of Rohingyas crossed the border to come into Bangladesh, known to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Currently, over half a million Rohingyas are living in refugee camp sites. The estimated costs of hosting them is US$1 billion dollars a year.

The camp management system

During the first few days of January, I visited the camps and witnessed firsthand the scale of operations necessary to manage the camps.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the Bangladeshi government set up a separate civilian authority to manage the refugee crisis. All domestic and international aid agencies must gain approval from this governing body to work in the country.

In addition, since September 2017, the government has deployed thousands of soldiers from the Bangladeshi military to manage the camps. The soldiers manage camp headquarters, where supplies are stored and guard the roads leading to the camps. To understand how big this camp is, and how widespread, think of a city as large as Austin, Texas.

I found the camps to be to be efficiently run and well-organized. They have been divided into administrative zones led by Rohingya leaders chosen by the Bangladeshi military. The all-male leaders are responsible for around 200 families each. They ensure that everyone under their watch gets provisions from the distribution sites and serve as the main contact for any kind of issue, be it finding information, or resolving disputes.

The government has also set up a large surveillance system, which includes a network of internal and external intelligence officers. They control who can or cannot enter into the camps. For example, I had to register the donations I took with me before being allowed to enter the road to the camps. No cash donations are allowed. Government officials told me that they are taking these precautions to prevent drug and human trafficking and also to minimize the possibility of Rohingya recruitment by militant groups.

But there are other issues that the government cannot completely control. Among them is the spread of communicable diseases. Last November, an outbreak of diphtheria, a deadly bacterial throat infection, quickly claimed at least 31 lives. Additionally, I observed that there are concerns about environmental damage and loss of biodiversity as the government cleared forest reserve land to build the camps.

Reasons for success

Bangladesh’s rapid response to the refugee crisis was possible due to country’s long-term experience with disaster management.

After gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh faced one of the worst famines in history because of flooding and chronic hunger, in which an estimated 300,000 to 1.5 millionpeople died.

This disaster was not, however, a one-off event. Each year, the country is plagued with rains and cyclones, that claim many lives and displace people. As a result, the government has had to come up with a long-term crises management plan. A vast network of local people who act as rapid first responders has helped decrease casualties, although a large number of deaths do occur every year. The same system was put to use during the refugee crisis.

Furthermore, Bangladesh has been a part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operationssince 1988. This experience has allowed its military to understand how to manage a crisis where vulnerable populations are affected. Among other things, I observed how the military created “safe spaces” for women, children and the elderly in the camps.

In addition to peacekeeping experience, as the soldiers explained, it is a mix of military discipline and Bangladeshi culture of hospitality that has enabled their success.

It helps, of course, that the Rohingya are devoutly Muslim and share a religious identity with Bangladeshis, though not language or ethnicity. These similarities might make empathy and compassion more possible, but soldiers and aid workers point to something else that motivates them to care for the Rohingya: Bangladesh’s own history. They point to the parallels between the Rohingya crisis and the violence during 1971 liberation war, when East Pakistan won independence from Pakistan and became Bangladesh.

One aid worker, in particular, mentioned that she heard reports of Burmese military camps in which Rohingya women were forced to visit soldiers at night. She recalled how sexual violence was rampant during the liberation war as well. She told me that she felt a particular affinity for helping the Rohingya for this reason.

What will happen in the future?

The question is, will this treatment last?

Rohingya refugees. Sabrina Karim, CC BY

Rohingya refugees I spoke to do not want to go back to Myanmar. Several women described to me the violence they had been through. One woman showed me how she had been shot in the neck and another pointed to the extensive burns on her face.

In the camps, they have food, shelter, schools, sanitation, and most importantly, peace. They are receiving goods and amenities that they have not seen before. This was also confirmed by aid workers, who told me that the refugees have come from such deprivation that, at times, they have to be told not to eat the soap that is given to them. Many have never seen daily toiletry items such as soap, toothpaste and moisturizers.

But the government of Bangladesh is also apprehensive about integrating the refugees too well into Bangladeshi society. I observed, for example, that the Rohingya children are prohibited from learning the local Bangla language in camp schools and are only taught Burmese and English. Any integration into Bangladeshi society would give fodder to the Burmese government’s claim that the Rohingya are Bangladeshi immigrants to Myanmar.

There is also the fear of radicalization. Extremist groups have tried to recruit Rohingya into their organizations in the past.

There are other issues as well: In the long haul, Bangladesh cannot sustain the current population. Almost 1 in 4 Bangladeshis live in poverty. While it is true that Bangladesh’s economy has improved over the past several years – a reason, government officials explained to me, that the country could provide aid in the early stages of the refugee crisis – this is not sustainable in the long run.

Refugees raise their hands to shout that they will not go back. AP Photo/Manish Swarup

The economic strain is already noticeable in Cox’s Bazar, where many of the refugee camps are located. The local population is starting to complain about rising costs and job shortages. With the potential for national elections this year or the next, public opinion matters.

The plan to repatriate the refugees has been put on hold because of continued violence in Myanmar and an anti-Rohingya sentiment. With repatriation delayed, Bangladesh will need more international help. This is not a crisis it can manage alone.

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Sabrina Karim is an Assistant Professor, Caplan Faculty Fellow, Cornell University
JANUARY 25, 2018

Posted in - KNOW YOUR ENEMY -, CHALLENGES, CLIMATE - Global Warming Challenge, CURRENT ISSUES, DEFENCE & SECURITY, Distribution & Poverty, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, Friends & Foes - World Reaction, INTERNATIONAL - PERCEPTION ON BANGLADESH, Poverty, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, REGIONAL COOPERATION, Regional Policy, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SAARC, SOCIAL SECURITY, SOCIETY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality, Poverty, Distribution & Poverty, STRATEGY & POLICY, WORLD - GEOPOLITICS | Leave a comment