Monthly Archives: May 2009

Bangladesh Genocide was presented in Global Understanding Convention


Monmouth University of New Jersey hosted Global Understanding Convention at its campus on April 6th to understand the roots of all previous genocides. Dr. Nuran Nabi, a freedom Fighter of Bangladesh liberation war and currently a councilman of Plainsboro Township of New Jersey, was invited to speak on Bangladesh genocide during 1971. Dr. Skenderi of Pristhina University of Kosovo spoke on the genocide in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Dr. Adekunie spoke on the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

Dr. Nuran Nabi

Dr. Nuran Nabi

Dr. Pearson, the Vice President and Provost of the Monmouth University opened the convention and Dean Dr. Green chaired the opening session. Professor Dr. Golam Mathbar, Dr. Dooley, Dr. Denney examined the degree to which religion, language and ethnicity have mattered in contemporary genocides. Scholars from national and international institutions as well as students of Monmouth University attended the convention.

Dr. Nabi presented a detailed description of the magnitude of Bangladesh Genocide and war crimes. He specially emphasized the point that Bangladesh war criminals were not put under trial for their war crimes. Though current Bangladesh government has taken initiative to put local war criminals under trial, however, war criminals who are in Pakistan and other countries are still beyond the reach of Bangladesh authority. Therefore, Dr. Nabi urged the international community to join in the campaign to bring those war criminals underal trial for their crimes against humanity. Dr. Nabi mentioned that Bangladesh genocide is a forgotten, least researched and least documented genocide. He proposed to start a course on Bangladesh genocide in Monmouth University. University authority responded to the proposal with a sympathetic consideration.

It is to be mentioned that Dr. Nabi earlier presented Bangladesh genocide in a seminar in Rutgers University in last November and in Kean University in 2007.

Comments by Ashok DEB:

Dr. Nuran Nabi has also authored a book on the Libaration war of Bangladesh and the atrocities which followed thereafter.You can read more about his book  here


US, Canada and Australian missions in Bangladesh threatened

Special Correspondent

Embassy of the United States of America, Canadian High Commission and Australian High Commission in Bangladesh has been threatened by Malaysia and Indonesia based Jamiya Islamiya Al Qaeda.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Police [Gulshan Zone], Hafiz Akhter, threat mails came by fax to both the foreign missions on May 6, 2009. Following information received from the missions concerned, Bangladeshi law enforcing agencies have tightened security measures in both the missions.

According to Bangladeshi police, the fax message was sent from Malaysia. In this message, Islamist militancy group Jamiya Islamiya Al Qaeda asked the US Embassy, Canadian High Commission and Australian High Commission to wrap up their activities from Bangladesh within seven days. It was also mentioned in the fax message that, if the missions will continue after the deadline, their premises in Dhaka shall be blown with bombs.

Another source in Bangladeshi law enforcing agencies said, similar fax threat was also received by German embassy in Dhaka.

Following the threat messages, although security measures are tightened in all the foreign missions in Bangladesh, there is still serious security lacking in American International School and Australian International School in Dhaka.

According to information, Apu Siraj [son of corrupt and fleeing former minister Shahjahan Siraj] is now living in Malaysia.

Shahjahan Siraj

Shahjahan Siraj

Apu and a number of former close aides of Hawa Bhaban, are conspiring to destabilize the present government. It is anticipated that, Apu and his pals might have hands behind the mysterious fax threat message sent to a number of diplomatic missions in Bangladesh.

It may be mentioned here that, Apu Siraj fled the country right after political changes on 1/11 along with the other members of his family. They have purchased three luxurious condominiums in Malaysia and are also running multi-million dollar business there.

It is learnt that, Apu Siraj is contacting various terrorist groups in various countries from Malaysia with the ulterior motive of destabilizing the democratically elected government in Dhaka. He has alone made more than US$ 17 million through various illegal means taking the advantage of his father being the minister as well by using the name of Hawa Bhaban and other influential members of the BNP government.

Al-Qaeda using rape to humilate young recruits as suicide bombers


Staff Writer,

Islamic terrorists are raping young men in order to drive them into suicide bombings.
The Sun quotes Algerian militant Abu Baçir El Assimi: “The sexual act on young recruits aged between 16 to 19 was a means to urge them to commit suicide operations.” The paper claims that “intense social stigma and fear of more gay sex attacks leaves Muslims prepared to die.”

Rape and homosexual acts are punishable by death under Sharia law. A suspected terrorist bomber killed in an attempted attack on a security installation in the Tizi Ouzou province of Algeria last month may have been raped, an autopsy revealed. News source Ennahar Online said there was “a large tear in the anus of the terrorist, which confirms the sexual abuse. In addition, semen analysis is underway to determine the perpetrator.

“The young terrorist subject of sexual abuse, was aged 22, from Diar El Djemaâ, ElHarrach. He would have joined terrorist groups in March 2008. He was a candidate to execute a suicide operation in the region of Boumerdes.” The al-Qaeda terrorist movement is a loose association spread across nations from Algeria to Iraq. Terrorists have been trained in camps in Sudan and Afghanistan.


Cells operating in the US and western Europe have claimed responsibility for a range of suicide attacks including the attacks on New York and Washington DC on September 11th 2001. Al-Qaeda has also been linked to an insurgency in Algeria. Characteristic al-Qaeda techniques include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets.

Bangladesh dropped from US watch list over Violation Of Minorities’ Rights

 Rezaul Karim

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a US Congressional panel, dropped Bangladesh from its Watch List of countries deemed to violate minorities’ right to religious freedom. The absence of measures to promote minority voting rights and the failure of the government to investigate the severe anti-minority violence of 2001 were among the reasons for which Bangladesh was placed in the Watch List from 2005 to 2008. However, in light of the positive developments witnessed during the December 29, 2008 general elections, the commission removed Bangladesh from its Watch List of 2009. 

 The report said at that time the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government failed to investigate or prosecute acts of severe violence, including killings, rape, land seizures, arson, and extortion committed against religious minorities, particularly Hindus, who were perceived to be allied to the then-opposition Awami League. Despite these improvements, USCIRF report said Bangladesh continues to have outstanding religious freedom issues and face threats from religious extremism. dhaka_bangladesh_4112

According to the report, the BNP led by Khaleda Zia shared power with Islamist parties during 2001-06, when the country witnessed an unprecedented rise in religious intolerance. After refusing to for long, the BNP-led alliance government, in the face of protests at home and an international outcry, banned four Islamist outfits

 Aided by the expansion of Islamic schools (madrasas) and charities, many of which receive foreign funding with varying degrees of government oversight, Islamist activists have gained significantly in political, economic, and social influence in recent years, the commission’s report reads. Members of Jamaat-e-Islami allegedly used their influence in the previous BNP-led government to deny funding disadvantaged groups viewed as opposing Jamaat’s Islamist political and social agenda, it said.

 It said the caretaker government was widely criticised by international and local human rights agencies for serious human rights abuses, including suspected extrajudicial killings by security forces, arbitrary detentions, torture, curbs on press freedom, and violations of the right to due process.

 During the 2007-2008 emergency period, the commission said Islamist groups rose in political prominence and public visibility. In September 2007, emergency restrictions on assembly were apparently waived to allow Jamaat and other Islamist supporters burn effigies and stage public protests against the publication of a newspaper cartoon they believed mocked an element of Bangladeshi Islamic culture. Cartoonist Arifur Rahman was jailed without charge for six months. In March 2008, restrictions on assembly were again ostensibly lifted to allow protests by Islamic groups against a policy proposed by a consortium of women’s organisations to strengthen constitutional provision for the equal rights of women. In October 2008, federal agencies removed five sculptures of traditional Bengali musicians opposite Zia International Airport in Dhaka at the behest of Islamic leaders, who allegedly deemed the sculptures un-Islamic.

Turning to minorities situation, it said although the constitution provides protections for women and minorities, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Ahmadiyyas, and other minorities must regularly grapple with societal discrimination, as well as face prejudice that hinders their ability to access public services, the legal system, and government, military, and police employment.

 The commission recommended that the US government encourage the new government of Bangladesh to take early actions on the following issues and ensure consistent implementation.

1. Investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the anti-minority violence that occurred in the wake of the 2001 national elections.

 2. Repeal the Vested Property Act and commit to restoring or compensating owners for properties seized, including the heirs of original owners.

 3. Rescind the 2004 order banning Ahmadiyya publications, and ensure adequate police response to attacks against Ahmadiyyas.

4. Enforce all provisions of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and declare that members of Bangladesh’s tribal communities are deserving of the full rights of Bangladeshi citizenship.

5. Create and support the promised National Human Rights Commission, which should be independent, adequately funded, inclusive of women and minorities, and defined by a broad mandate that includes freedom of religion or belief.

6. Include in all public and madrasa school curricula, textbooks, and teacher trainings information on tolerance and respect for freedom of religion or belief.

7. Ensure that members of minority communities have equal access to government services and public employment, including the judiciary and high-level government positions.

Look for Action, not Words

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

I recently received an email from an individual long involved in the struggle for minority rights in Bangladesh; an email he sent to several people who, like me, are equally involved in that struggle. The communication talked about “a new development” in the Bangladeshi government’s attitude toward minorities. Its evidence was a statement by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid that her “government believes in peace and prosperity of the mass of people, freedom of all religions and equal rights of people of all walks of life.” The PM also promised to repeal all of Bangladesh’s laws that legislate discrimination against minorities.

When will people learn to look at one’s ACTIONS and not be lulled into complacency by their words? Complacency means disaster for the minorities.

I have heard the same pious-sounding statements from Bangladeshi officials of both major parties that were never reflected in action. I wondered why these leaders continued to say such things when all they did was confirm that the speakers were either unwilling or unable to carry out their promises, if not both. Everyone in Washington knows that, and gives no credence to the words of Bangladeshi officials. That is why every single piece of legislation designed to give Bangladesh favorable trade status here failed.

One bill proposed to the US Senate in 2007 would have offered Bangladesh and some other nations a sort of consolation prize for not getting a free trade agreement. If passed, it would have lowered tariffs on Bangladeshi goods. The government considered passage so important that it sent Mohammed Yunis, who they believed was their most convincing ally, to lobby the Senators; which he did, calling the trade bill critical to the Bangladeshi economy. He urged them to pass it, but while the Senators flattered the Nobel laureate and politely thanked him for his advice, they rejected it. The bill was never even brought up for a vote in committee and died an ignoble death. Tariffs on Bangladeshi goods remain higher than those on competing countries from Latin America and elsewhere. And as long as Bangladeshi governments allow rampant oppression against minorities, they will remain so.

Yet, Hasina’s empty words are enough for those who ignore history and prefer to hope that she might be serious this time. Well, good for them; it’s nice to have hope. But “a new development”? Hardly. Hers was a statement to a visiting foreign; and if there was any substance to the countless hopeful statements that national leaders make when speaking to foreign dignitaries, our world would have long forgotten the scourges of war, poverty, and minority oppression. Even Adolf Hitler told foreign leaders in 1937 that Czechoslovakia was the last of his “territorial demands.” People forget that newly-elected Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia told a visiting Indian official on October 27, 2001, that her government “would protect the minorities and prevent the recurrence of recent incidents”; and that four years later, visiting US Congressman Joseph Crowley “praised the steps being taken by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government to protect the minority communities.” Yet, as every rights group who is following the matter has said, minority oppression only intensified under Khaleda Zia’s government.

Mouthing empty words is easy, taking action is not. For instance, Bangladeshi officials, including those from the military-backed interim government, have said that the Vested Property Act (VPA) is, as one told me, “a black law that must be repealed.” Yet, despite its electoral landslide, the Awami League (AL) has not acted. Moreover it has supported the VPA for years. According to Dhaka University’s Professor Abul Barkat, who has written the most authoritative study the VPA, the AL and BNP have shared equally in the spoils of confiscated land and property. By the end of the last AL regime, about 40 percent of all Hindu households had been affected by the VPA, and over half of all Hindu land had been confiscated under it. Even Awami League allies recognize its 2001 passage of the Vested Properties Return Act an empty gesture that never had any reality.

More tragically, attacks on Bangladeshi minorities have increased since the AL took power; and are carried out with the knowledge that the government will not stop them. I have interviewed dozens of victims, and most report that local officials refused to help them and even told them to leave Bangladesh. Some witnesses claim to have seen them participating in attacks. Global Human Rights Defense documents a 2008 attack in Narayanganj where officials refused to act until the rights group pushed the issue. Even then, the government only launched an “investigation” that never yielded results; the perpetrators were never punished. Last month, I interviewed a Hindu family that had crossed into India only 22 days earlier after they were brutalized and their property plundered by Islamist radicals supported by local leaders.

Unfortunately for the victims, those who should be forcing the government to keep its words seem content with the words alone. Bangladeshi Hindus have been reduced from almost one in five Bangladeshis at independence to less than one in ten today. Words will not protect those who remain, nor will calling them “a new development.” But if advocacy groups pretend they are, they will be condemning Bangladesh’s minorities to the same fate of non-Muslims in Pakistan; where those who have not been murdered, forced to convert, or forced out now pay the jizya for the “privilege” of being tolerated.
Is that what the emailer wants?

Regardless of her words, Sheikh Hasina must be held accountable for what her government does. And if it lacks the will to act, people of goodwill need to help her get it. Otherwise, they all will be guilty of making minority oppression permanent.

Does Awami League Victory Offer Hope for Real Change?



Dr. Richard L. Benkin


Dr. Richard L. Benkin


Bangladeshi elections had been put off for so long that it was difficult to predict what they might produce. On December 29, 2008, however, the people of Bangladesh answered that question clearly by giving Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) a landslide victory. That’s both good news and bad news for the left-center party good news in that it need not make any dubious deals to being other parties into its ruling coalition; bad news in that the world will hold Hasina and her party responsible for what happens next. The AL is inheriting an economy in shambles, a still-corrupt officialdom, a nation infested with Islamist terrorists, and a seemingly ineradicable tradition of minority oppression, even ethnic cleansing. Curing those ails is an enormous task, and one key to success will be actions the AL takes to secure foreign support for its effort.

In January 2007, I met with former Bangladeshi Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar at his home in Dhaka, three days before a military coup suspended elections scheduled to be held later that month. The reason for the military’s intervention was that Babar’s party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had rigged the upcoming vote so transparently as to render any potential outcome illegitimate. At the time of my meeting with Babar, there it still appeared that the election would take place as scheduled; and Babar along with the rest of the BNP was planning their next move as the nation’s leaders.

Babar asked me how I thought the United States could help Bangladesh and what we could do to secure that aid. I responded that “Bangladesh and your party in particular” are going to have a tough time convincing anyone in Washington or anywhere else to support you until “you take real action to stop three things: massive corruption, tolerating and even sponsoring radical Islamists, and the oppression of minorities, women, and journalists.” During the BNP’s long tenure in office, matters grew worse on all three dimensions. Babar himself remains in prison having been arrested by the interim government for his own role in Bangladesh’s seemingly endemic corruption. Often, the Awami League has touted itself the antidote to these ills, particularly the last two; and while there is no question that it is preferable to the BNP and its Islamist coalition partners, the swooning we see in some quarters are pre-mature. The AL has a long and hard road ahead of it, and it ultimately will be judged on its actions and their effectiveness for the people of Bangladesh; not on its fine words or the a priori support of others. And thus far, its actions fail to live up to its words.

Let us remember the unique situation that transpired just prior to its assumption of power. First, the BNP transparently rigged and somehow expected that the opposition, the entire diplomatic community, and most importantly the people of Bangladesh would not notice. By doing so, it revealed a level of corruption so deep that cheating was considered acceptable enough to be done in the open. But the AL only made matters worse. Its rants against BNP mendacity found the entire world on its side, but instead of proving itself to be in a class above the BNP, it showed itself to be no better. When I arrived in Dhaka AL leader Hasina was on television and in the press calling for violence in the street to “shut down” the nation. Instead of capitalizing on her support and going to various embassies in a statesman-like way, she acted like a demagogue that would bring the country to greater misery that it already was. The general impression in world capitals was that both the BNP and AL would bring the country to ruin if it meant scoring points against the other; that their leaders cared less about the national interest than they did about their own petty feuds. The AL’s actions confirmed that impression and so no one saw either party as a palatable alternative. In an historically unprecedented action, every western democracy called on the Bangladeshis not to hold elections.

Not long before that, the AL abandoned its stated principles of religious freedom and a secular government by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the radical Islamist Bangladesh Khelefat Majlis (BKM). In exchange for BKM’s support, the AL stipulated that Islamic clerics’ fatwa would be binding on the entire nation if the AL won the election. The MOU parties also promised to ban any law deemed contrary to Quranic values, put madrass degrees on the par with public schools and universities, and outlaw any criticisms of the Prophet Muhammad. Undoubtedly, AL defenders would remind us that the party rescinded the MOU, but that was only after the elections were cancelled—and almost a month after it at that.

While the Awami League frequently identifies itself as the defender of minority rights, its record is less than convincing. Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University has conducted the most authoritative study on Bangladesh’s Vested Property Act (VPA). The VPA was modeled after Pakistan’s Enemies Property Act, and like its predecessor is a racist and retaliatory law aimed at Hindus and other minorities. It empowers the Bangladeshi government to seize the property of non-Muslims and distribute it to Muslims of their choice. As Barkat has shown, the percentages of the spoils collected by the BNP and AL are almost identical with their positions flip flopping depending on who is in power. At the end of its tenure in 2001, the AL passed the Vested Property Return Act, but that was recognized as an empty gesture that would never be implemented.

This is not to say that the world should despair that there will be no change under the new AL administration; but it should caution everyone not to assume things will change based on words alone. There is hope, however. This AL’s landslide victory presents the party with an opportunity it has not had in the past; namely, to operate free of the pressures and interests of coalition needed partners. Sheikh Hasina has stated that the economy and the people’s welfare will be her top priority, and success will require her government to tackle the issues mentioned in this article in order to win international credibility for Bangladesh. Her government can take some basic actions to secure that.

As one of the AL’s first actions, repeal the Vested Property Act and set up a commission to return seized properties to their rightful owner. By this point, even members of the government have called the VPA “a black law” in that it has no justification by any standard of human rights and jurisprudence. All parties interviewed about the VPA said they are looking for the AL to right this historical wrong. It would be easy to do and do quickly as a message to the world that this Bangladeshi government is committed to act and not just talk in upholding the principles basic to the people and culture of Bangladesh.

Secure cooperation of the United States and NATO and announce that Bangladesh will work jointly with them in a grand alliance against Islamist terror. There was a time that Bangladesh was identified as a moderate Muslim nation and one that would stand against terror. That time is long past thanks to a BNP government that abetted the expansion of radical Islamists in its country. It has been rumored that even Osama Bin Laden has at times found safe haven in Bangladesh. To re-establish its anti-radical credentials and win international goodwill, Bangladesh must show that it is ready to back up its words with action.

Control the open border with India that allows contraband and terrorists to flow freely between the two countries. I have been to that border and saw how easily people and goods move illicitly between the two countries. That is not good for Bangladesh or India. It has devastated the border areas and costs both countries enormous amounts in resources dealing with the consequences. The AL has maintained cordial relations with its giant neighbor, and controlling the border could be the first step in building a new relationship that will benefit both countries greatly.

Conduct behind-the-scenes negotiations and then announce that as a moderate Muslim county, Bangladesh will act as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict. In 2003, I published “Dear Bangladesh” in which I recognized that Bangladesh was uniquely positioned to take on this role. Since then, however, hard-line statements by BNP officials (many far more strident that those heard anywhere in the Muslim world except in rogue states like Iran) have made such a role less likely. There have always been efforts to establish some level of contact between Bangladesh and Israel, and one that would not compromise Bangladesh’s support for the Palestinians or jeopardize its expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia. It would be another way for Bangladesh to re-establish its moderate Muslim credentials, and it would change Bangladesh’s role from that of a poor victim to a major international player that needs to be courted.

Immediately allocate police and military resources to enforce laws against minority oppression and attacks on minorities. Make this RAB’s primary role. The AL has said all the right things about supporting an end to this rampant minority oppression and ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus; but it has yet to say how it will enforce laws that have proven invulnerable to enforcement. Not only do anti-minority incidents in Dhaka and other large cities proceed with impunity (and this is the case whether the victims are Hindu, Christian, Ahmadiyya, or any other minority), but the countryside has been open season on non-Muslims for decades where even local law enforcement participates in or allows the atrocities. It would be another way the AL can show it is ready to back its words with action. And it might turn its human rights albatross (RAB) into an instrument that enforces human rights.

Continue the mandate of the Anti-Corruption Commission. Strengthen the Commission and staff it with individuals from all major parties and the military so its justice will be handed down equitably. Add provisions to prevent this variety from paralyzing its efforts.

Launch an initiative for international investment and tourism in Bangladesh. A prominent AL supporter told me, “We don’t want handouts, we want joint ventures.” The future of Bangladesh lies in its ability to attract foreign capital. There are resources that have not been tapped, unmet needs of this giant population, and natural beauty and wonder that would make anyone’s vacation a memorable one. By showing the world that she truly is leading a new Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina can build the international confidence needed to sustain her people well into the 21st century.