Monthly Archives: July 2009

Former DGFI No. 2 seeking asylum in the USA

Crossposted from Shadakalo Blog:

Jun 9, 2009

Update 1: The Daily Star is reporting that Brig. Bari is denying applying for asylum.

“I did not apply for any political asylum as it needs huge money and it is also difficult,” Bari said in reply to a question.

Former deputy director general of DGFI and more recently the defense attache at the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC, Brig Gen Chowdhury Fazlul Bari, has been in the news lately for his refusal to return to Bangladesh.

Brig. Bari was involved in the arrest and torture of a number of politicians, academics and journalists during the last interim government. With the recent arrest of two retired major generals, it is clear that the indemnity Army officers enjoyed in Bangladesh is cracking, and it is time to pay the piper.

Brig. Bari has served in the Washington embassy for just under a year, and he was recalled to Bangladesh in April. But he used various excuses to delay the return until now, although he left his job in May. It is important to note that he has not been charged with any crime.

BDNews24 is reporting that he has asked for political asylum in the United States. A straight reading of the law puts Brig. Bari’s chances of success at slim to zero, because he has to prove that his life will be in danger, or that he may be tortured, if he is forced to return to Bangladesh. This will be one of the ultimate ironies of Bangladesh politics if he cites examples of torture based on his own intimate knowledge of the subject.

This is probably the biggest obstacle he faces:

An asylum seeker will be barred from a grant of asylum pursuant to INA § 208(b)(2) if it is determined that he or she:

  • Ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;

But the immigration judge who will rule on this application has no incentive to seek out information. It is the job of the attorney working for US Immigration to show why the asylum should not be granted. It is unlikely he or she will have access to list of Mr. Bari’s misdeeds unless the government of Bangladesh informs US Immigration. The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry should immediately send a letter, via the US State Department, to the US Department of Homeland Security, under which US Immigration operates, enumerating why Mr. Bari should not be granted asylum, and why he should be handed over to Bangladesh.

And Brig. Bari: You tortured Tasneem Khalil and untold others. You threatened Prof. Anwar Hossain that even light could not escape the hole you threw him into. Surely your buddies in the Army will treat you better.

Go back and face the music. Show the country you can be a man without the uniform protecting you.


Breaking the silence: ensuring justice for women

Photo: Pro-democracy political activist secually harassed by male police officers on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh

VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS and individuals have been fighting for decades to ensure justice for women and children in Bangladesh. While progress has been nominal, violence continues to be notable.

Innocent souls are crying for justice. From January to March 2009, 73 women and children were the victims of rape or attempted rape; among those, 29 were gang raped and 13 were between ages 7 and 12. In May alone, 33 women and girls were the victims of rape. Among those, 16 were women and 17 were children under the age of 16. Out of the 16 women, five were victims of gang rape and three were killed after being raped. Out of the 17 girls, five were victims of gang rape and two were killed after being raped.

Between January and March 2009, six serious acts of violence against women were instigated by fatwas. When I discussed this issue with the law minister, he denied the necessity of introducing a specific law to ban fatwas. I repeatedly insisted on the necessity of a specific law to fight fatwa, as well as a law to identify the paternity of a child in cases where it is disputed.

Dowry is another social disease in Bangladesh. From January to March 2009, 44 women faced dowry-related violence; among these women, 23 died.

Bangladesh has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world: 440 per 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF, and more than 20,000 women in Bangladesh die annually from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

In Bangladesh, women do their best to fulfill their duties and take care of all their men’s needs; yet, from January to March 2009 alone, 45 women were abused by their husbands or their husbands’ relatives. Very recently, a woman, Parul Akter, who was seven months pregnant, was killed and her body thrown in a river; her two other children are still missing. This is the reality that many women in Bangladesh face.

We can name thousands of ways that women and children are facing oppression and repression in Bangladesh. Confucius said, “We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.” I do agree with that. For almost two decades, Bangladesh’s prime ministers have been women. The number of people who oppose and oppress woman and children are larger than the number of people who are oppressed or suppressed.

Women’s empowerment alone will not solve the problem; we need to treat women as human beings first, rather than simply as women. We need to break the silence and stand up against religious and cultural traditions that encourage the repression of women and children. I dream of a day when a woman will be treated as a human being first, when women will really be empowered and lead the nation toward a more humane way, as they are the source of the human race.

The whole system in Bangladesh is male-dominated, inspired by common prophet religions that have a culture of suppressing woman historically. We need to deal with these oppressors first. Many aw and wonderful steps had taken to bring an end to the suppression to woman and children but hopefully none of them succeed.

Sometimes, a police officer who oppresses his wife in the home is used to investigate a case of oppression against a woman. In this case, the police officer should be brought to trial before anything else. Bangladesh even has cases where, after being raped, the woman gets raped again in the police station by police officers.

More than anything, the religion of Islam encourages the majority of people in Bangladesh in the historical cultural traditions of oppressing women. Laws can change, while religion inspires adherents through heaven and hell; in this light, how will jail or capital punishment be able to make any significant change?

The Prophet Mohammed said, “I was standing at the edge of the fire (hell) and the majority of the people going in were women.” When the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed guide the majority of people in Bangladesh, and the Quran (4:34) orders a man to beat his wife if she doesn’t obey him, how will the law prevent the beating of women? Laws and conventions contradict the holy sayings of the Prophet and Allah and will surely fail to ensure the rights of women.

I silently cry for justice for women like Parul, Rahima, Rebeka, Shima, who was raped in front of her father, and Mili Rani, a minority girl who was raped and later committed suicide. All this happened inside of the society before you and me.

We need to break the silence and step up a revival for humanity and justice. #

William Gomes is an independent human rights activist, freelance journalist and a political analyst. He can be reached at

Should Pakistan extend its hands?


ALTHOUGH JOHN Demjanjuk was 89 years old and was not able to take flight due to his deteriorating physical and mental health, but was deported from US to Germany in last May. Demjanjuk, who is a native Ukranian and is a naturalized US citizen, is a Nazi war crimes suspect who is charged with being an accessory to the murder of about 29,000 civilians at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in World War II.

Because there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, each and everyone who committed genocide must be held accountable for his/her inhumane actions.

The term “war crimes” evokes a litany of horrific images. The world has suffered much genocide in human history, but the worst genocide in the annals of history in 1971 was not simply possible by the state-sponsored Pakistani army against Bangladesh. People suffered such attempted extermination with the help of local allies. What weren’t happened with general Bangladeshis- murder, ill-treatment, torture, mutilation, corporal punishment, rape, enforced prostitution, indecent assault, summary executions, hostage taking, collective punishment, or pillage?

This is not quite the Bangladesh where lives were sacrificed; blood was shed for in 1971. So is it possible for any Bangladeshi to forget the barbaric killings of 1971 and to let bygones be bygones with regard to that atrocities committed by the Pakistani army and their local allies?

While government of Bangladesh has pressed on with the planned war crimes trial with the support of UN, EU, US, and even asked cooperation from Pakistan, a senior Pakistani government spokesperson replied and warned that such attempt would hamper ties and cast a shadow on the two country’s relations. “The atrocities during 1971 were a sad chapter and we should not remain frozen in time but should look forward,” Masood Khalid, the additional secretary for Asia Pacific of Pakistani foreign ministry, said to a visiting Bangladeshi media group in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, June 07, 2009.

However, on Wednesday, June 10, 2009, the Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka replied in a statement saying Masood Khalid’s remarks have evidently been misconstrued and quoted out of context. Earlier on May 14, 2009, Pakistan replied negatively and rejected Bangladesh foreign minister’s demand for apology over alleged 1971 atrocities. According to Dawn, an English daily newspaper in Pakistan, foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said that under the 1974 agreement Pakistan had regretted the incidents that took place in 1971 and in 2002 the then President Musharraf had also expressed regrets for the 1971 incidents during his visit to Bangladesh. “Let bygones be bygones,” he concluded.

Forgiveness is not in the gift of those who have not themselves been the victims of those who committed atrocious crimes. We could not do anything else than to forgive such a person. But if people believe that their actions were justified, they have to vindicate themselves.

People too are tempted to want to forgive and forget. But when a person or a group is involved against national, racial or religious groups to destroy their political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, economic existence, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups, there is no forgiveness for them as they commit moral atrocities.

Forgiving or forgetting does not mean ignoring injustice. Letting go of grudges is one thing, and it takes an immense amount of moral muscle to do so, but the most controversial aspect of the entire subject of forgiveness, concerns confronting not ignoring the great evils perpetrated by people. And in case of war criminals, whoever is merciful to the cruel is indifferent to the innocent. People never forgive, in this view, because forgiving or forgetting is a sign there is a moral escape valve, that to forgive acts of brutality is in effect to endorse and perpetuate rather than combat their evil deeds. The blood of the innocent cries out forever.

So much is certain, that no civilized society, any more than a society at peace, can allow unpunished criminal activities and certainly not war crimes.

War criminals should be hunted down, tried and convicted, no matter how long it may take. By doing so, a message will be sent out to any potential war-criminal that the world community will hunt them down and prosecute them and should expect no mercy. War criminals should be prosecuted regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed. As a way of deterring criminals from their crimes, everyone should know that no matter how long it takes, or how far they go from their original crimes, they will be found and punished. This is important because among other things, such prosecutions allow society as a whole to re-examine the shared values that gave rise to such crimes.

Bangladesh can’t be lenient towards war criminals as the crimes like genocides and the movements against humanity that can make Bangladesh to be an orthodox Islamic republic, negating the concept of secular Bengali nationhood, which was the basis of the liberation war. To further consolidate their grip on the country, the defeated forces of the 1971 liberation war are now carrying out their misleading fundamentalist ideologies across Bangladesh. They don’t believe in democracy, rather they use it as a way of surviving, and propagating their views.

Showing respect of millions of peoples’ expectation that influenced the Bangladeshi voters to vote massively in favor of them in December ’08 elections, the present government reasonably asked Pakistan not to make any adverse comment on the trial of those accused of war crimes in the 1971 war since it is an internal matter of Bangladesh and is also beyond diplomatic norms.

However, people in Bangladesh, who are speaking for a war crimes tribunal, their intentions are not to seek revenge and undeserved retribution, rather, they are advocating for the establishment of a realistic and credible examples that will deter future criminal liberators from feeding death and destruction to any human mankind. Because they believe bringing war criminals to justice can have a positive effect in unifying a nation, legitimizing its government, and keeping it on the right path.

Though German government never took responsibility for World War II, but it helped track down war criminals for the Nuremberg Trials and opened its wartime archives to researchers and investigators. Japanese government felt sorry and said that it had no objection to the international tribunal’s verdict in 1948 which found the Japanese military responsible for forcing Chinese women to provide sex to Japanese servicemen during World War II.

Pakistan has moral responsibility to try their war criminals as international laws on crime against humanity are also obligatory for them and can extend their hands to Bangladesh. #