Letter of solidarity to Occupy Wall Street, from Tahrir

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To all those in the United States currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call ?The Arab Spring? has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in yearslong struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the ?free market? pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the South found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and Western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austeritystate now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosedupon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets. Continue reading “Letter of solidarity to Occupy Wall Street, from Tahrir”

Simmering discontent

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Eid at Shaheed Minar

by rahnuma ahmed

Writer and columnist Syed Abul Moksud addressing the protest rally on Eid day at central Shahid Minar, organised under the banner of Students, Teachers, Professionals and Public, demanding the guarantee of a natural death and the sacking of Abul Hossain, communications minister. Dhaka, August 31, 2011. Photo bdnews24.com

We’d mourned deaths from road accidents at central Shaheed Minar earlier as well.
When we rallied in support of Viqarunnisa students protesting against school rape, we had risen to grieve for 39 people killed, including 38 schoolboys, in the Mirsarai road accident on July 11, four days ago.
Since then, road deaths, according to some, have risen and reached `epidemic’ proportions. The country’s roads are `death traps.’ `Mass killings’, `serial killings’ are how others describe it.
Public anger at spiralling road fatalities has been fuelled by the visible lack of regret and remorse by Abul Hossain, the communications minister, by the prime minister rushing to his defense, reiterating that no, the cabinet would not be reshuffled, `all the ministers are working hard to carry out their responsibilities’ (The Daily Star, August 26, 2011).
And, all this has taken place after August 13th, when Tareque Masud, internationally acclaimed filmmaker, Mishuk Munier, journalist and CEO of the private TV channel ATN News, and 3 others were killed in a road accident in Manikganj.
Continue reading “Simmering discontent”

Tedx Ramallah

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Given the recent deaths of film makers Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier, this powerful affirmation of the power of film can be an inspiration to us all

And hip hop used as never before: Believe me this is one you don’t to miss.

Subcontinental drift

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By Salil Tripathi

Does the controversial book about Bangladesh?s war of liberation uncover new truths, or simply reverse old biases?

It is an article of faith in Bangladesh that three million people died in its war of independence in 1971. At that time, the population of the former East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh) was about 70 million people, which means nearly 4% of the population died in the war. The killings took place between 25 March, when Pakistani forces launched?Operation Searchlight, and mid-December, when Dhaka fell to the invading Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini forces (who was aiding whom depends on which narrative you read? India?s or Bangladesh?s). As per Bangladesh?s understanding of its history, the nation was a victim of genocide. Killing three million people over 267 days amounts to nearly 11,000 deaths a day. That would make it one of the most lethal conflicts of all time.
One of the most brutal conflicts in recent years has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the International Rescue Committee reported that 5.4 million people died between 1998 and 2008. A more thorough Canadian analysis now concludes that the actual figure is about half. At 5.4 million deaths, the daily death toll would be around 1,500; at 2.7 million, around 750. Was the 1971 war up to 15 times more lethal than the Congolese conflict?
A history of violence: A scene from the bloody conflicts of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Photo: Getty Images
A history of violence: A scene from the bloody conflicts of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Photo: Getty Images
It is an uncomfortable question. Many Bangladeshis feel that raising such a doubt undermines their suffering and belittles their identity. But a thorough, unbiased study, going as far as facts can take the analysis, would be an important contribution to our understanding of the subcontinent?s recent history.
Continue reading “Subcontinental drift”

We are with you, Viqarunnisa!

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By rahnuma ahmed

“…far from a mere method or an a priori technique to be imposed on all students, education is a political and moral practice that provides the knowledge, skills and social relations that enable students to explore for themselves the possibilities of what it means to be engaged citizens, while expanding and deepening their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy.”
Henri A Giroux, Lessons to be learned from Paulo Freire, 23 November 2010


Solidarity rally for Viqarunnisa Noon school and college students, central Shaheed Minar, July 15, 2011. From left to right, Ayesha Khanam, professor Delwar Hossain, Zonayed Saki, Mushrefa Mishu, Advocate Habibunnesa, professor Naseem Akhter Hussain, professor Gitiara Nasreen, Ferdousi Priyabhashini, Faizul Hakim Lala, Nur Mohammad, professor Akmal Hossain, professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Rahnuma Ahmed and Nurul Kabir observing a one-minute silence to pay their respects to 40 students killed in Mirsarai road accident. Professor Anu Muhammad, and dramatist and actor Mamunur Rashid joined the rally later. The rally ended with songs of resistance sung by Arup Rahee and his band Lila, Amal Akash and Samageet, and Krishnakoli Islam. Photo: Indrajit


Solidarity rally for Viqarunnisa Noon school and college students, central Shaheed Minar, July 15, 2011. From left to right, Ayesha Khanam, professor Delwar Hossain, Zonayed Saki, Mushrefa Mishu, Advocate Habibunnesa, professor Naseem Akhter Hussain, professor Gitiara Nasreen, Ferdousi Priyabhashini, Faizul Hakim Lala, Nur Mohammad, professor Akmal Hossain, professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Rahnuma Ahmed and Nurul Kabir observing a one-minute silence to pay their respects to 40 students killed in Mirsarai road accident. Professor Anu Muhammad, and dramatist and actor Mamunur Rashid joined the rally later. The rally ended with songs of resistance sung by Arup Rahee and his band Lila, Amal Akash and Samageet, and Krishnakoli Islam
Forty killed in Mirsarai road accident, July 11. Thirty-nine were schoolboys, aged 11-13, on their way home from a football match. http://tinyurl.com/4xpno3a Unimaginable swathes of grief sweep surrounding villages, engulf the nation. Three day mourning in educational institutions; the truck driver, chatting on his mobile as the truck skidded and plunged into a canal, still eludes arrest. Of humble backgrounds, father is an autorickshaw driver, a rickshaw puller. Dreams have crumbled into a void.
We mourned their deaths at Shaheed Minar last Friday, July 15, as we rallied in support of Viqarunnisa Noon students who are demanding the speedy trial and punishment of the schoolteacher accused of raping a student, who are against the return of Hosne Ara Begum as principal (temporarily replaced) on the grounds that she had suppressed the allegation.
News of more deaths as I write. Six college students beaten to death allegedly by Keblar Char villagers in Aminbazar, Savar, a drug belt. http://tinyurl.com/3d5b45g Media reports indicate villagers mistook them for robbers. The seventh surviving student says they had gone there to try drugs. Just `out of curiosity’ (The Bangladesh Today, July 19, 2011).
The law and order situation has worsened to alarming levels as police forces get largely deployed to contain the discontent of opposition political parties. To contain political dissent, a civic right. To contain student protests, as Viqis, both present and alumni, allege. Threatening phone calls; he claimed to be the officer-in-charge of Ramna thana, an allegation denied (New Age, July 17, 2011). ?Police and Rapid Action Battalion forces were positioned outside Viqarunnisa’s main campus in Baily road, when hundreds of guardians joined students to protest. ?Ex-Viqis have been prevented from entering the campus, threatened with arrest. Lists of alumnis who are blogging and networking on facebook have been prepared by the detective branch, searched out, threatened. If alumni allegations are to be believed, by treason.
I read and re-read the complaint of the Viqarunnisa Noon student, dated July 4. I am a regular student of the Basundhara unit. I attended all coaching classes conducted by my schoolteachers, I wanted to do well in my exams.
I look at her handwriting. Neat, but hesitant. Small letters. Who was with her when she wrote it? Her mother? Her sister? Thoughts race around in my head, the letter must have been drafted before being copied on to blank sheets of paper. How long did it take? How did she feel? How does she feel?
Was her father in the room as well? ?A father normally does not discuss such issues with his daughter’ said a father, as he took part in the human chain held outside Viqarunnisa on July 9. But I went with my daughter. We don’t want this to happen to other girls (New Age, July 10, 2011).
Continue reading “We are with you, Viqarunnisa!”

ConocoPhillips Oil Spill

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As government faces increasing criticism over its controversial deal with ConnocoPhillips and pressure mounts to force the government to reveal the contract, an oil spill in China lends weight to the protesters claims that the company has a poor safety record.

ConocoPhillips Halts Oil Operations In Bohai Bay, China

ConocoPhillips has been ordered by the Chinese government to halt oil rig operations in Bohai Bay. ??AP

China said Wednesday it had ordered ConocoPhillips to immediately stop operations at several rigs in an area off the nation’s eastern coast polluted by a huge slick.
The 336-square-mile slick emanating from the oil field in Bohai Bay — which ConocoPhillips operates with China’s state-run oil giant CNOOC – has sparked outrage amid allegations of a cover-up.
On Wednesday, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said operations would not be allowed to resume before the source of the spill was fully plugged and “risks eliminated,” as fears over the long-term impact on the environment grow.
“There has been oil seeping continuously into the sea for days from platforms B and C in the Penglai 19-3 oil field and there is still a slick in the surrounding marine areas,” the SOA said in a statement.
“Another spill could happen at any time, which has posed a huge threat to the oceanic ecological environment,” it said, adding it had ordered Houston-based ConocoPhillips to stop operations at those platforms.
Spill ‘Basically Under Control’
CNOOC last week said the spill — which was detected on June 4 but only made public at the beginning of July — was “basically under control” while ConocoPhillips told reporters the leaks had been plugged.
The official China Daily newspaper last week said that dead seaweed and rotting fish could be seen in waters around Nanhuangcheng Island near the site of the slick.
It quoted a local fisheries association official as saying the oil leak would have a “long-term” impact on the environment.
CNOOC has been slammed by state media and green groups over the spill, and it emerged on Tuesday that the firm was cleaning up another slick after a breakdown at a rig off the northeast coast.
The state-run giant said the leak was “minor”.
In a separate incident, a CNOOC refinery in the southern province of Guangdong caught fire Monday but there were no casualties, the company said, adding that the cause of the blaze was still under investigation.
The refinery is located about 25 miles from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

Police arrest 50 members of Oil and Gas Protection Committee

 

Professor Anu Muhammad in police van. Photo: Bangladesh First

July 3rd 2011. 7:50 am.

In an exclusive interview with ShahidulNews, secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Minerals-Power-Ports, Anu Muhammad, professor of economics of Jahangirnagar University, speaking outside the Communist Party of Bangladesh office in New Paltan in Dhaka, talked of over 50 activists having been arrested by the police in the early hours of the hartal.

Police barred the oil-gas activists coming out to the street in Paltan. July 3rd 2011. ??Wahid Adnan/DrikNews

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) picked up Professor Anu Muhammad, the member secretary of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in front of CPB office today moring during the 6 hour hartal called by the committee. July 3rd 2011. ??Wahid Adnan/DrikNews

After detention for almost one hour in Ramna Police Station, police released and dropped him in the CPB office. July 3rd 2011. ??Wahid Adnan/DrikNews

Professor Muhammad was amongst those arrested but was later released. Other activists who remain arrested include active member of the committee Zonayed Saki and Saiful Huq a leading member of Biplobi Workers Party.
They were arrested this morning as they were heading towards their office. The professor spoke of the police having used force and numerous activists being beaten up.
Sunday’s hartal was called on the 18th January in protest against the controversial government treaty (PSC) with the American power giant ConocoPhillips. Activists maintain the contract, which has not yet been made public, only allows Bangladesh to have 20 per cent of the explored gas from Bay of Bengal, allowing the company to export the remaining 80 per cent.

Eyewitness report from Nasrin Siraj:

Anu Muhammad, professor of economics of Jahangirnagar University and member secretary of National Committee to??protect oil-gas-mineral resources, power and port is arrested from Paltan today (3 July) at 6:53 a.m.. While he was walking towards the office of Communist Party of Bangladesh to join the other activists of National Committee for strike campaign, at least 40 anti riot police came forward, grabbed him and took him away in a prisoner?s van. During the arrest he was silent. Anha F Khan, Mehedi Hassan and I were accompanying him today morning while he was walking from his residence. Mehedi Hasan was also arrested.
Today, from the very morning police started arresting activists of the National Committee. First, at 5:45 a.m leader of Student Union of Jahangirnagar University was arrested from Paltan. All the central offices of left political parties in Topkhana Road and Paltan were surrounded by police from the early morning. Almost all the central leaders of the National Committee are under police custody now.

Breaking News: Nasrin Siraj has since been arrested.


Video Clip from Shomoy TV

Earlier interviews with Anu Muhammad

Update at 9:30 pm July 3 2011.

Professor Anu Muhammad, speaking from Paltan Thana (Police Station) in Motijheel reported that except for a handful of activists, the rest of the people arrested were still in the police station. “The government is trying to lump our activists with the Islamic Movement to confuse the issue and divert attention from their controversial signing of the ‘sell-out’ contract.”

News update: 10: 10 pm July 3rd 2011.

All arrested activists at Paltan Thana have been released. Paltan had the highest concentration of high profile activists, including Mushrefa Mishu, Saiful Huq, Zonayed Saki and Ruhin Hussain Prince and a large number of women activists. Nasrin Siraj Annie had been earlier released at 7:30 pm.
Activists at Shahbagh Thana and Lalbagh Thana are yet to be released. A large number of respected citizens, as well as MPs of the ruling party campaigned for the release of the activists. Barister Sara Hossain and other lawyers were also present at Paltan Thana and demanded the release of the activists.
Except for one activist, all other activists from Shahbagh and Lalbagh Thana were also released by 10:30 pm. Jubilant crowds clapped as the leaders of the protest rally were released.

Rahnuma asks: Who is foreign agent, Anu Muhammad or Tawfiq Elahi?


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Photo: Delwar Hossain Badal

DHAKA: Renowned writer, researcher and activist Rahnuma Ahmed asks who is a ?foreign agent?, Anu Muhammad, member-secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, or Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, advisor to the Prime Minister on energy affairs?
Rahnuma was talking to banglanews24.com in an exclusive interview against the backdrop of the National Oil and Gas Committee`s siege of the energy ministry on June 14, 2011, police prevented the seige from taking place, Rahnuma was injured in clashes when police resorted to clubbing and lathi charge.
She raised this question when asked about the recent comments made by Dr. Hasan Mahmud, state minister for environment and forest, in the parliament about the oil and gas national committee, and about Anu Muhammad in particular.
Dr Hasan Mahmud told lawmakers, Anu Muhammad is a ?foreign agent,? and that the Oil and gas Committee was formed by `tokais` (street urchins) after the committee called a half-day hartal on July 3 in protest against the deal inked between the government and the US-based company ConocoPhillips for offshore oil and gas exploration. The contract includes the provision of gas export.
banglanews24.com?s Output Editor Mahmood Menon took the interview.
banglanews: Why do you think Bangladesh should not export its oil and gas?
rahnuma ahmed: I will mention only one reason because of space and time constraints, but before that I want to draw your attention to a basic issue. Natural energy resources are limited. They are non-renewable. They get depleted. And that`s why it`s essential that these should be made use of in a planned manner, that we need to seriously consider the issue of national reserves, our needs, how the national interest can best be secured, you know, these matters, that policies and plans of action should be well-thought out, well-planned.? Let`s talk of gas, national reserves are estimated to be 7.3 trillion cubic foot. According to the latest estimates, the daily shortfall of national energy needs is 450 million cubic foot. The demand for gas is increasing at an annual rate of 10%. According to government forecasts, gas reserves are likely to run out by 2014-2015. This is the picture. Continue reading “Rahnuma asks: Who is foreign agent, Anu Muhammad or Tawfiq Elahi?”

Attack on "Solidarity for Limon" rally


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The regular weekly “Solidarity for Limon” rally had been steadily attracting bigger crowds, despite the monsoon rains. The gathering this Friday the 24th June 2011 was especially large. The street plays were popular and since this was not an event aligned to either of the main political parties, it attracted ordinary people who came to express solidarity, or merely to enjoy the performance.
This week’s performance, a drama called Khekshial (Jackal), performed by Aranyak Natyadal in front of the National Museum at around 4:30pm, was however disrupted when two men burst through the surrounding crowd and began wrecking the props.

Screengrab from video: 9 mins 0 secs?

Screengrab from video: 9 mins 06 secs


Attack visible from 8 mins 58 secs onwards.
The audience, intially slow to react, as they thought it was part of the play, soon went after the men, but they disappeared into the crowd. Later a young man called Al-Amin was caught by the crowd and accused of being one of the attackers. The man was taken away by Shahbag police, who arrived sometime after the event. The police are reported to have released Al-Amin as he was an innocent by-stander.
The organisers have pledged to continue their protests until the government withdraw the false cases against Limon Hossein and provide adequate compensation for the loss of his leg.
`Attack on demo for Limon,’ bdnews24
Fri, Jun 24th, 2011 8:23 pm BdST
http://www.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=199289&cid=2
and, `Goons attack demo for Limon,’ New Age, 25/06/2011 00:42:00
http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/frontpage/23806.html

De-energising Bangladesh

by rahnuma ahmed

In the end, treachery will betray even itself.
Roman proverb
When the prime minister, the finance minister etc., not known for being democratically-oriented, feel obliged to respond publicly according to the terms and conditions set by the National Oil-Gas Committee, it is clear that the tide is shifting.
It is clear that? the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports (NCPOGMR) has made a significant impact on public consciousness. That there is a growing national awareness of the issue of ownership of natural resources; of the terms on which production sharing contracts are signed with international oil companies (IOCs); a growing suspicion that exporting extracted gas may not be the best way of solving the nation’s energy shortfall. More precisely, of the hollowness of the government’s reasoning as to why gas blocks need to be, must necessarily be, leased out to multinational companies.? More broadly, of whether the nation’s ruling class, regardless of which political party is in power, does act in the interests of the nation, of its people.
It is clear from what top ruling party leaders are now obliged to say, to repeatedly say, we are patriotic, we are not treacherous, that they have been forced to cede ground.
It is clear that a moral battle has been won.
Continue reading “De-energising Bangladesh”