In all our countries we have things called ‘shok dibosh‘ (days of mourning), imposed upon us. We mourn by state dispensation for some leader or other, regardless of the lives they led. While calling them shahid‘s merely because they were killed might be a bit extreme, one could perhaps sympathise with the fact that they died in the course (if not call) of their duty. Ordinary people die in the hundreds in launch disasters every year. Slums catch fire mysteriously before developers move in on city land. Road disasters every day leave us unmoved, until the death of someone close, or prominent, moves us to anger. Garment workers working in death traps die when their prisons cave in or catch fire. We have our moments of rage, a temporary outburst, but there is no systemic change, for these moments are not remembered. The death of the insignificant, remains insignificant. But a politician or a wealthy person dying, even a natural death, raises the person to sainthood. Suddenly we forget who they were while they lived. Eulogies are written for the shomajshebi (philanthropist), who is said to have left behind an adoring public. We are required to weep.
I have no wish to be insensitive to the pain of their dear ones. Praying for a departed soul, however one might choose to pray, is a response I have no problems with. But the forced collective self?flagellation?that is imposed on us, because a person of influence ceases to be, merely for having outlived ones life, leaves me befuddled. And when questions being raised upon their role while living becomes punishable by law, that law, like any unjust law, must be challenged.
Please circulate this message as widely as possible, and do everything you can think of. Rahnuma Ahmed.
Officers of the Detective Branch of police picked up labour leader Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garments Workers Unity Forum, from her home in Dhaka a little after midnight.
According to news reports, her sister Jebunnesa Jebu who lives with Mishu, said she was was taken away to the Detective Branch Headquarters for interrogation around 12:45am,?14 December 2010.
About a dozen police officers, in plain clothes except one, carried out the raid on the labour leader’s Bhuter Gali home in Kalabagan.?The officers did not show any arrest warrant, said Jebunnesa, nor did they explain why she was being led away.?After having initially denied her arrest, she has now been charged by the police with having instigated garment workers to go `berserk’ at Kuril.
The arrest occurred three days after thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers picketed factories in Dhaka demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage that should have come into effect last month. Demonstrations and picketing spread to the Chittagong EPZ, three people were killed and 225 injured in police clashes in Chittagong on Sunday. Police have arrested 33?people and?lodged three separate cases against about 30,000 unknown people for Sunday’s deadly violence in the port city.
More than three million people, most of them women, work in Bangladesh’s garment factories, which make clothes for major Western brands, this includes Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour.
State repression (killing, baton charges, firing tear gas, filing cases) upon workers who are fighting for implementation of wages officially agreed upon, makes a mockery of the democratic principles?that Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League?government claims to uphold. It is a matter of urgent concern that the police should release Moshrefa Mishu immmediately. The government should also release all garment workers who have been arrested, lift the cases against large numbers of people which is aimed at intimidating workers who are fighting for their rights, and should force factory owners to pay wages agreed upon earlier.
Window to the soul
Exhibition by Taslima Akhter on Garment workers (lower down on the page)
BREAKING NEWS: Moshrefa Mishu was produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court after midday today. The court granted 2 days remand.
We would like to remind everyone that she was arrested unlawfully, i.e., without any warrant; from what we have learnt since from her sister Jebunnessa Jebu, despite repeatedly being asked the reason for their presence, or whether they had a warrant, members of the force responded by threatening to arrest Moshrefa Mishu if she persisted in asking to see a warrant.
She was only allowed to change her nightclothes and to put on a sari but was not allowed to take her medication for asthma and severe spinal pains, caused by an attempt on her life several years ago.
Moshrefa Mishu has been receiving threatening calls over telephone warning her to stop fighting for the rights of workers in the garments sector.