Citizens Protest on Banshkhali Killings

Ganosamhati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki, speaking at the press conference, held at Gonosasthya Nagar Hospital auditorium at Dhanmondi in Dhaka.

At least seven workers were killed and dozens were shot after police opened fire at SS Power 1 Limited, a Chinese and Bangladeshi owned joint venture company. Workers demonstrating for unpaid wages and other benefits on the coal-fired power plant premises at Baroghona under Gandamara of Banshkhali in Chattogram on April 17.

Continue reading “Citizens Protest on Banshkhali Killings”

Bicycle Rally Against Rape

Bangladesh is reeling under a spate of attacks against women. This includes rape, murder and sexual harassment. By far the majority of perpetrators are people affiliated with the ruling party. The police is known to actively support and protect the perpetrators. A bicycle rally from Shahbag to Manik Mia Avenue in protest against rape. 15th October 2020.

Selling Tayyip at Taksim Square

He went to the war in Iraq and returned with love songs. Together we had often walked the back streets of Istanbul. “You’ve come at the perfect time” he said Nilgun and Ozcan prepared the table for yet another home cooked meal. This was a stolen moment, in between Tokyo and Prague. A night halt to see my old friends and breathe the air of Taksim Square.

Hawkers doing brisk trade in cucumber sales which they playfully named "Taiyyap" after the prime minister of Turkey. Taksin Square. Istanbul. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Hawkers doing brisk trade in cucumber sales which they playfully named “Tayyip” after the prime minister of Turkey. Taksim Square. Istanbul. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

As always it was Ozcan I turned to, to make sense of the complex politics that surrounded Turkey. I knew of the trees and how the resistance grew from the small gathering to protect them to the massive collection we were witnessing.  But that didn’t explain it all. My thoughts wandered to Shahbag. To the clusters gathering on the night of February 5th. I had stopped my bicycle on the way back from Shilpakala Academy, where the closing events of Chobi Mela, our festival of photography was taking place. The torchlight processions had been spontaneous, the gatherings organic, but there was hope in the air.

Hope had also been what I had sensed years ago in Cairo, the week before Tahrir Square erupted.  Then too, I was soaking in the insight of streetwise photographers who sensed what was happening underneath it all. Gamal had told me we were sitting on a tinderbox ready to ignite. The following week, back in Dhaka, the shockwaves of that explosion reached us. I pored through the television footage, seeking out my students, by them in their struggle, but worried about their safety. As we sailed down the Rheine during the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Tarek Atia reaffirmed that much of the coverage had been done by my students. Meanwhile things were getting worse in Taksim Square. Cucumber sellers at Taksim Square had renamed their ware the “Tayyip” and were doing brisk trade, but the prime minister upon return had taken a hard line. Social Media was evil, all protesters were foreign agents. I recognized the familiar response. In Bangladesh it had resulted in bloggers being jailed.

CNN footage showed a man being taken away in a police van. Thinning hair, ponytail. Only a back view. It could have been Ozcan. He responded to my hasty email, “That is not me. I’m still free (!)” They had started the ‘standing alone’ campaign. “This kind of resistance is good but always so fragile and open to provocations” he reminded me.

The “Arab Spring” has become the catch all phrase the media has used as a peg to explain these disparate events, but what is it that ties it all together? The death of a fruit seller in angry protest against having been wronged, the ousting of a dictator who had morphed from being the war hero to the tyrant, and the distant cry to ensure no deals were made to pardon war criminals and now the campaign to save a few trees, seemed unconnected. Until one found the underlying thread that joined the dots.

These disparate events, scattered across the wider ‘Muslim’ states,  could only be understood if one walked these public gatherings, breathed the air, soaked in the euphoria. Through all the turmoil, it sang of hope. In Bangladesh, I had seen many more children. Parents wanting to engage them with events of over forty years ago, which had shaped their generation. Both in Shahbagh and in Taksim there were men women, mostly young, in traditional and modern garb. They chanted, sang songs. Volunteers brought in food. Medicine. Spontaneous help groups took care of those in need. This was camaraderie at its best. A people’s movement, separated from conventional party lines. In Bangladesh and Turkey, they protested against popular elected governments, In Egypt and Tunisia, the rulers had long overstayed their tenure. It was a movement for democracy, but not limited to elections. A protester in Taksim, carried a sign reminding us that Hitler too had been democratically elected.

The death of a fruit seller was of course important, but at a national level, especially in an autocratic regime, it wasn’t an issue that could topple a government. Trees being uprooted in the ‘cause’ of development was nothing new. Court rulings stage managed by government was something we were used to. So why his concerted outcry? Wherefrom this solidarity? What led to this outpouring of volunteerism where strangers were being cared for, fed, treated, because they were part of the movement.

Again it was Ozcan who made the connection. “No one was listening, we were never consulted. We never had a say.” He spoke of an aspect of democracy that went beyond elections and popular votes. There was a need to be heard and the people were going to be listened to.

The right of the governed to have a say in the process of governance, was at the core of it all. People were going to have a say. Merely being in power, regardless of the mode of entry, never gave them the right to ride roughshod over the people’s will.

I breathed in the air, sang along with the songs. Danced in unison. Across the globe we were sending out a powerful message. We were going to be heard.

Shahidul Alam
Istanbul

Murder not tragedy

An exhibition of observations, both witnessed and imagined of the Rana Plaza collapse.

©Suvra Kanti Das

24th April, 2013. 1127 garment workers perished in the collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar. Excluding natural disasters this is the single largest cause of death, post-independence. Hundreds of workers have been injured. Hundreds still missing.

The rescue operation at Rana Plaza continued for 21 days. The loved ones of the victims held their vigil without respite, twenty four hours a day, scrambling from Odhor Chondro Park to Enam Clinic, to the morgue and back. As tiring bodies wore down, they slept in nearby coffins. It is of course a tragedy of enormous proportions, but by calling it a tragedy, we are shielding the guilt. Making it appear as if no one was to blame. That this is the destiny of the poor and the downtrodden. Is that how it was?

The history of the garment industry in Bangladesh is littered with incidents of fire and collapsed buildings. 27 workers were trampled to death in Sharaka Garments in 1990, while trying to flee a fire. There have been many deaths since, some through faulty construction, some due to the absence of fire exits. The fire in Lucas Garments took away 10 lives in 1995. 14 died in Suntex Garments in 1996. 22 in Rahman and Rahman Garments in 1997. Another 27 in Tamanna Garments the same year. We lost 53 in Chowdhury Knitwear Limited in 2000. It is a longer list including the recent fire in Tazreen Fashions, with Rana Plaza being the latest addition.

Drik had invited photographers, activists and other artists to submit work and register their protest. Their observations, recorded and imagined, form the basis of this exhibition. Murder, not tragedy.

The exhibition “Tragedi Noi Hottakando” will be opened at Drik Gallery tomorrow Friday, 31 May 2013 at 5 pm. The exhibition will continue till 5 June 2013. Please get your friends, family and clients to come and voice their support. This cannot, must not, go on.

Dawn-to-Dusk Opposition Strike

Photos by Monirul Alam, text by bdnews24.com

The opposition enforced countrywide shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices began on Sunday amidst tight security necessiated by incidents of explosions and vandalism yesterday evening.

BNP supported lawyers shout slogan during the dawn to dusk strike in Old Dhaka on Sunday. The Bangladesh National Party BNP and its 18 party alliance enforced a countrywide dawn to dusk shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices January 06 2013/ Dhaka, Bangladesh- ? Monirul Alam
BNP supported lawyers shout slogan during the dawn to dusk strike in Old Dhaka on Sunday. The Bangladesh National Party BNP and its 18 party alliance enforced a countrywide dawn to dusk shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices January 06 2013/ Dhaka, Bangladesh- ? Monirul Alam

The government on Thursday increased prices of octane, diesel, petrol and kerosene for the fifth time in four years, despite a threat by the opposition alliance to enforce a strike within a day of the hike.
A Bangladeshi  policeman fires a rubber bullet to disperse the procession during the dawn to dusk strike in Old Dhaka on Sunday. The Bangladesh National Party BNP and its 18 party alliance enforced a countrywide dawn to dusk shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices January 06 2013/ Dhaka, Bangladesh ? Monirul Alam
A Bangladeshi policeman ?in Old Dhaka fires a rubber bullet to disperse the procession during the dawn to dusk strike on Sunday. The Bangladesh National Party BNP and its 18 party alliance enforced a countrywide dawn to dusk shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices January 06 2013/ Dhaka, Bangladesh ? Monirul Alam

Incidentally, the shutdown has come on a day when the ruling Awami League led coalition completes four years in office.
A Bangladeshi  polices carries a water drum to  try to remove  fires on the burning car during
Bangladeshi policemen carry a water drum to try to quench the fire on a burning car during the dawn to dusk hartal enforced by the opposition 18 party alliance on Sunday. January 6 2013. Dhaka Bangladesh. ? Monirul Alam

Bangladesh blocks YouTube over film

Dhaka, Sep 18 (bdnews24.com)?Authorities in Bangladesh on Monday blocked YouTube’s website indefinitely to stop the people watching a US-made film that insults the Prophet Muhammad and has sparked violence in the Muslim world.
Visitors in Bangladesh could not access the site after 5:30pm on Monday, an official with telecoms regulator BTRC’s System and Service Department told bdnews24.com.
The government on Sunday asked Google Inc that owns the video website to remove the 13-minute video clip of the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from its site. But there was no response from the search engine giant until Monday. Continue reading “Bangladesh blocks YouTube over film”

Hana Shalabi: The Bravest Form of Nonviolence

by Richard Falk (Foreign Policy Journal)

March 12, 2012

No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66-day life-threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.
The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping. Continue reading “Hana Shalabi: The Bravest Form of Nonviolence”

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.

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