I Will Not Be Silenced

[Cross posted at E-Bangladesh and Daily Kos]

Protests in Bangladesh

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." – Thomas Jefferson

Earlier this week CSB, the only private 24-hour news channel in Bangladesh, was shut down without notice by the military government, allegedly for having filed a "forged" document last year in its application for frequency allocation. This shutdown came on the heels of warnings from the military government that the news channel stop showing "any provocative news, documentaries, talk shows and discussions against the government." The warnings came after television news in Bangladesh showed footage of nationwide anti-government protests. The action against CSB, condemned by Reporters Without Borders, and the intimidation and beatings of other journalists, students, and professors are part of a larger effort by the military government of Bangladesh to suppress dissent.

Ever since it dismantled democracy in Bangladesh earlier this year, intimidation and threats by the military regime have not been limited to within the borders of Bangladesh. Last week an article in the Bengali language newspaper Ittefaq, owned by the military government’s Information Advisor Mainul Hosein, reported that Bangladeshi intelligence agents had been dispatched to the United States to collect information on pro-democracy protesters. The article declared:

It has been learned that a list is being prepared of those who are protesting the arrest and demanding the release of those arrested in Bangladesh for corruption, nepotism and massive looting with abuse of state power. In addition effective measures have been taken to identify the source of funds, the financiers and patrons of these protest events. Three officials from a special law enforcement agency of Bangladesh have already arrived in New York on a special mission. These intelligence agents are contacting professional, political and community leaders and are collecting from various sources the names-addresses as well as the immigration status of the organizers of these protests. According to a reliable source in the Bangladesh embassy in Washington, it will not be at all difficult for the intelligence agents to track a handful of expatriate Bangladeshis. Full details of these protesters will be sent to airports and respective police stations in Bangladesh. The same source also informs us that naturalized American citizens will also not be spared as their photo along with video footage will be sent to special law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh. In addition, those expatriates who under the banner of news agencies, and without any basis and with ill motive, write in our local newspapers inflammatory and negative stories that damage the image of our country will also be tracked. [translation based on Rumi Ahmed

A similar report appeared in Jonomot, a weekly Bengali language newspaper published in London, England. The report in Jonomot claimed that a similar intelligence team had been dispatched to the United Kingdom to collect information on protesters there.

The report in a major Bangladeshi newspaper, Ittefaq, has already had a chilling effect amongst Bangladeshi expatriates and expatriate bloggers. However, this report is only the latest attempt at intimidation of bloggers and pro-democracy protesters of Bangladeshi origin. Last month, I co-authored an op-ed that examined the increasing relevance of expatriate Bangladeshis. It appeared in the leading Bangladeshi English language newspaper Daily Star. Three days later another op-ed appeared in the same newspaper that accused the same expatriates of "defaming" Bangladesh from the "immunity" of foreign safe havens and urged the Bangladesh government to put an end to these protests:

The most prominent exports from Bangladesh are readymade garments and workers. They contribute to the economy and are appreciated as the key force behind the engine of growth for the country. Less know is a third export from Bangladesh, its politics. This export costs the country its image in the international community and can be a source of embarrassment both for the government as well as other Bangladeshi migrants abroad.

Taking advantage of their immunity in the secure environment of faraway lands, Bangladeshi expatriates have become more active than the political activists within the country. They are holding demonstrations, lobbying leaders of various countries, demanding release of those arrested in Bangladesh, and even threatening to stop the flow of remittance to the country if their demands are not met. They have been successful in extracting statements of support from some second-string American, Australian, and British politicians and officials in support of their demands.

The majority of expatriate Bangladeshis are looking forward to the prohibition of these self-seeking politicians who exploit Bangladesh and harm its image for their selfish interest. If they really want to contribute to Bangladesh, they should return to the country and work under the same conditions as other leaders do. It is unlikely that these people will leave their life of comfort in foreign countries and suffer the hardship of politics in a developing country. Therefore, it will be good to see the government succeed in putting a stop to this undesirable trend. Every migrant carries Bangladesh in their heart, but this does not give them a right to defame the motherland and embarrass fellow Bangladeshi migrants.

Indeed Bangladeshi expatriate lobbying may have contributed to a letter being sent by 15 prominent and bipartisan US senators, including Hillary Clinton and Richard Lugar, to the military government in Bangladesh urging it to lift the state of emergency in Bangladesh and restore democracy. In a show of Orwellian chutzpah another newspaper owned by the military regime’s Information Advisor declared that the letter from the US senators was a hoax.

Earlier in the year, other bloggers and I were threatened for taking part in an international campaign to protest the Bangladesh military’s detention and torture of journalist Tasneem Khalil.

The latest report in the Ittefaq serves to further intimidate those in the West who are protesting the Bangladesh military government’s suppression of fundamental rights. If the report is correct and Bangladesh has indeed dispatched intelligence agents to the United States to spy on Bangladeshi nationals and US citizens of Bangladeshi origin, it is almost certainly a violation of US laws. The United States government should take immediate steps to protect the rights of its citizens against foreign government spying.

It seems that what the Bangladesh military government fears is freedom of expression. It beats students because they protest. It beats and tortures reporters for reporting on those protests. It shuts down television stations for showing footage of protests. It intimidates and threatens newspaper editors in Bangladesh. It detains and tortures university protesters. It locks up over 250,000 of its own citizens without charge. It carries out a political purge under the guise of an "anti-corruption" drive. While it suspends all fundamental rights, it declares that its goal is to return Bangladesh to democracy by the end of 2008.

Protest and dissent are fundamental to the health of a democracy. It is again Orwellian to suggest that this military regime aims to bring democracy to Bangladesh while it actively works to suppress the very pillars that prop up a democratic culture. As it snuffs out dissent and fundamental rights, it uses fear tactics on those who speak out against these acts of suppression. The military regime would be well advised to understand that it is not the reporting of human rights that is the crime; it is the violation of human rights that is the crime. It is the violation of human rights that defame the image of Bangladesh, not the reporting of them.

It is cowardice to try to silence those who protest against human rights violations. It shows the weakness of the regime. When the Bangladesh military beat unarmed students and reporters, they beat them because the students and reporters exposed the weakness of the regime.

I will not be silenced. I am just one blogger, but there are many like me. While I sit under the comfort, and yes the protection, of the United States Constitution, there are many who are today taking enormous risks from within Bangladesh reporting to the world about the human rights violations taking place there. I will not be silent and allow the military government in Bangladesh to snuff out those voices from within Bangladesh. As I’ve written before, silence is complicity.

A generation ago, Robert Kennedy spoke for those who had no voice. He said:

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

One hundred and fifty million people today are living under the gun in Bangladesh. I will not remain silent and watch the world turn away.


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20 Responses to I Will Not Be Silenced

  1. Rumi says:

    Thank You Mash.

    Yes we are the most foutunate, most secured and least at risk among all the protesters. There are people who are risking their lives, risking indefinite detention in a black hole or torture only because they refused to subscribe to an offer of convenience.

    If my protest of today bring back the freedom and human rights back in Bangladesh one minute earlier, still it is worthy risking me and all what I built.

  2. Mash says:

    Rumi, thanks for translating the Ittefaq piece. I borrowed your translation and added to it a little bit.

    Indeed, if we are intimidated into silence, what of those who are in Bangladesh?

    There is definitely a climate of fear that has taken hold within Bangladesh. It looks like they are now trying to expand that climate out to the expatriates. Instead of trying to silence people to protect its image, the military government should simply stop violating the human rights of its citizens. If that happens, the image of the government will take care of itself.

  3. tacit says:

    Good write-up, Mash. After Dr. Fakhruddin’s speech today, the military government will be slowly trying to shift gears and try to implement its exit strategy. If anything, it’s time for all of us to be a lot, lot more vocal.

  4. AsifY says:

    Long may you speak up!

    Don’t let commenters like ESAR on e-bd get you down. If like me you had been a Bangladeshi citizen only, he would found me complicit in foreign “conspiracies”, much like commenters on DP are prone to do. Far easier to de-legitimise people on false premises than respond to the substance of their criticisms.

  5. retro says:

    As much as I’d like to see a woman president, I don’t trust Hillary as far as I can throw her.

  6. Suffering Group says:

    Dear Sir
    From 1972 after independent many of the Bangladeshi Citizens started to established industries investing family resources & adopting innovative technology as self earner and to create job opportunity for million of unemployed person and to achieve economic freedom. And Government also started to help these growing PRIVATE SECTOR INDUSTRIES having fund from International Loan giving Agencies, through different Bank. From 1989.
    But the Industrial Entrepreneurs becomes victims of deep rooted conspiracy . The Bank Official = refrain themselves from ascertaining production capacity of imported machineries and to provide required working capital loan in time extending total non-cooperation, negligence etc.
    Due to Such conspiracy & negligence’s , Non Banking Activities of Bank Official & Policy Maker, most of the these Industries became inoperative & have lost their Cash Capital, Expatriate Capabilities, and helpless victims of such deep rooted conspiracy having similarity to :
    In 1992 &1996 the Sick Industries Rehabilitation Cell were formed by GOVERNMENT OF BANGLADESH & have Identified and Registered these Industries as SICK INDUSTRIES declaring not as defaulter but victims of Violation of Contract, Negligence, Fraudulent Activities, Malpractices of Bank Officials including Policy Maker due to lack of Accountability .which are no more hidden matter . But unfortunately the SICK INDUSTRIES REHABILITATION CELL has are now closed. & have no power to help Industries of private sector
    Industrial Entrepreneur of Bangladesh are completely deprive of Legal Right due to enactment of BANK RUPTCY ACT of 1997 and ARTHA RIN ACT of 1989 which were amended on 2003 and 2007 treating the INDUSTRIAL ENTRPRENEURS OF PRIVATE SECTOR as like as SLAVE of Primitive Age.
    But these laws are not applicable in Nationalized / Sector where Billions of Dollar are spend & managed by Expert Personal also.
    There are no provision for application of LAW OF TORT in Bangladesh which are most common Law even in neighboring countries not to speak of USA , EUROPE or AUSTRALIA, DUE TO WHICH BANGLADESH HAS BECOME A HEAVEN FOR REPRESSION / EXPLOITATION BY BANK OFFICIAL AND POLICY MAKER.
    The Owner of Industries under Private Sector can not claim any Compensation or Set Off on the Suit filed by the Bank Official or Loan Giving Agencies FOR VIOLATION OF CONTRACT, NEGLEGIENCES, MALPRACTICES, including fraudulent activities As a result NUMBER OF SICK / DISTRESSED are increasing in Every Year due to lack of accountability of Bank Official due to restriction as per SECTION NO 18 ( 2) & ( 3 ) of ARTHA RIN ACT of 2003 Bank Official / Loan Giving Agencies have been allowed total indemnity in all respect . These have been done to hide out existing high profile malpractices and corruption as per opinion of Expert Personals
    In short Industrial Entrepreneur in Bangladesh have no legal right to protect themselves from the oppression of Bank Official & Policy Maker which are no more hidden matter. Bank official have given Indemnity for Violation of Contract , Negligence Malpractices & Fraudulent Activities Industrial Entrepreneurs can file a separate suit for compensation in separate civil Court creating more complicacy for life long litigation WITH OF NO RESULT due to restriction to obstruct or resist any order / decree of ARTHA RIN ACT / COURT by any other DECREE OR ORDER OF OTHER COURT or even of by HIGHER COURT THE RIGHT OF EQUITY OF LAW HAVE COMPLETELY BEEN DENIED TO THE INDUSTRIAL ENTREPRENEUR OF PRIVAT SECTOR as per Section 12, 12 ( khan ) 18 ( 2 ) & (3 ) 19, 20, 21, 34,40, 41, 42, 44, 47 and 50 of ARTHA RIN ACT. WHICH ARE COMMONLY KNOWN AS OPPRESSIVE LAW and direct violation of ARTICLE NO : 8, 15, 26 and 27 of BANGLADESH CONSTITUTION ?
    ( ******* Details of above sections of ARTHA RIN ACT have been given as below in short )
    And similarly the Door of Higher Court have also been closed for the Industries Owner imposing terms for advance deposit of 50 % of decreetal amount by the ARTHA RIN COURT which are not applicable upon any Bank or Loan Giving Agencies. These are few example of oppressive laws how the citizen in Bangladesh are repressed, depriving legal right by the policy maker miss -guiding the innocent or ignorant vast majority of Citizen of Bangladesh to protect the interest of vested group
    Now there are no other alternative way but to draw the kind attention of Concerned Authority Including International Community / Organizations seeking help to save & protect the OWNER OF SICK OR DISTRESSED INDUSTRIES OF Bangladesh under Private Sector, including their properties from such conspiracy and oppressive laws as well to protect the interest of large number of workers, staffs of the Private Sector and also for CHANGE of such oppressive laws to restore Accountability of Bank Official / Loan Giving Agencies for change the Economy of the country
    ( A ) – Our humble appeal before the Government of Bangladesh to kindly allow Industrial Entrepreneur to claim Set Off or compensation on suit filed by the Bank / loan Giving Agencies. or allow to Run Compensation Suit Simultaneously with suits file by Bank Officials under ARTHA RIN ACT -2003 with equal opportunity and equal right between Banks / Loan Giving Agencies and of Industrial Entrepreneurs keeping similarity with on going process of ECONOMIC and ADMINISTRATIVE ,REFORMS PROGRAMME OF GOVERNMENT to maintain balance of law .

    ( B ) – And all suits of Artha Rin Court may kindly be transferred to Civil Commercial Court providing Equal Right and Opportunity to prove and fix up the actual responsibility .

    (C)- The Identified and SICK INDUSTRIES of 1992 & 1996 may kindly be allowed 100 % weaver of all type of loan liabilities as the loan have been already Written Off .

    ( D ) – And the above mentioned SECTIONS OF ARTHA RIN ACTS should be abolished immediately to restore accountability & check existing Negligence , Malpractices & Fraudulent Activities of Banking Sector to reduce the increasing number of Sickness of Industries Every Year.
    More surprising are in this moment around 40,000 thousand suits have been filed by the banks in the Court for recovery of this poor country , but no body speaks why such large numbers of Industries in Private Sector are getting more & more sick in each year
    (E) ) – And Section 28 ( Ka ) of BANKING COMPANY of 2001 which explain WRITTEN OFF does not mean Weaver are to misguide the International Community & Bangladesh National to save the interest of the Vested Group

    ( F )- The system of mortgage of Land & Properties from the Industrial Borrowers by Bank or any Loan Giving Agencies should also be abolished to ESTABLISH ACCOUNTABILITY and to Check Malpractices, Fraudulent Activities which are now prevailing by large in Banks or other Loan Giving Agencies and a major reason of Industrial Sickness .

    ( G ) – It would be an extreme favors if your good self kindly collect the PRINTED COPIES OF THE ABOVE MENTION LAWS for confirmation of above mentioned .& to help the Suffering Groups by circulating this appeal among Honorable Member of your Organization and Partner’s Organizations & to Publish in WEBSITES or News Bulletin or News Media, Electronic Media of your territory to bring to the knowledge of Concern Authority including International COMMUNITY OR ORGANIZATIONS working for HUMAN RIGHT & FUNDAMENTAL / Democratic Right of People for immediate help and support to protect the Owner of the Sick Industries / Distressed Industries of Bangladesh and their properties from such OPPRESSIVE LAWS for which they all would be ever grateful as well for change of all types of oppressive laws restoring accountability at all organization
    ********* N.B. the Summery of above mentioned Section of Arthatha Rin Act at a Galance: !- In section 18 ( 2 ) & ( 3 ) Defendant or Owner of Industries will not be able to claim any set – off or to make counter claim against the Bank or Bank Official nor will be allowed to claim any Compensation by submitting any Suit against Bank ( Plaintiff ) analogously or simultaneously in Artha Rin Court due to violation of contract, fraudulence activities including negligence, malpractices of Bank officials.11. – Section 21: Settlement Conference between Borrower and Bank is a misnomer of Law of Arbitration or just to divert the attention of common people in the name arbitration or to make everybody fool . 111- – -As Per Section 19 (6) of Artha Rin Act of 2003 no suits can be declared to be dismissed or discharged for default or above mentioned fault of Bank Official. As per Section 20 regarding any order or proceedings of Artha Rin Act can not be raised to Higher Court or to any Other Superior Authority without paying 50 % of claimed or Decretal Amount if the order is totally misleading or against any law or illegal one even . 1V- As per Section 34 Defendant or the Owner of Industries in Artha Rin Adalat Case can be put to the Jail for compelling or forcing him to pay the Bank Money without considering the fault or negligence’s of Bank Official without allowing him to proof the matter of violation of contract, fraudulence activities , negligence, malpractices of Bank officials. V- As per section 41 and 42 -The Owner of Industries are not allowed to file any appeal or revision to High Court or Superior Court against any order of Artha Rin Court without paying 50 % of the claimed amount or Decretal amount in advance , But the Bank Official are not require to pay any amount in advance in the Higher Court, allowing A Great Disparity of Law and Justice. V! – Under section 47 and 50 , The learned Court under Artha Rin Act of 2003 have been bared to make any exemption of principal loan amount for Violation of Contract , Negligence’s Malpractices, including fraudulent activities or any fault of the bank official uni laterally V11- Section 12 ( Kha ) Imposed a bar for filling write petition to Higher Court which are direct violation of human right and constitutional right of the citizen and reflects the negative attitude of the law maker .

    Suffering Groups of Industrial Entrepreneurs of Bangladesh

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