About a year and a half ago I uploaded three videos to YouTube. For more than three and a half decades these videos, and the truth they held within them, remained largely hidden from the Bangladeshi people. Few had read about these videos and fewer still had actually seen them. A generation of Bangladeshis has grown up not fully grasping the brutality that had been visited upon the emerging nation in 1971. For decades these videos lay hidden in dusty archives and in the purview of scholars and academics. The truth in the videos, and the larger truth about the genocide of 1971, was muddied by successive rewritings of Bangladesh’s history by those who ruled its people by force. Bangladeshi history and the genocide of 1971 became a playground for genocide deniers.
Some of us have been fighting back to reclaim our history. In this fight, the Internet and YouTube have been our weapons. As part of this fight, I uploaded the three videos.
I uploaded a NBC News report from January 7, 1972 that showed chilling video of Pakistani soldiers executing students, professors and workers at Dhaka University on March 26, 1971. This was video taken by a university professor that was kept hidden until the end of the war. It documented the killing spree that began the genocide that would eventually take up to 3 million Bengali lives.
I uploaded a CBS News report from February 2, 1972 that showed evidence of mass graves and widespread killings in Khulna district that took approximately 100,000 lives.
I uploaded a NBC News report from February 20, 1972 that showed interviews of pregnant Bengali women and girls who were victims of genocidal rape. Some of the girls were as young as 13.
NBC News anchor Gerrick Utley, reflecting on the rapes and massacres of the 1971 genocide, said in his February 1972 report:
“We Americans are aware of what is happening in Cambodia and South Vietnam because this country has a big stake there. But, Bangladesh is a different case. There is no major American involvement or commitment there – nothing that approaches the needs of that young and impoverished nation. And so, the memory of what happened there may already be growing dim in many of us. But, what did happen there will never be forgotten by the people of Bangladesh, especially the women.”
It is a national shame for Bangladesh that much of what happened in 1971 has been forgotten, distorted or buried under the weight of lies and genocide denial. A generation of Bangladeshis has grown up denied access to their history.
So, I uploaded these videos hoping someone, some young Bangladeshi, would see and learn what they did to us. Since I uploaded these videos, Bangladeshis by the thousands have watched – most for the very first time. The three YouTube videos have been watched by over 300,000 people. The videos have been downloaded and reposted by many others – on YouTube and on other video hosting websites on the Internet. The videos have been reposted on social media sites like Facebook, and they have been emailed countless times to Bangladeshis who were watching for the first time what they did to us.
That is the power of the Internet. And that is the power of YouTube. What was once hidden away in dusty archives is now available for all the world to see.
After seeing the videos, a commenter wrote on my blog:
Thank You. Thank You for shocking me again after all these years. Thank you for making me cry. Thank you for making me angry. Thank you for making me feel that feeling. Thank you for making it real, once again.
Thank you for reminding me again how it had felt the first time I had seen these footages, many, many years ago.
Thank You for giving me few precious moments to share with my twelve-year-old and explain why Baba has trouble using his Muslim identity to overlook some inconvenient truth from his past.
Thank you for restoring my faith on the Internet and reminding me that just the plain truth sometimes can be the most powerful equalizer and our greatest weapon against all things evil – whether appearing in the guise of an affable general or a well-published scholar.
It is our history. For us to carry. For us to preserve and pass on to our children.
Unfortunately, the Bangladesh government has now banned YouTube to try to block an inconvenient audio tape that was leaked to the public. In so doing, the government has also blocked access to those three videos I uploaded and many others like them that tell our story, that expose the truth of our past, and that shame the genocide deniers. These same genocide deniers thrive on ignorance and on hiding facts and evidence. Censorship and disinformation are the tools of their trade.
The Bangladesh government needs to rethink its policy of censorship. It needs to ask itself who benefits from such censorship, and who suffers.
To illustrate the point, I invite Bangladeshi government officials, members of the Bangladesh military, and Bangladeshi citizens to watch the three videos below – all hosted on YouTube:
NBC News (1/7/1972): Dhaka University Massacre
Video of Pakistani soldiers executing students, professors and workers at Dhaka University on March 26, 1971.
CBS News (2/2/1972): Khulna Massacres
Evidence of mass graves and widespread killing in Khulna. Approximately 100,000 people were killed in Khulna.
NBC News (2/20/1972): Rape Victims
Genocidal rapes of Bangladeshi women and girls during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The report interviews pregnant girls held at Pakistani army barracks and repeatedly raped. Some of the girls are as young as 13.