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Bangladesh Continues its War on Human Rights

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By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

The government of Bangladesh-the Awami League even more so than the BNP-has a history of assaulting human rights workers who have done nothing other than investigate and report blatant human rights abuses and the brutalization of Bangladeshi citizens.  Advocate Rabindra Ghosh has shouldered a great deal of the government’s anti-human rights activity.  The most recent event took place on 29 January-only three days before the writing of this article.

Advocate Ghosh-who is a highly respected practicing attorney-notified Md. Moshiudowla Reza, Assistant Superintendent of Police (Hathazari Circle) in Chittagong, that he and his team would be visiting the area to investigate allegations that Hindu businessman and Managing Director of Super Stone Manufacturing, Sumon Kumar Dey, was the victim of torture and extortion.  Advocate Ghosh and his Bangladesh Minority Watch have extensive evidence that Hindus are fair game in Bangladesh with no protection by the legal authorities.

Thus, it was in keeping with Bangladesh’s refusal to aid its Hindu citizens when Reza warned Ghosh not to investigate the incident or face physical violence-a threat Reza carried out with the participation of several other police officers when Ghosh came to the area.

Bangladesh’s Awami League government would have you believe that it does not tolerate such actions and that the offending police officers were rogues acting on their own.  Yet, attacks on human rights activists have become common in Bangladesh, and the government has yet to prosecute the perpetrators.

According to Ghosh, “We immediately communicated with highest police officers S.P. DIG of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong Division, and Home Minister of Bangladesh over phone and kept them aware about the attack on human rights defenders by police officers and constables, but the administration took no action against perpetrators and bad police officers till writing of the report. This is the third alternate physical attack on Advocate Rabindra Ghosh and his team during his fact-finding within 15 days within Bangladesh.” Ghosh also noted that the video his team took of the attack was destroyed and the activist who took it, Titu Shil, was detained by police.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League government have made a very nice living convincing the West that they are the “good” party in Bangladesh; and I have had more than one Washington insider, operative, or NGO admit that the Awami League was terrible but “better than the alternative, by which they meant the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).  Perhaps they need to reassess that opinion and look at the facts.

Dr. Richard Benkin is an American Jewish human rights activist who is currently working on a mission to stop atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh.

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  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Minority who are financially weak get bullied in any country.I know cotton business who are Bengali Hindu in Bangladesh and then there is a sikh officer in Pakistan Air Force.So the problem more is not the religion but the financial standing of a local insaan in the society….

  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Minority who are financially weak get bullied in any country.I know cotton business who are Bengali Hindu in Bangladesh and then there is a sikh officer in Pakistan Air Force.So the problem more is not the religion but the financial standing of a local insaan in the society….

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)