Violence Flares in Bangladesh Over Islamist Leader's Death Sentence

See our special coverage of Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

Renewed violence has erupted across Bangladesh, leaving 80 people dead, after the vice president of the country's largest Islamist political party was sentenced to be hanged for war crimes on February 28, 2013.

special war crimes tribunal found Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi guilty of murder, rape, arson, looting, and religious conversion by force committed during the country's 1971 war for liberation from Pakistan.

It is the third verdict and second death sentence to be handed down by the three-person tribunal for crimes relating to the conflict.

Supporters of the Shahbag movement, who have protested for nearly a month to demand the death penalty for war criminals, rejoiced at the verdict.

The Shahbagh protesters burst out into joy after hearing that the three-member International Crimes Tribunal – 1 handed death penalty to the top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.

Shahbag protesters celebrate after the International Crimes Tribunal sentences top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee to be hanged. Photo by Rahat Khan. Copyright Demotix (28/2/2013)

But Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, rejected the tribunal's decision, and angry protesters across the country attacked temples, pagodas, and religious minorities, and set fire to vehicles. Dozens were killed when police opened fire in retaliation against armed protesters clashed.

Begum Khaleda Zia, the chairwoman of the country's main opposition party Bangladesh National Party, called the deadly police action “fascist” in a press conference [bn] on March 2, 2013, accusing it of committing mass murder. She proclaimed her party’s support for Jamaat-e-Islami.

To combat the disorder, officials in many parts of the country have imposed an emergency measure known as Section 144, which prohibits more than four people gathering together.

A video capturing some of the Jamaat-led violence has circulated on Facebook and Twitter:

Shahidul Islam Mukul [bn] also uploaded a video to his blog that describes the plight of Hindu families who were victims of targeted violence by Jamaat supporters. The homes of 74 Hindu families in the southeastern Noakhali district were burned; more videos can be found in this post [bn]:

Shahbag protesters took to the Web to condemn the violence. Hasibul Haque wrote on Facebook:

শংকিত হবার কিছু নাই। রাষ্ট্রের দায়িত্ব নিরাপত্তা নিশ্চিত করা, নাশকতা ঠেকানো। জামাত-শিবির যত ই তান্ডব চালানোর চেষ্টা করবে, তত ই তারা গণ-বিচ্ছিন্ন ও পরিত্যাক্ত হয়ে যাবে। জনগণ স্বত:স্ফূর্তভাবে জামাত-শিবির প্রতিরোধ করতে শুরু করেছে।

There is no reason to be alarmed. It is the government’s responsibility to protect us and stop terrorism. The more violence is perpetrated by Jamaat-e-Islami, the further they will be shunned. The public is showing resistance to Jamaat.

Other Facebook users had harsh words for Bangladesh National Party's support of Jamaat. Feroze Uddin [bn] posted:

বিএনপি নাকি জনগণকে সাথে নিয়ে আন্দোলন করছে!!! তাহলে আমরা কারা??

Apparently BNP is carrying on its movement with the public’s support. Then who are we?!

Shafi Mahmud [bn] expressed his disappointment with the party chairwoman Begum Khaleda Zia:

মর্মাহত, স্তম্ভিত, ক্ষুব্ধ, হতাশ……
কি করে বিরোধীদলের নেত্রী পারলেন জামাতিদের পক্ষ নিতে?
তিনি তো একজন সেক্টর কমান্ডের স্ত্রী…
একজন স্বাধীনতা ঘোষকের (!!) স্ত্রী……
তাহলে কি স্বাধীনতা মিথ্যা ?
৩০ লক্ষ প্রান মুল্যহীন?
দেশনেত্রী , যত তারাতারি আপনার শূভবুদ্ধির উদয় হয়
দেশের জন্য ততই মঙ্গল……

Grieved, stunned, angry, disappointed…
How could the opposition leader side with Jamaat?
After all she is the wife of a sector commander
The wife of a declarer of independence
Is independence a lie, then?
3 million lives worthless?
Leader, the faster you regain your senses
The better it is for the country.

Rioters in Santinagar set car on fire as riots continue. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (2/3/2013)

Rioters in Santinagar, Bangladesh set fire to a car during riots. Photo by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (2/3/2013)

Many celebrated the death sentence brought against Sayeedi on social media.

Rashed Almazi [bn] posted on his Facebook page:

আমরা শুরু করলাম। শেষ নয়!!!

This is just our beginning, not the end!!!

Facebook user Sheikh Giasuddin Ahmed Suvro congratulated the Shahbag protestors and wrote:

অভিনন্দন শাহবাগ! জনতা রাস্তায় অতন্দ্র পাহারায়।ন্যায়প্রতিষ্ঠায়, সতর্ক ও সজাগ জনতার বিকল্পনাই। জয় জনতা, জয়বাংলা।

Congrats to Shahbagh! The masses are sleepless, on guard in the streets. To establish justice, there is no alternative to an alert populace. Victory to the masses! Victory to Bengal!

Sohel Zafar [bn] reacted on Facebook with:

দেলু রাজাকারের ফাঁসির আদেশ হলো আজ। বাংলাদেশের ইতিহাসের ঘৃণ্যতম অপরাধী এই ‘ফ্যানাটিক‘ খুনী-ধর্ষকের ফাঁসি কার্যকর করার মধ্য দিয়ে বাংলাদেশ ঐতিহাসিকভাবে কলঙ্কমুক্ত হবে। ভবিষ্যতের বাংলাদেশ হাঁটবে উজ্জীবিত তরুণ প্রজন্মের স্বপ্নের পথে।

Traitor Delu has been sentenced to death today. Bangladesh will officially rid itself of shame through the hanging of one of the most hated criminals in its history, this fanatic murderer-rapist. The future of Bangladesh will be paved by the bright dreams of today’s youth.

The Facebook page of the Shahbagh Movement, Projonmo Chattor [bn], published its reaction [bn]:

ফাঁসির রায়ের জন্য শাহবাগে অপেক্ষমাণ হাজার হাজার জনতা প্রত্যাশিত সংবাদ পেয়েই শুরু করেন আনন্দ উল্লাস। এ যেনো এক অভাবনীয় দৃশ্য। এ যেনো আরেক যুদ্ধ জয়। ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিভিন্ন হল থেকে সাধারণ ছাত্র ছাত্রীরা আনন্দ মিছিল নিয়ে আসছে শাহবাগের গনজাগরণ চত্বরে। কেউ ঢোল বাজাচ্ছে। কেউ বাজাচ্ছেন বাশি।

Thousands of people waiting for the verdict at Shahbagh started celebrating as soon as they got the news. This is an incredible sight! Looks like we have won another war. Students from all the dorms in Dhaka University are coming to Shahbagh with drums and trumpets.

Projonmo Chattor [bn] also said:

সংগ্রাম এখানে কিন্তু শেষ না, আরো বহু দূর যেতে হবে। আরো ৬টা বাকি, একটা আপিল বাকি…… তারপর বাকিদের ধরতে হবে।

This is not the end of the movement. We have a long way to go. There are 6 more criminals left, and one more appeal waiting to be filed. Then we have to catch the rest.

Hundreds of demonstrators converge near historic Bahadurshah Park in Old Dhaka to press their demand of hanging all war criminals.

Hundreds of demonstrators converge near historic Bahadurshah Park in Old Dhaka to demand the hanging all war criminals. Photos by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (3/3/2013)

Jahanara Imam, known as the symbolic mother of all martyrs, first called for the trial of the 1971 war criminals in 1992. Remembering her, the professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, writer and secretary member of National Committee to protect natural resources, Anu Mohammad [bn], posted as his Facebook status:

জাহানারা ইমামকে স্মরণ করি। তাঁর কথাই সত্য প্রমাণিত হলো। যাঁরা যুদ্ধাপরাধী বিচার আন্দোলনে নানাভাবে দীর্ঘদিন ধরে কাজ করছেন তাঁদের অভিনন্দন জানাই। গ্লানিমুক্তির সূচনা। এখানেই থামবে না।

I am remembering Jahanara Imam. Her words have been proved true. Congratulations to those who have been working towards the trial of the war criminals for a long time. This is the beginning of riddance, not the end.


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