07 November 2007

Scientists Under Siege

On behalf of my real job, I just got done briefing a small delegation of research and development analysts from a certain European country. In honor of their nationality, I considered doing the whole thing in the accent of a certain governor. They were nice folks, so I'm glad I didn't. Plus, I only had a day's notice, so I didn't have time to magic up a costume.

In other news, 12 Bangladeshi academics and an unknown number of students have been arrested, jailed, and allegedly tortured as of 5 November 2007.

These professors were arrested and jailed in August 2007 and remain in custody to this day. The arrests were made by a Joint Task Force under the direction of the Director General Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the central intelligence agency of the Bangladeshi armed services, in connection with student protests, and the arrested academics have not been charged with any crime.

And why is this happening? Well, according to Amnesty International (more background):

On 11 January President Ijuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency after weeks of violence over the date of elections and electoral reforms between supporters of the former ruling coalition and supporters of parties opposing them. Elections scheduled for 22 January were postponed indefinitely and a new civilian caretaker government, backed by the army, sworn in. Under the state of emergency, political rallies
are banned, and freedom of expression severely restricted.

Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed by the RAB, a paramilitary police force whose members are drawn from the army and police, set up in March 2004. Government sources say the deaths have been caused by crossfire between RAB agents and suspected criminals, but there are persistent reports that the deaths have been deliberate killings by the RAB. Despite this, no RAB agents have ever been brought to justice for any of the killings.

The caretaker government like previous governments in Bangladesh has failed to protect people against army and RAB excesses, or to bring any of their personnel to justice for abusing human rights.

Now, I haven't seen anything in the mainstream press about this latest incident, which is why I'm posting it. I'm listing the names of the professors below, as well as the contact details of the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the US. I think it's crucial that the Bangladeshi government know that they are being watched by the international community.

Even if you don't want to do anything about it, please do take a moment to read about, or even just think about, what they're going through. I know I'd appreciate it if I were in their shoes.

The 12 Imprisoned Professors

Professor Anwar Hossain, Dean, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dhaka University

Professor Harunor-Rashid, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University

Professor Sadrul Amin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Departmentof English, Dhaka University

Professor Neem Chandra Bhoumik, Department of Applied Physics, Dhaka University

Professor Saidur Rahman Khan, Former Vice-Chancellor of Rajshahi University

Professor Abdus Sobhan, Department of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Rajshahi University

Professor Moloy Kumar Bhowmik, Department of Management, Rajshahi University

Professor Abdullah Al Mamun, Department of English and Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Selim Reza Newton, Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Dulal Chandra Biswas, Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Sabbir Sattar Tapu, Department of Geology and Mining, Rajshahi University

Professor Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan Sajal, Department of Geology and Mining, Rajshahi University

The Bangladeshi Ambassador to the US

His Excellency M. Humayun Kabir
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Embassy of Bangladesh
3510 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 244-7830 or 2771
Telephone : (202) - 244 - 0183, or 7248, or 7216, or 3830