Bangladesh Descends into Chaos


MUMBAI—Last Saturday night, Adilur Rahman Khan arrived home  in Dhaka after visiting his family over Eid to find a group of men waiting outside his house. Mr. Khan, secretary of the prominent Bangladeshi human rights group Odhikar, had been expecting this day might come, but being confronted by members of the Detective Branch, who were there without a warrant late at night, was a surprise.

The police detained Mr. Khan, accusing him of publishing false information about killings by security forces during mass demonstrations by supporters of the extremist Hefazat-e-Islam movement in May. Mr. Khan is now in Dhaka’s central jail awaiting a court hearing later this week.

Mr. Khan’s arrest is yet another dark spot in the continuing struggle over the identity of Bangladesh, one that has already led to major human rights abuses in the name of both Islam and democracy.

This year has seen many mass protests in Bangladesh. With national elections scheduled for early 2014 and no agreement on how they should be conducted, many more demonstrations are likely, and they may well end up killing more people.

Protests in Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh broke out in February after a verdict in a war crimes trial enraged the public. After a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic political party, was convicted of rape and mass murder but not sentenced to death, huge numbers of protesters took to the streets in what became known as the Shahbagh movement (named after its location in Dhaka), calling for the death penalty for all those convicted of atrocities during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. In February, when another Jamaat leader was sentenced to death by hanging, others affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami protested the guilty verdict, at times resorting to violence….

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