"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Direct Action in Bangladesh

From AlJazeera Feb 20, 2013
(demonstrations ignited by the announcement of life sentence for Abdul Quader Mollah--instead of a death sentence).

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Slogans, songs, poetry, and street theatre - the heady mix of culture and protest has given burgeoning demonstrations in downtown Dhaka a unique Bengali ambience. . . . protesters gathering in central Dhaka believe they are fighting for a return of liberalism and secularism - and death to alleged war criminals from decades past.

A slogan in Bengali has been frequently shouted at the busy Shahbagh Square to annonce that the area is now the epicentre for change in Bangladesh: “Tomar aamar thikana, Shahbagher Mohona” or "your address, my address, Shahbagh Square". Tens of thousands have gathered here in recent days demanding reform, and protesters believe the scenes are reminiscent of the uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On February 5, one of Bangladesh’s two war crimes tribunals announced a life sentence for a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami group, Abdul Quader Mollah, who had been accused of mass murder and rape during the 1971 civil war.. . . .
“We now want the death penalty for all war criminals. We want a ban on the politics of religious fundamentalism. We want a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami,” says Imran H Sarker of the Bloggers and Online Activists Network, one of the leaders of the Shahbagh protest.
True to her pre-election pledge, Hasina’s government constituted two war crimes tribunals under the 1973 law - one that began work in 2010 and the other two years later. Besides Mollah, eight other leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and two of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are now on the dock, standing trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 war.
“At last, the nation feels some justice is being done. Nobody here wants these war criminals to get away lightly,” says Shahriar Kabir, whose organisation Committee for the Elimination of the Killers and Collaborators of 1971 have pushed for the tribunals since the mid-1990s, after democracy was restored in Bangladesh.
Lucky Akhtar, one of the main demonstration organisers, says there is more to the protests than just holding those to account for war crimes committed more than 40 years ago.  “The movement is led not by politicians but by those who feel concerned about Bangladesh’s future, those who want the country to return to the secular and liberal spirit of the Liberation War, those who believe in humanity, those who want Bangladesh to be distinctively its own self,” she says. . . .

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