|Volunteers from Bangladesh fighting with Palestinians in Beirut, Lebanon 1982. |
(Photo: Magnum Photos-Chris Steele Perkins)
This post introduces a supplementary, and in some ways different, narrative for at least some of the fighters, and why they were in Lebanon. The Text below is translated from the memoirs of Maitur Rahman Rentu, who was a close aide to the Awami League Leader, Sheikh Hasina, at the time. His memoirs were banned in Bangladesh as he published them towards the end of the Awami Leagues last period in office. They were bootlegged and many say played an important role in the BNPs 2001 victory.
|Motiur Rahman Rentu's Amar Fashi Chai was a brave intervention from a Awami League loyalist who had enough.|
The author passed away in Paris in 2003.
The portrait is of a party under the much younger leadership of Sheikh Hasina that wanted to overthrow the Bangladesh government but needed military training. It is hard to imagine the Awami League party so weak.
TRAINING IN LEBANON
Some of those who started a war under the leadership of Kader (Bagha) Siddiqui in protest against the killing of Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975 met Shaikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, at her house at Road 32 in Dhanmandi sometime in the first week of January 1982. They proposed a plan to capture Dhaka Cantonment, which was accepted with great pleasure by Shaikh Hasina The plan was: “A group of 25 to 30 thousand committed persons are to be given political education and military training. They would capture Dhaka Cantonment by lauching a commando type attack.” The capture of Dhaka Cantonment meant the capture of state power in Bangladesh. Shaikh Hlasina instructed that this plan should be implemented by all possible means.
Work started about preparation of political workers for the purpose of capturing the cantonment and giving them military training. The workers were to be recruited secretly. One paid special attention to the mind-set, thoughts and personal qualities of these workers. In a short period of time a large group of workers were recruited and trained. Out of these workers a batch was specially selected for military training.
After imparting political education to these recruits, a batch was selected for military training. But problem arose as to where a place for military training would be found and wherefrom arms would be available Military training was not so easy as political training. For military training, at first a safe open area is needed, where the trainees will learn the use of arms through safe arms exercises. During7 l’s great liberation war we used Indian territory for such training. But it is not possible now. Only a few years back India had driven away Kader Siddiqui’s forces from their soil. For military training there was no chance of using Indian soil. Sundarban or Hill-Tracts were also not safe for military training. In the world outside we had no friend. Afganistan was in the control of the staunch fundamentalists. There we have no place. There was no response from the Soviet Union (Russia). In the circumstances Lebanon and the P.L.O. (Palestine Liberation Organization) came up for consideration. Secret communication was established with P.L.O.
Representative in Dhaka, Mr. Ahmed A. Razek. A few meetings were held secretly with Mr. A.A. Razek at the P.L.O. Embassy in Gulshan. Mr. Razek was told candidly that we wanted military training and in return we would give whatever he wanted. Ahmed A Razek asked for one month’s time.
After a month, again a meeting was held with Ahmed Razek. It was decided that P.L.O. would be giving us military training in the soil of Lebanon. In return, we shall have to fight against the lsraelis on behalf of the P.L.O. We agreed. When our first batch would arrive Lebanon they would be given military training and sent to the battlefield straight way to fight the Israeli on behalf of the P.L.O. The first batch would go to Lebanon. After the training of the second batch they would go to war and the first batch would be sent back to Bangladesh. It means, one batch of ours will always fight on behalf of the P.L.O.
P.L.O. would bear expenses of our travel to Lebanon and return to Dhaka. P.L.O. would pay salaries to those of us who would fight for P.L.O.
From time to time all aspects of the plan were intimated to Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina and her advice was taken. In pursuance of the decision of the meeting with P.L.O. first batch was sent to Lebanon in the last week of May, 1982.
After receiving training the first batch started fighting for the P.L.O. in the Israeli border. The second batch was prepared to go to Lebanon. At that time Israel made an attack and occupied Lebanon. All of our fighters became captives in the hands of Israelis. Our plan failed. Parents
and relatives of all of our fighters started crying for them. Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina conveniently forgot everything. She remained passive and silent. She never uttered any word about our sons. After this with much difficulty, through Pakistan Red Cross our fighters who were captives in the hands of the Israelis were brought back to the country.
If you want to look into the lives of the corrupt psychopaths that run Bangladesh today in their formative political phase (1980-1996) this source is a useful point of entry. From the UK point of view, it expands our understanding the role and relationships of Sheikh Rehana and her family (which includes prospective Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq) in the party, its decisions and possessions.