All struggles for justice are connected.
As Israel continues to grind Palestinians to death in manners which underline their moral and spiritual disconnection from those victims of European slaughter in WW2, I write about a despot in Dhaka, in London now for a development charade. Last weekend Central London thronged and beeped in solidarity with Palestine (illustrated beautifully here). I suspect there will be nothing but a whimper upon the arrival of this destructive sociopathic woman and her (shopping) entourage, and this is my whimper.
Bangladesh: A Situation Report
Sheikh Hasina Wajed is the self-selected PM of a dynamic and detaic country numbering 160 million human souls. I say self-selected because she ran (s)elections on January 5th 2014 which disenfranchised the majority of the country's electorate. Although tolerated by the international community, make no mistake, she is an illegitimate leader.
In 1905, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain of Rangpur wrote a short work of science fiction in English called Sultana's Dream, about a country called Ladyland where women ruled the roost, men couldn't even be trusted with embroidery, and the sun and rain were harnessed for human needs. What is being lived in Bangladesh more closely resembles Rokeya's Nightmare.
As far as the vital values of freedom, dignity and hope go, today's Bangladeshis are arguably more captive, humiliated and hopeless than they have been for more than 100 years. Britain funds this captivity, humiliation and hopelessness to the sum of at least £250 million a year, by supporting the lifestyles and egos of Dhaka's upper middle class, its own development professionals and consoling the oppressed in desh with palliative and depoliticising civilising missions.
Global Hypernationalist Mood Music and the Meaninglessness of Development
Maybe you had noticed the nasty case of hypernationalism going round, powerfully polarising and disfiguring the already wounded societies that it preys on, from the rise of the far right across Europe to the ultimate civilisational facepalm that was the Tamarod enabled coup in Egypt. We see it in Israel as we do in Bangladesh, but whereas Israel's government controls a version that runs on Zionism and lashes out violently at black Jews and Arabs, Bangladesh's Awami League is younger, manipulates the forces of Jionijom and lashes out violently at Urdu speakers, garments workers, Rohingyas and the religious establishment.
Deshi opposition activists might find the term similar to Chetonase, a recently identified enzyme prevailing among a section of Bangladeshi society which turns decent people's brains and backbones to mush. However, although the ballpark is the same, Jionijom is more like a magnetic field than a condiment. Initially coined in 2007 by an mishearing friend on a long car journey (who was probably fuming at the latest peak in Israeli violence) it is an ideology that build itself on metaphors of race, jealousy and bloodletting. It was probably not intended but is the sum of bad situations, misjudgment and pronounciation.
Hasina's Awami League government fomented an ugly ultra-nationalism last year, through the Shahbag movement, to establish an environment in which it could operate with impunity. As opposition leaders and media were silenced and locked up the government could even commit a massacre ( like on 5-6th May 2013) and get away with blaming its victims, for now. When eventually properly investigated, her government's massacre of 5-6th May 2013 in Dhaka will be a stand out crime of the time, and the perpetrators will say 'we did it for development'.
Remember that this is an establishment which produced the April 2014 Rana Plaza garments factory disaster, which reopened our eyes to the truth behind the working conditions of women (and men), in the name of 'development'.
The London Girl Summit that Hasina is scheduled to attend is a joint production of the UK government and UNICEF focusing on FGM and child marriage. FGM is not an issue as far as I am aware in Bangladesh, though (subjectively determined) early marriage and (frankly political) forced marriage are. I do not doubt that the UK and Bangladesh governments have the employees, signboard painters and NGOs to talk about and appear to be active on the issues, my concern is whether they have the moral integrity and legitimacy to transform societies for the better. As the UK's development spend has been observed to increasingly line up with its military interests, the ridiculousness of the scene grows exponentially.
I wonder what the women and children victims of the regime, who live in its fearful shadow and have been denied life, family, justice and audience make of the situation.
Kutupalong: Bangladesh's very own Gaza, of sorts
South American Football Appreciation and Palestine are issues of virtual national unity in Bangladesh, uniting the most rabid Shahbager and ICS member under one banner, if not manner. Somebody pointed out that is was because Palestine was a safe issue, and its true, there is no reputational risk, let alone actual danger in verbally railing against injustices committed by Israel.
The continuing crimes of Jionijom soaked Bengali Nationalism however are not such popular issues. In Bangladesh and in deshi-ancestored communities overseas. Recently, A A Gill, the right-wing London Times food-critic wrote a heartful article on the Rohingyas trapped in appalling conditions for decades in the Kutupalong Camp in Bangladesh. The attitudes of the government officials spoken to is sickening and the clampdown on protests regarding poor conditions ruthless. The case of Urdu speakers being burned alive and the fate met by Hefazot e Islam only confirms an uncomfortable truth about the leges we have to stand on.
Decolonial Duas for Desh and Palestine.