I was watching the Chronicles of Nadiya recently and thinking about representations of Bangladesh in the international media, what they are, who they work for and what is actually real about them.
Reading about Bangladesh in most places you might think that the government there was a strong partner in The War on Terror, developing its people and that the only injustice was coming from the direction of deranged Muslims. Give or take a bit of white right left liberal frosting. That's the fiction that the Foreign Minister of the Occupied Turtle Island John Kerry dwelt in on his recent visit to the country. Its the fiction that people like Tahmima Anam write about and that Jeremy Corbynjaan says he reads, Lord guide him.
Begum Nadiya is real, talented, lovely, being commodified, and growing in agency and brilliance. Britain needs a good Muslim story to offset the awful ones and its mutating Islamophobia and she's generating feelings, even tears, of love among many. The Chronicles are well-shot two-parter that in my mind valourises the creative genius of our mothers and aunts and takes us on a trip from the mystical-material shini of the gonj, with kissing otters to the urban dystopias of culinarily challenged elite NGO workers and the North-South University ghetto.
I am all for integration. Therefore I wonder what meal I would cook up for the country's political prisoners in Kashempur and Dhaka Central Jail's, and their families, not to mention those of the assassinated, massacred and disappeared? After all, we usually recognise the vertical and the horizontal when we cook and eat, as well as when we see.
Who are you calling a one party state?
Over the past few months many have been enthusiastic to call Turkey a one party state. More recently we have observed Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, who presided over the 2005 Andijan Massacre, transition towards a state of divine accountability. Karimov was a strong partner in the war on terror, and backed by The War on Terriors all the way, ex-British diplomat Craig Murray has a blog pretty much dedicated to this in all its colonial detail.
Well, desh actually IS a one party state, in which the state gets away with murders most foul, and the stench trail reaches well into these (English) shores: int development, culture and the political establishment . Every year, the British government puts a quarter of a billion into the hands of the country's NGOs. The niece of the Prime Minister is a sitting Labour Party MP.
In 2014, the ruling Awami League ran the fakest general election in the country's history, possibly giving the British Labour party purge a run for its money in the ridiculousness department. It was so fake that they had to ask their coalition ally, The Jatiya Party to form a pretend opposition whilst they blocked political gatherings by their political opponents by blockading their homes with trucks filled with sand [watch here]. This is a regime that massacres people, most heart-breakingly during the Dhaka Massacre, which claimed the lives of countless unarmed sit-in protesters as they slept and prayed in the early hours of 6th May 2013 [archive here]. This is a regime which has introduced new legislation to enforce a self-serving and rather lobotomising perspective on history as national liberation delivery.
The Judicial Murder of Mir Quasem Ali
This is a regime that just a few hours ago judicially murdered the media pioneer and philanthropist Mir Quasem Ali, in a blood sacrifice to their Islamophobic [Article] political idol of Bengali Nationalism. His son, Arman or Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem, who was also one of his father's defence barristers, was illegally detained by state agencies on August 9 , nobody knows where they've put him and they are denying holding him [HRW Report]. It is a new level of cruelty that he will (probably) not be able to lead his fathers funeral prayer. Altogether, a sorrowful and terrifying time for the family, who have been on the receiving end of state persecution since the tribunals were established in 2010.
We believe that the ongoing impacts of our deeds continue to benefit us in the after life. Shaheed Mir Quasem Ali was an institution builder in health, media and banking and I'm beginning to learn about how generous in spirit and material he was. In so many ways he embodied the brighter practical side of the country's Political Islam tradition and so my guess is that he is deed rich.
I will write about the case specifics in more depth at a later time, but two points before dropping some resources at your feet. First off, the tribunal that convicted Mir Quasem is a kangaroo court concerned with killing opposition politicians, manipulating the public and the judiciary, consolidating power and extending hegemony over history, bodies and resources. Secondly, I'm still not sure how to make truths, restorative justice and reconciliation out of the Bangladesh War, but Yasmin Saikia has got an idea [Video]. The family campaign website is here. David Bergman's hole-prone archive of the tribunals is here. The Tribunal's 2014 judgement in here and the 2012 Skype Scandal is here.
The early responses from Bangladeshis are mixed, as one would expect. I suspect a lot of people are sick to death with them. The prayerfully sympathetic are asking the Almighty to accept Mir Quasem as a martyr, because he was killed in the path of truth and social service. People on Twitter are expressing solidarity on #WeAreMirQuasemAli and are smaller group is reproducing hatred against him with stale Shahbag-era quotes. My guess is that we will learn a lot more about his work and legacy with time.
Meanwhile the local, tightly monitored media compete with each other for horror honours, putting a new gloss on the term Sustainable Lievelihood Framework. Diaspora Awami League institutions are even more surreal, with ATN Bangla UK broadcasting a pro-government report with hindi melodrama music. Small groups of ultra nationalist hangsters celebrate their Independence and Liberation from Pakistan. With no sense of irony.