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Hague conference demands international recognition of Bangladesh genocide

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:


At an international conference at Leiden University in The Hague, The Netherlands held on 24 March, speakers reiterated the demand for international recognition of the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh committed by Pakistan. They said it is of great importance and an absolute necessity to honour the victims of genocide through recognition. To achieve the goal of peace and justice after committing such crimes, the genocide should have been widely acknowledged at the time. Bangladesh has been looking to other countries to recognise what happened in 1971.

They were speaking at the conference titled ‘Bangladesh: Justice after genocide’ at The Hague faculty of Leiden University. The conference was organised by Europe based Bangladeshi diaspora organisation European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) in collaboration with the Leiden University UNICEF Student Team the Hague & South East and South Asian Club by Community of International Relations and Organisations Students.

Participants, students from universities in the Netherlands, joined the conference. The conference was addressed by Mr Husain Haqqani, the visiting former Pakistani Ambassador to the USA, Dr Wolfgang-Peter Zingel, University of Heidelberg, Germany Ms Mahjabeen Khaled, former MP Bangladesh Parliament, Dr Tommaso Virgili, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany and Mr Chris Blackburn, Swiss Inter Strategy Group, UK. Mr Rohan Sharman of Leiden University International Studies gave the welcome address, and Bikash Chowdhury Barua, President of EBF, chaired the sessions. Ms Manju von Rospatt of Leiden University College and Ms Mai Li Julienne of Nijmegen University conducted the two Q & A sessions. Ms Mahjabeen Khaled and Mr Chris Blackburn took part in the conference through zoom.

Speaking on the day, Dr Wolfgang-Peter Zingel, an expert on Bangladesh, said, ‘Initiatives like this conference are needed to keep up the memory. So, he questioned what else could be done, saying that a first step would be that historians and other researchers from Bangladesh and Pakistan and civil society representatives meet personally on neutral ground and examine historical evidence.

In her speech, former MP Ms Mahjabeen Khaled shared her personal story saying that the topic is very personal to my family and the War of Liberation defines me and what I am today. She further stated, ‘1971 Liberation War has narrated thousands of individual stories’, and Ms Mahjabeen Khaled said ‘We will hope that in the 21st century the global community will stand alongside Bangladesh, not just to remember, but also to recognise the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971.’

Paying rich tributes to Bangabandhu, founder of Bangladesh, the former Ambassador of Pakistan, said, ‘had he lived, I am certain he would have supported the idea of a formal apology from Pakistan for the tragedy inflicted on the people of Bangladesh during their war of liberation. This demand is supported by fair-minded people, like Pakistani dissidents like me. The Pakistan diplomat said that collective apologies help heal wounds and enable nations to deal with past wrongdoing. Bangabandhu’s life and struggle make him a hero for the people of Bangladesh and other countries.

In his video message from the UK, Mr Chris Blackburn said, ‘the issue of recognition for the 1971 genocide is critical. We need to keep reminding people of this genocide. Pakistan is labouring under guilt and lies, Mr Chris said, adding, it hasn’t learnt any lesson from 1971 because it has never been made accountable for its behaviour. A new generation of Afghans, Balochis, and others are the direct victims of global failure to hold Pakistan to account.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Tommaso Virgili said in 1971, Bangladesh was born as a secular state, but this character was progressively lost in time.