International human rights experts reviewed and analysed historical documentary evidence on the atrocities that took place in Bangladesh in 1971. They reiterated the demand for immediate international recognition of the genocide committed by the Pakistani military in 1971. They also called for the spirit of the liberation war to be reinvigorated. A new generation must be taught the lessons of 1971.
The demand for international recognition of the genocide committed in 1971 was made by all of the speakers at an international symposium organised by the European Bangladesh Forum (EBF), a platform of the Bengali diaspora in Europe. The symposium was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, on 25 April.
The speakers all agreed that cold war politics and realpolitik stopped a proven genocide from being recognised internationally. But, unfortunately, the post-WW2 international order failed Bangladesh. The United Nations and other international organisations knew what happened, but failed to enforce their own principles.
In Bangladesh, millions of men and women, victims of the 1971 genocide, and their family members are still deprived of justice for the genocide due to lobbying campaigns from Pakistan and pressure campaigns from radical Islamist movements around the world. Therefore, it is time for all ethnic and religious groups who are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity worldwide to come together on the same platform and demand justice.
The purpose of the symposium was to inform European politicians, policymakers, human rights activists, and academics about the campaign to demand international recognition of the genocide of 1971. Britain played a significant role during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. During the crisis in Bangladesh, Peter Shore MP, then Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, placed a motion in the UK parliament condemning the Pakistani atrocities in 1971. It may be recalled that more than 233 MPs later placed another motion seeking an end to the ‘Genocide’ in Bangladesh and the recognition of it as an independent nation. The panel acknowledged these efforts.
Chaired by Ansar Ahmed Ullah, President of EBF UK, the seminar was addressed, among others, by Chris Blackburn of Swiss Interstrategy Group, Harry van Bommel, a former Member of Parliament in the Netherlands, Claudia Wadlich, Human Rights activist, Germany, Sk Md Shahriar Mosharraf, Minister, Bangladesh High Commission in London, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, Senior Fellow, Department of War Studies, King’s College, UK and a Pakistani British citizen, Professor Dr. Tazeen Murshid, Centre for Development Research and Cooperation (DRC-Global), Belgium, Syed Badrul Ahsan, former Editor of New Age, Dhaka, Saad S Khan, Charles Wallace, Visiting Fellow at SOAS South Asia Institute, Reza Hosseinbor, Irani-Baluch Human Rights Activist, Bikash Chowdhury Barua, President EBF, Netherlands, Val Harding, Executive Member of Swadhinata Trust, UK and Willem van der Geest, noted educationist and intellectual from Belgium.
Bangladesh’s genocide is one of the worst mass atrocities witnessed in the 20th century. Yet, unfortunately, the Bangladesh genocide has become a forgotten chapter in world history.
EBF demanded that the 1971 genocide be recognised internationally to deliver justice to the victims of the genocide.