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Recognition of Bangladesh Genocide at UN conference in Geneva

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:


Geneva, 10 October 2023: Speakers at the United Nations side event on 10 October called upon the governments and international institutions, including the UN agencies, to recognise the Bangladesh genocide committed by Pakistan in 1971. They said silence is complicity and opined that every genocide and every crime against humanity deserves to be recognised to give solace and honour to the victims and members of the victims’ families and stop the recurrence of such crimes against humanity. The international community has a moral obligation and role in this regard.

They were speaking at the side event on ‘Justice & Peace: Bangladesh Genocide’ 1971’organised jointly by the European Bangladesh Forum (EBF), Global Solidarity for Peace. International Human Rights Commission, Switzerland and Bangladesh Support Group (BASUG) at the UN building in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Offices in Geneva Mohammad Sufiur Rahman addressed the side event as the chief guest, while BASUG Chairman Bikash Chowdhury Barua chaired it. Among others, the conference was addressed by former Member of the Dutch Parliament and a human rights activist Harry van Bommel, British journalist and publisher of EU Today, Gary Cartwright, lecturer at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs at Leiden University, Netherlands and a Pakistani descent Aleena Khan, senior journalist and researcher at the University of Bonn Dr. Hossain Abdul Hai, President of Baloch Voice Association, France Munir Mengal, exiled Chairman of United Kashmir Peoples National Party, Switzerland Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, President of Global Solidarity for Peace Belgium Murshed Mahmud and the President of International Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, Switzerland Khalilur Rahman Mamun. Participants in the side event were members of the Bangladesh community in different European countries, European politicians, academics, researchers and human rights activists from other European civil society organisations.

Addressing the side event, Bangladesh ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Offices Mohammad Sufiur Rahman said that the Pakistani government intended to destroy a community in 1971. The other part of Pakistan wanted to subjugate the Eastern part from the beginning. They wanted to destroy Bengali culture and identity and started marginalising economically and socially by attacking the Bengali language.

Referring to the recent visit of the European fact-finding mission in Bangladesh, veteran Dutch politician and human rights activist Harry van Bommel said by talking to the victims, visiting killing sites and reading testimonials documented by the International Crimes Tribunal. We have come to the conclusion that there is enough physical evidence in Bangladesh to support the scientific consensus that there was a genocide in Bangladesh in 1971.

In his speech, British journalist and publisher of EU Today, Gary Cartwright, said West Pakistan realised the values of East Pakistan. The desire of Bangladeshi people for independence is quite understandable. He added that he was very critical of Pakistan because of its blasphemy laws, which belong to the bi-gone century, while Bangladesh has made massive economic growth. Currently, Bangladesh’s GDP is higher than that of the European Union. This is an incredible achievement for such a young country. Regarding the recognition of the 1971 genocide, he added, Britain has a moral responsibility to recognise the genocide without any delay.

In her paper titled ‘Truth-seeking and the 1971 Genocide’, Aleena Khan, an American of Pakistani descent and who is a lecturer at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs at Leiden University, Netherlands, said, ‘the Pakistani government and society’s desire to entirely erase the history that almost halved its population was hard for me to understand. I also know that as an American of Pakistani descent, I do not have the same perspective as a person from Pakistan only. However, I don’t think that should matter. I think all Pakistanis need to make an effort to open this dialogue. I don’t think reaching justice without a collective history and shared understanding is possible.

In his paper, Dr. Hossain Abdul Hai, a former journalist of German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle and researcher at the University of Bonn, Germany, said 1971 was a black chapter of human history. The brutality during the war in 1971 was not limited only to a group of soldiers, fighters or a community. It has left the evidence of torture, rape, killing, burning and cleansing of the whole nation and ethnicity.

Munir Mengal, President of Baloch Voice Association, France, said that in the same way Pakistani soldiers killed Bangladeshi intellectuals on the eve of Bangladesh’s independence, they are brutally killing Baloch intellectuals now. In 1971, the Pakistani army used religious extremist groups in Bangladesh. They are now taking our mothers and sisters from their homes in Balochistan and making them sex slaves in the army’s torture camps. We believe that international recognition of the genocide committed in 1971 and the exemplary punishment of those responsible would not have allowed them to repeat it in Balochistan today.

Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party, Switzerland, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, referring to the events of 1971, said, in response to a journalist’s question, General Tikka Khan, the butcher of Bengal, said, “I do not believe in history, I believe only geography.” On the other hand, General Niazi said about their rape and oppression of Bengali women, we are here to change the race of the Bengali. Such was the mindset of the Pakistani military rulers.