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Respect for 1971

  • Published at 06:50 pm November 14th, 2018

To write in such a vein is extraordinarily disrespectful of our Liberation War

A recent article in The Economist, titled “Bangladesh’s ruling party appears to be easing up ahead of elections,” makes the bafflingly erroneous assertion that “four decades after Bangladesh’s liberation war, Awami League [has] pushed through constitutional changes allowing for the execution of old men who had fought against Sheikh Hasina’s father.”

This bizarre and misleading description of the war crimes trials cannot go unchallenged. Even worse is the off-hand and trivializing tone of this unfortunate turn of phrase. 

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which was set up in 2009 to bring those responsible for the atrocities carried out during the Liberation War to justice, is a serious matter, tasked with looking into the gravest of crimes against humanity. 

The 1971 War for Liberation saw the murder, rape, and torture of countless Bangladeshis at the hands of the Pakistani military and its local auxiliaries and collaborators.

For The Economist to then suggest that those responsible for the atrocities carried out are just “old men” who had “fought against Sheikh Hasina’s father” is a grievous misrepresentation of the facts, and does a severe disservice to the memory of the Liberation War. 

Yes, those being tried are “old,” but that is because they used and abused their political power to escape justice for four decades. By alluding to their age The Economist seems to be attempting to portray them with a sympathy that is wholly unmerited.

Similarly, to whitewash their war crimes as merely having fought against the PM’s father is disgraceful. Yes, the PM’s father is the Father of the Nation and was the leader of the Liberation War, but they did not fight against him alone, they fought against, and committed atrocities against, and betrayed, the Bangladeshi people. To write in such a vein is extraordinarily disrespectful of our Liberation War. The Economist should be ashamed of its language.

One wonders whether it would occur to it to write in such vein with regard to the roles of the perpetrators of the Holocaust or other atrocities against Western peoples? One suspects not.

The men tried by the ICT had perpetrated war crimes against the Bangladeshi people. Any language which minimizes this truth is unacceptable and unworthy of publication.

The Economist’s flippant and ill-thought out turn of phrase belittles the horrors suffered by Bangladeshis in their fight for independence, and makes a mockery of our struggle to find justice.

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