A Freedom Fighter’s Voice!

I was not a freedom fighter. But as a little girl I experienced the horrors of war. Saleem Samad expressed his feelings on secular uprising in Bangladesh. His words touched my heart.

The deafening roar of the youth at Shahbag Square, the epicentre of protest in Dhaka, is awe-inspiring. Mainly because over 1 lakh youth are chanting “Joy Bangla” (Long Live Bangladesh).

This was the war cry of the Mukti Joddhas (war veterans) who liberated the country in 1971. I haven’t heard that slogan in over 40 years since the country was liberated.

I was a Mukti Joddha. I joined the underground movement in April 1971, a month after the liberation struggle began. I was a student of the (now defunct) Central college.

I spoke fluent English and Urdu and was tasked with reconnaissance and arranging getaways for guerrillas who did their hit-and-run raids out of Dhaka. If the Pakistanis caught me, the punishment was death.

But death would come after slow brutal torture where they would try and extract the names of all my collaborators from me. I guess I was too young to worry about the consequences.

The Joy Bangla slogan became a taboo after the assassination of independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. “Today I walk in the streets shout the slogan without fear, prejudice or being bashful,” Shamsuddin Ahmed, media consultant and writer tells me.

The revival of the war cry of Bangladeshi nationalism is significant. Young people from all walks of life have turned out in their thousands to protest the life sentences handed out to Islamists.

If they persist, Bangladesh could become the world’s first Muslim nation to bury political Islam once for all. It is a devil which needs to be contained. And here’s why.

The struggle against Islamic Pakistan was sparked off in its erstwhile eastern province in March 1971. Nine months later, the new nation of Bangladesh emerged, after a bloody gruesome war for millions of Hindus and Muslim alike.

Pakistan’s marauding army with their local henchmen committed genocide, arson and forced abductions for nine months of liberation war, 4 lakh women were sexually abused, intellectuals murdered and abducted.

Bangladesh war historian Prof. Muntasir Mamoon claims genocide of three million people. These were people whose only crime was to believe in independence of Bangla speaking nation. The marauding Pakistan forces and their henchmen were blamed for the genocide.

The peasants fought the elite Pakistan military forces and their auxiliary forces, largely recruited from among the Bangali Muslim population in the country. War veterans of the Mukti Bahini, a majority of them like me are still alive and active in civil society.

Our spirits are not dampened and we have demanded the trial of these collaborators and war criminals. For forty years our voice was not heard. After nearly 30 years of struggle, we gave up. But we underestimated the new generation.

Their thunderous cry is not just audible over Shahbag Square. It echoes over social media, Twitter and Facebook. It is an angry voice demanding justice.

In the Arab Spring, the protests were anti-government. The Arab protesters objective was to achieve democracy, freedom and justice. In Bangladesh the scenario is dramatically different.

The protesters quest is to seek justice for crimes committed in 1971, when Bangladesh, formerly Eastern province of Pakistan, attained its independence. The crowd listens patiently to chorus, poetry recitation and brief speeches for hours. Thousands chants slogans repeatedly.

Popular belief suggests that Bangladesh is a conservative Sunni Muslim society. The presence of young women at the square belies this. The women are there, with children in tow, on their lap or shoulder way past midnight.

Forty two years after its difficult birth, Bangladesh is witnessing a rebirth in Shahbag Square.

Let’s hope the angry young generation will make our dreams of a secular Bangladesh come true.

In the name of Islam.

There is a secular uprising in Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of people are demanding death penalty for the war criminal Islamists, and the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami, the political party of the Islamic terrirists.

Delawar Hossain Sayedee, one of the most notorious criminals belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, was handed a death sentence by the International war criminal tribunals, after almost a month of non-stop protests against the war criminals at Shahbag. After the verdict was issued, Sayedee’s Islamist followers vandalised cities, burned down Hindu and Buddhist temples, terrorized the whole country, killed innocent people. There is no doubt that in today’s Bangladesh, the Islamists are much more powerful and ferocious than ever.

Where is the world media?

Let’s sing for Bangladesh!

My heartfelt thanks to Tarek Fatah for writing a heart touching piece about Bangladesh.

In a tiny country on the other side of the globe, far away from the glare of celebrity TV anchors and big-shot correspondents in jungle khaki, a revolution is unfolding, but not if you watch CNN, BBC or CBC.

For two weeks now, hundreds of thousands people from young men and women, aging former guerrilla fighters and grandmothers who still carry the scars of violence, have occupied the Shahbag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The collective anger of a nation, simmering for over 40 years below the surface, finally erupted this month.

The roots of this resentment lay in the genocide of the Bengali people that started in March 1971 by the Pakistan Army and its accuses jihadi collaborators, the mullahs of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The military-sanctioned massacres did not stop until nine months later in December that year when the Indian Army intervened and the Pakistan military promptly surrendered.

From the ashes of a war and three million dead people choking its rivers, the new country of Bangladesh emerged…

For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties. One would have expected the western intelligentsia to be thrilled at this development and for the media to report from the square, but the Walter Cronkites of the world are no more.

Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh

Today too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore.

‘For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties.’ Nothing can be better than mass protests against fascism and barbarism. I am not really supporting the execution of war criminals as I am against the death penalty. If you do not want to do anything but to cry for the death penalty, you can cry as much as you want. The people who are for abolishing the death penalty will not lend you their shoulders to cry on. I support the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami. In Bangladesh, it is nothing but a terrorist organization. The religious terrorist organizations should be banned if we want true democracy, human rights, women’s freedom and freedom of expression.

The Shahbag movement should be led by secular progressive people. If the political parties hijack the movement, they will definitely ruin it. All the political parties in Bangladesh made the fascist Jamaat-e-Islami their allies in the past. It is foolish to trust them.

George Harrison died. The great people of the ‘concert for Bangladesh’ are not here. They are not singing for Bangladesh. But we, humanists, secularists, and dreamers are still alive. Let’s sing for Bangladesh! Let’s make our dreams come true. Let’s encourage people of Bangladesh to make their country a secular country without poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions,a country without religionism, fanaticism, fascism, barbarism, a country without crimes and corruption!

Bangladesh! A fucked-up country! (Warning: Violent image)


Rajib Haider Shuvo, a 26 years old architect, one of the organizers of the Shahbag movement, a talented young atheist blogger was brutally killed by the Islamists last night. His throat was slit. His criticism of Islam was far milder than my criticism of Islam which were published 26 years ago in Bangladesh. He wrote blogs under the pen name thaba baba. I wrote my anti-religion articles and books in late 80’s using my real name. Thaba baba was killed. I survived but I was forced to leave Bangladesh 20 years ago. I would surely get killed like Rajib if I lived in that country. I was on the top of the hit list made by Islamic terrorists.

Bangladesh is a hopelessly pathetic country. A pure fucked-up country. The country has been controlled by the Islamists. The society has been rottened by the Islamists. The people have been manipulated by the Islamists. Atheists get killed. A few weeks ago, another Bengali atheist blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, was brutally stabbed by the Islamists. He quite brilliantly mocked Allah and Islam. Asif is now fighting for his life. No doubt, Bangladesh sucks.

The Islamization of Bangladesh started in the mid ’80s. Most people remained silent for decades. Now some young bloggers and online activists started a country-wide awareness campaign against war criminals. A very few of them are against Islam and Islamists. Their Shahbag movement could turn to a positive political movement for a secular democracy. But Islamists already have shown their strength by stabbing and killing enlightened bloggers. It will definitely scare many people at Shahbag.

A war is needed in Bangladesh, a war between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism, between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith, between those who strive to go forwards, and those who strive to go backwards, a war between modernism and barbarism, humanism and Islamism, between innovation and tradition, future and past, between those who value freedom and those who do not.

Will an uncompromising fight against Islamists be possible in a already fucked-up country?

Shahbag is a new Tahrir Square


After Arab Spring, Tahrir revolution, and the victory of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in Egypt, I am not impressed by the crowd. Bangladesh’s Shahbag is now like a tiny Tahrir Square. Facebook and Twitter generation gathered at Shahbag to demand death penalty for Abdul Kader Mullah, the war criminal. He raped and killed people during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, more than 40 years ago. The war criminal gets life imprisonment, but the Shahbag crowd is not happy, wants death penalty for him. As more people join the crowd, Shahbag starts asking death penalty for all war criminals. The fact is, all war criminals are Islamists. They did not want to be separated from Pakistan, a country based on Islam.

The Shahbag crowd is desperate to execute an old war-criminal-Islamist. What would they do to the millions of growing young Islamists in Bangladesh? I questioned. The crowd has made it clear that they are not against Islam or Islamists, they are against criminals, rapists, and murderers of 1971. The Tahrir crowd was against Mubarak but not against Islamists. The Shahbag crowd is quite similar to the Tahrir crowd. The Shahbag crowd is against war criminals but not against Islamists.

Four hundred thousand Islamists gathered in the streets demanded my execution by hanging in Bangladesh in 1994, much bigger than today’s Shahbag crowd. In 20 years, Islamists have gained their strength quite a lot. The Bangladesh government filed a case against me on the charges of hurting religious feelings and threw me out of the country. No government has shown courage yet to allow me to enter the country since then. Since then no people, no organization, no media protested against the heinous crime committed by the fundamentalists and the state against an innocent writer.

I believe if Islamists now want to have a public meeting in Bangladesh, they will be able to make 100 times bigger crowd than the Shahbag crowd. More people go to Madrasas than to facebook or twitter or blogs. More people are brainwashed to be Islamists than to be non-Islamists, more people are conservative, religious than progressive and enlightened. Much more women are veiled now than before. Now much more men go to mosques to pray than before. I lost hopes I had for Bangladesh many years ago. I probably should have new hopes, because young people at least are fighting against war criminals, a bunch of rapists and mass murderers, who have been forgiven, given opportunities, adored, respected, empowered by the worthless politicians and military since the independence of Bangladesh. I sympathize with young people at Shahbag, I can show my solidarity, but I can not support capital punishment for anymore, not even for the biggest enemy of mine, for whatever crimes they commit, not even for my assassin. I strongly believe everyone has the right to live. Bad ruling systems, bad societal systems, bad education or lack of education make people bad, corrupt, criminal, extremists.

I asked a Shahbag revolutionary, ‘Abdul Kader Mullah is now 64. He will die in prison while serving life sentence. Why are you asking for his execution?’
He said, ‘He will be freed by the next government.’
I said, ‘Then you should start protesting again the way you are protesting now. There will be second Shahbag!’
He did not like my arguments, so he called me bad names.

If those war criminals or Islamists want to kill a person, that is me, not the Shahbag crowd. They know very well who their real enemy is. They hounded me for decades. I am against all kinds of religious fundamentalists, against Islamists, against war criminals, but I am also against the death penalty. People in an uncivilized corrupt country drowned in Islamism get crazy to hang an old man. By killing Abdul Kader Mullah along with all war criminals, you will not be able to get rid of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, patriarchy, misogyny, corruption, Islamism – your real enemies. Until you fight your real enemies, none of your revolution is a real revolution.