Tasneem Khalil’s story


by Sunny
18th February, 2008 at 3:18 am    

In May last year I blogged about news I heard then that Bangladeshi writer and blogger Tasneem Khalil had been arrested by the military police. The story was picked up across other news media once Human Rights Watch also issued a statement and bloggers across the world, especially Drishtipat, Mash and Global Voices started sounding the alarm. Even after he was released, around 24 hours later, Tasneem went into hiding.

Then last week I got this email:

Dear All:
This has been a long overdue. But before writing to you I talked to myself at a length and decided that the first thing I need to do is to tell the world what exactly happened to me on May 11, 2007. For me it was not a easy battle. Given my weak and feeble character I had to fight first with myself and come in terms with the truth, with the sheer ugliness of what I was forced to go through. Add to that the fact that fleeing a country with a six-month old son is a disastrous business. So, I hope that you will forgive me for not writing this mail earlier. That night I have seen how inhuman people can be, how they have developed a science of killing one’s soul.

I could have easily lost my faith on humanity if you did not stand by me and my family at those darkest hours of my life. No language can describe what that support means to me. The difference between my dead body and my freedom was drawn with the love and support I received from you. To all the editors, writers, commenters and visitors of Drishtipat, Somewhere in Blog, Pickled Politics, Butterflies and Wheels, other blog networks and individual bloggers who campaigned for my release from DGFI custody: I remember and I will remember, for ever.

The report is online at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/bangladesh0208

Tasneem had to seek asylum in Sweden with his newly married wife because Bangladesh still remains unstable. This story of torture has only just come out and was also been mentioned in the Guardian and CNN. Thankfully, this story has ended well. Bangladesh however still remains under military rule. Mash continues to cover the situation there (though he’s been a bit obsessed with Barack Obama lately, like us all).


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Filed in: Bangladesh,Current affairs,South Asia






29 Comments below   |  

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  1. Sid — on 18th February, 2008 at 8:08 am  

    See blogs do count. They raised the alarm where others were oblivious to what was going on. They literally saved this man’s life. If there wasn’t an international outcry, which the military/civilian government were and still are painfully sensitive to, there’s no doubt that the ‘Intelligence Forces’ would have killed Tasneem.

    The tragedy is that are plenty more people like Tasneem for whom there was no outcry, no noise and who have been tortured and even killed in custody with absolutely no impunity.

  2. douglas clark — on 18th February, 2008 at 9:59 am  

    Sid

    I do so hope so.

  3. Kulvinder — on 19th February, 2008 at 7:47 am  

    Its a traumatic thing to go through; i wish him and his family well.

  4. sonia — on 19th February, 2008 at 11:58 am  

    thanks for posting this Sunny. its very important to tell Tasneem’s story – he has very luckily survived to tell his tale – when many others are not so lucky – but everyone needs to know what is happening in Bangladesh. Too many people aren’t seeing this “underbelly” – and the slide towards totalitarianism

  5. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 12:27 pm  

    Drishtipat isn’t a Scottish-Bangladeshi organisation either, if that matters at all! Drishtipat is an organisation that highlights human rights abuses in Bangladesh and is therefore not aligned to this or that party or narrow regional worldview.

    If you must satisfy your “exclusively Sylhety” fixation, then by all means create your own organisation and blog that deals with your issues.

  6. Ashik — on 27th February, 2008 at 1:50 pm  

    UK-based groups like Brit-Bangla, Network Bangla, Bobnetwork & BBPA are Sylheti dominated. In the UK Bangladesh=Sylhet. These groups have young British born/bought up professional Sylheti members with a focus on the community in the UK and some charity work in Sylhet. They are NOT political. We do not need immigrant groups like DP with allegiances to the nepotistic/violent political culture in BD. The Dhakaiya language your group speaks and it’s attendant culture (much like Latin) is dead in the UK. Embrace your inner Sylhetiness!

  7. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 2:01 pm  

    Drishtipat deals with wider issues such as working with pro-democracy groups, human rights violations in Bangladesh and the Middle East, anti-Islamist politics and is VERY political because of the nature of the projects it covers.

    If you have no interest in these issues then why should you feel so unsettled and threatended by it’s agendae, unless you support torture, Jamaati Islami and military autocracy?

    Drishtipat isn’t soliciting anything from you and has no interest in criticising Sylheti identity politics, if that floats your boat.

  8. Ashik — on 27th February, 2008 at 2:45 pm  

    Are you a member of DP?

    Why do you want to add AL v BNP mara mari to the problems of Islamic fundamentalism in the UK/US/Canada? Look forwards not backwards.

    A genuine NGO group should always act in a NEUTRAL apolitical manner. Yet various DP members write for the Pro-AL Daily Star (DP). One DP member (not naming names) is the grand-daughter of an AL founding member and also the daughter of the DS editor! Another Hindu DP member visited Sheikh Hasina in the UK. Does DP have similar links with other BD parties?

    DP is Anti-Sylheti. Can you explain the defamatory and extremely Pro Bangla TV and anti ChannelS article DP ran with in the aftermath of the First Solution scandal? Even though investigations are still pending by UK financial/licensing authorities? BOTH channels are being investigated. The Dhakaiya BTV and establishment dislike the more popular Sylheti language programming of ChannelS.

    In addition, Asif Saleh (as Srabon) on the Bangla Cricket forum made fun of the Brit Sylheti High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury because he speaks Sylheti. Who is Mr. Saleh to poke fun at our man in BD? Other members like Mahboob Alam have made worse remarks. Finally, the very first DP London event concentrated on garment factory workers. An industry effectively based in Dhaka. Concentrating on the financial security in the remittance industry would have been more appropriate given the investment our ethnic group makes.

  9. sonia — on 27th February, 2008 at 2:51 pm  

    good points sid.

    and goodness, not more region-related identity politics – this is so crazy. what tribalism. At a time like this too, talking about someone who was tortured. what a mean spiritied little person, feudal dynamism indeed, the irony. who cares whether tasneem was sylheti or was from pabna or from bloody kushtia or wherever the hell? that’s not the bloody point, this is about what a repressive regime is doing, and the need to speak out about it. what the hell has it got to do with what immigrants are in the UK or not? its not anything to do with who’s who in the UK or isn’t. or immigrants, really this obsession with me me me im an immigrant so bloody what, get over it.

    and why is there this silly idea that someone knows which ‘group’ who belongs to? how did talking about someone who was tortured by a military regime in a country in the indian subcontinent then have anything to do with who speaks dhakaiya or who doesn’t. as if you don’t speak sylheti you MUST speak dhakaiya. there are plenty of other places too!

    Really petty, just goes to show the sad state of human rights when someone says ‘well actually..so and so is from region X therefore…’

    what might people think when they read this stuff? no wonder bangladesh is in such a sad state, look how the people have such a complete lack of egalitarianism? ‘oh we can’t help him! he’s from pabna and we’re not!’ Ridiculous indeed.

  10. sonia — on 27th February, 2008 at 2:54 pm  

    with such a petty mentality, its just as well you stay out of the human rights issues Ashik, don’t sound like you’d make anything better.

  11. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 3:15 pm  

    Ashik, I hate to break it ya kid, but Asif Saleh is Sylheti! And there are many young British-Sylheti folks in the group in the UK.

    Asif also happens to be one of the most articulate, fearless critics of Bangladeshi human rights record. It is DP that broke the news about Tasneem Khalil, it is DP that has consistently brought up the record of torture and the failure of due-process by the ruling military government. It is not partisan in any way so you are quite mistaken about that.

    You’re obviously trapped in some kind of offended Sylheti sensibility flux. If people are critical of the British HC in Bangladesh, you get offended because he’s Sylheti? And not because he’s a misinformed idiot who backs the military CTG uncritically? Think about it…

  12. sonia — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:06 pm  

    :-) tell all this to your local councillor ashiq. they’re the ones concerned about your opinion about representation.

    (why not include some people from Mongolia while you’re at it, won’t be “representative” without them will it? why are you leaving them out? are you viciously anti-mongolian or something?)

    seeing as DP is a non-profit it can choose to make anyone a beneficiary it pleases, and involve no one, if they’re getting public funds from Tower Hamlets to do ‘community consultation’ and you’re a resident, then you can start complaining about representative resident involvement.

    till then, sorry, but you’re not the centre of the world unfortunately :-)

    If i want to set up a charity to help cats tomorrow, i don’t need you to sit on my board, whether you’re sylheti, martian or mongolian. it’s nothing to do with you, unless you’re linked as a stakeholder somehow to where i’m getting public money from, and part of the cat sector or something.

  13. sonia — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:08 pm  

    personally, it amuses me when all the dhakaiya/sylheti stuff starts, as if dhakaiya is meant to be shudho bangla or something. and it makes me laugh that any sylheti might not realize that each region is just as precious, and that there’s nothing ‘unified’ about anyone in bangladesh. what a giggle.

  14. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:26 pm  

    A HR group should be representative.

    Human rights abusers don’t care which district of Bangladesh youre parents hail from.

    Sorry, DP is not interested in petty regional issues of British-Bangladeshis who simply want to wallow in self-pity, play the race-card and the uncle-tom card at any opportunity.

    All that personal, unresolved baggage of “Sylheti ethnocentrism” you need to deal with in your own space. That’s not an issue for DP to deal with.

    Try prozac.

  15. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:33 pm  

    Or a bag of maltesers. same difference. ;)

  16. Ashik — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:34 pm  

    It’s really simple. Two points.

    1. DP involves itself in Awami League politics. It is not politically neutral. A GENUINE HR organisation NEEDS to be NEUTRAL.

    2. DP London membership is predominantly Dhakaiya. A group whose language/culture is somewhat DIFFERENT to the Sylhetis. DP cannot fight for HR issues like representative democracy in Bangladesh when DP ITSELF IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE in it’s area of operation. Not on.

    DP brings the work of genuine NGO’s (Bangladesh has a vibrant sector eg. Grameen and BRAC) into disrepute.

    Ps. Response re: Drishtipat’s biased article in the B TV v ChannelS embroglio would be appreciated. :)

  17. sonia — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:44 pm  

    heh that was quite funny sid, especially the bit about prozac.

    and just think – maltesers doesn’t even have those horrible side effects! what were all those people thinking??!

    this is why i refuse to go to the psychiatrist for whatever personality/mental disorder i clearly have..

  18. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 4:51 pm  

    Sonia, why have prozac when you can smoke-a-da-weed?
    A bag of M&M chocolate peanuts saved my life once.

  19. Ruzi — on 27th February, 2008 at 6:14 pm  

    Drishtipat has disgusting racist members. like DPs Zubair and looks like Sid and Sonia as well. THIS IS WHAT SO-CALLED HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DP THINK OF SYLHETIS::

    ‘What are Sylhetis’?

    ‘Another answer to that might be fu*king barbarians. It has the virtue of being both short and correct. For anyone who had to live through an Eid in the East End like I did two days ago would concur. Even as I was walking home at midnight, there were Sylheti monkeys hanging out of the windows of speeding cars, screaming and shouting, clogging up the entire length of Whitechapel Road. It had been that way all day. Parking their cars in the side roads and blasting ghetto music from the car speakers and dancing, some of them piss-drunk and puking all over the pavements, every last *beep* either a druggie or a dropout if not both.

    And not a grown-up in sight to see what’s going on? Oh wait, they’re too busy looking for clueless cousins from back home to staple on to these chimpanzees’.

    Did Zubair get banned off Drishtipat for this? No. Nothing happened.

  20. Ruzi — on 27th February, 2008 at 6:25 pm  

    If Sonia and Sid want to be uber Bangladeshis closer to their culture/politics they should return back to Bangladesh. can you get three square meals? stop trying to recreate your homeland here. This is england!. What is it with freshie types anyway? :rolleyes: Why the insecurity?

    If you want to do Human Rights for other people in Bangladesh then you have to show Human rights in the way your group deals with other people. if Amnesty International had a member or volunteer that was racist then they they would suspend them and apologise. DP don’t do nothing against their members.

  21. Ruzi — on 27th February, 2008 at 6:31 pm  

    I WANT DP TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION PUT TO THEM:

    ‘Can you explain the defamatory and extremely Pro Bangla TV and anti ChannelS article DP ran with in the aftermath of the First Solution scandal? Even though investigations are still pending by UK financial/licensing authorities’?

    i dont like this Sylhet/dhaka fighting too much. But dhaka people are dishonest and pretend they dont discriminate Then when they come to america or Britain they cry when we point out their racist doings and say we wont help them.

  22. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 6:45 pm  

    The First Solution scandal involved a Bangladeshi businessman whose cash remittance service based in London collapsed because he was trading with corrupt politicians “back home”. Resulting in the loss of millions of pounds that belonged to hundreds of British people in East London. DP took up he cause of the victims and called for a public inquiry. And it was perfectly correct in doing so.

    Incidentally, the businessman was a non-Sylheti and the victims were almost entirely Sylheti. Are you sure you’ve have your “ethnocentric” priorities right? :D

  23. thara — on 27th February, 2008 at 7:07 pm  

    Regarding the First Solution fiasco, DP article quite clearly decended into personal attacks made against Mahe Ferdus of ChannelS.Slanted against ChannelS. The article concerned strayed into criticising ‘religion traders’ and ‘use of Islam’ (?!?). The DP article therefore did nothing to promote the cause of the victims. Article didn’t even have contact details for groups helping them recoup money.

    http://www.drishtipat.org/blog/2007/07/02/first-solutions-fazal-mahmood/

    Even Sid said (quote) ::::
    ‘But it is quite distastful to see the media blatantly invade the personal privacy of the proprietors. Some Bangla TV channels even broadcasted Fazal Mahmood’s home address and other personal details live on air.

    Are their legal teams aware that here in the UK, there is such a thing as the Data Protection Act, which could be used to prosecute this kind of violation’?

    Even some members of those responding
    had concerns about the article & responses. So why is Sid scamming now? Why on arth did DP dip it’s toes into this conytoversy? To sell Dhakaya secularism and to malign ChannelS?

  24. thara — on 27th February, 2008 at 7:14 pm  

    Drishtipat no doubts holds Bangladesh government to high standard of human rights. Why is it so many DP member in London they fall so short in their personal conduct? This does not reflect well on DP.

    What happemned to DP Zubair?

  25. thara — on 27th February, 2008 at 7:21 pm  

    sonja said:

    ‘seeing as DP is a non-profit it can choose to make anyone a beneficiary it pleases, and involve no one,’

    A salient point. But British Bangladeshis tend to be Sylheti. So DP must have done something to put off Sylhetis getting on board. I think it was prolly the concentration of people who knew each other from back in dhaka hmmm@@@also cultural shows we don’t understand and that look bit fresh sorry, old fashioned does nothing for us. at Kings we have shunali shondya and invite Sylheti artists like kaya and Sylheti rappers and Hasson Raza singers and Dhaya ones.

  26. Sid — on 27th February, 2008 at 10:56 pm  

    Regarding the First Solution fiasco, DP article quite clearly decended into personal attacks made against Mahe Ferdus of ChannelS.Slanted against ChannelS.

    So let me get this right. You are saying that it was wrong of Dristipat to have an article on its blog about the First Solution scam because one of it’s partners is a Sylheti? How come you’re not concerned that the brunt of BanglaTV’s sensationalist and scandolous coverage was borne by the other partner, Dr Fazal Mahmud, who isn’t? Sylheti, that is. ;)

    Are you really defending First Solution and suggesting that DP shouldn’t be critical of a money laundering outfit that scammed a few thousand people of millions of pounds?

    Do you realise that because of this skewed faux-binary of Sylheti/Non-Sylheti, you end up disregarding the real victims who many who lost their entire life savings AND were mostly Sylheti?

    Thanks for posting my comment from the DP blog which confirms I attacked Bangla TV’s coverage of the First Solution Fiasco. I still do. Nothing’s changed. Doesn’t mean I endorse the fuckers who scammed ordinary members of the public, which you seem ready to do.

  27. stratford — on 28th February, 2008 at 1:03 am  

    Thara, you must be the most pathetic attention seeker on the internet. Go make your own pro-Sylheti group. If DP doesn’t want you, then DP doesn’t want you. Stop whining or crying over it. Be a man for once.

  28. Sunny — on 28th February, 2008 at 1:30 am  

    Jeez, what is up with all this fighting? Can we not even celebrate Tasneem’s release without all these jibes at each other?

  29. Ashik — on 28th February, 2008 at 9:39 am  

    Ruzi:
    ‘Did Zubair get banned off Drishtipat for this’?

    Why would DP act to discipline their member? Most of the DP ‘human rights activists’ hold similar disparaging views about Sylhetis. Zubair’s only mistake was being caught out publicly. These DP people are on the outside looking in.

    DP can’t hold the Bangladeshi govt to account over representative democracy in Bangladesh because DP’s own membership is not representative.

    DP use events like the First Solution Scandal for political ideological purposes. Not to help the victims. Otherwise why would the DP article mention religious businesses and ChannelS’s ALLEGED collusion in financial dealings? Irrelevance and speculation. Even Sid had to mention in the article that nothing was proved. Yet he is here now defending g it tooth and nail. Hypocracy knows no bounds.

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