02/15/2013, 00.00
BANGLADESH

Shahbagh, Bangladesh's 'Tahrir Square', against war crimes

Sumon Francis Gomes
Hundreds of thousands of people in Dhaka want the death penalty for members of the Islamic party involved in massacres, torture and rape during the War of Independence (1971). Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami supporters wreck havoc in the city.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - For the past ten days, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against the Jamaat-e-Islami party for war crimes committed by its members dating back to 1971. Last night, men and women of every age and social background held a vigil in memory of the victims of the conflict in Shahbagh, a Dhaka neighbourhood dubbed by many as Bangladesh's 'Tahrir Square' because never before has civil society expressed so clearly its opposition to what happened during the war of liberation.

The movement began online with bloggers and activists after Abdul Quader Mollah, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in rapes, killings and torture during the war that led to Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. Quickly, the movement turned into mass protest after Shahbagh was invaded after 5 February by people calling for the death penalty for Mollah and other leaders.

According to Dipti Das, a former student at Dhaka University and a member of the movement, "the nation cannot forget these criminals."

To make their protest more effective, demonstrators have begun boycotting all commercial activities, offices, banks and cultural circles associated with Jamaat-e-Islami.

Meanwhile, clashes continue with supporters of the Islamist party, which has challenged the court's decisions on Jamaat's role in the war. On a regular basis, party militants engage in hartal (strikes) that often degenerate in violent incidents with police. In the latest case on Wednesday, one person was killed.

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