Three Catholic women get death threats over flats in Dhaka
by Sumon Corraya

They had exchanged their land with a Muslim developer for flats. Now they are forced to rent and have had their lives threatened.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Three Catholic women have received death threats because they dared to ask a wealthy Muslim developer what they had been promised, namely flats. The story came to light last week.

A Catholic attorney, Rita Giomes, is one of the victims of the latest property dispute in Bangladesh. She  spoke to AsiaNews about it.

"We are women and Christians. This is why the developed has threatened us instead of giving us our due. He said he would shoot at us like birds if we ask for our flats.” Tearful, she said on camera what happened to her and her family.

After a lot of sacrifices and hard work, her father had bought a small plot of land in Kafrul, a neighbourhood in Dhaka, where he had built a modest home. When he died eight years ago, Rita, her mother Uasha and her sister Jhomur decided to sell the land on which they lived to a company owned by a Muslim, Md Ishak Migha.

According to the agreement, the developer was going to build an eight-storey residential complex and give 11 flats to the Catholic women. This would have allowed them to have more hope for a better future without the man of the family.

But once the land was handed over, Migha renegued on his pledge and told the women that he would not give them any flat.

Recently, Rita Gomes took the case to court in the capital and at a press conference called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to do something.

"According to the property deed, we were supposed to get a new flat within the first six months,” she explained. “Instead, years have gone by, and we have received only death threats. This situation shows how Christians live in this country: in fear. Even though I am a lawyer, I cannot beat injustice."

Contacted by AsiaNews, the Muslim developer defended himself and rejected all the charges. On the contrary, he claims that “the Catholic women are harassing me. There are no roads to the building I built so I can never sell the flats."

"He is lying," Gomes said, noting that anyone who visits the site can see it. In fact, the building is served by a road wide enough for a bus to drive through.

The Gomeses have asked for the mediation of Catholic authorities and Christian leaders, but nothing has been done against the developer.

"On several occasions we went to Migha's home,” said Noel Gomes, a Christian leader. “We tried to talk to him, but his reactions have always been aggressive and he has used foul language against Christians.”

“We are peaceful people,” said Uasha Gomes. "We want to live in peace and we thought that by giving our land to the developer we could do so. Instead, we have been forced to rent. I am sick and I don’t have the money to buy medicines.”