North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bangladesh - 32 years later

This week, the country of Bangladesh was back in the news. A top Bangladeshi court ruled earlier in the week that a leader of the country's largest Islamist party was guilty of war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. According to an account in USA Today, March 1, Delwar Hossain Sayedee - one of the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamic party - was sentenced to death "for mass killings, rape and atrocities committed during the bloody nine-month war. ... Protesters clashed with police for a second day Friday as the death toll rose to at least 44.

Sayadee, unique because of his striking red beard, becomes the latest political leader that is also been found guilty of war crimes.

The article continues, "Passions have boiled over in recent weeks as tribunals have tried suspects on accusations they committed crimes during the country's war for independence from Pakistan. Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the fighting. Sayedee, a teacher at an Islamic seminary school when he allegedly committed the crimes, is the third defendant to be convicted of war crimes by the special tribunal set up in 2010. His lawyer Abdur Razzak rejected the verdict as politically motivated. He said his client will appeal to the country's Supreme Court."

Jamaat-e-Islami, a major political party in Bangladesh has called out its members to create violent protests on behalf of Sayedee. (Teatree wonders, whether this is a call for justice to be done, or simply to reject justice that has been done?)

Click on image for full picture
On the other hand, this photo from AlJazeera, shows the rejoicing of many other Bangladeshi's with the verdict, with the opinion that finally, after decades of neglect, some justice is being accomplished.

That's the story - it highlights a number of issues. One is certainly the history of Bangladesh, which was once part of Pakistan, which itself was partitioned in the aftermath of World War II from India.

The name Bangladesh means "Country of Bengal" in the official Bengali language, and it faces the Bay of Bengal to its south. Bangladesh has a population of 147 million, it is an extremely low lying country that endures typhoons, seasonal flooding, and is at risk from any rise of ocean elevation.

Once known as East Pakistan, it broke free from Pakistan in 1971 ... As Wikipedia puts it, " Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination and economic neglect by the politically dominant western wing, popular agitation grew and gave rise to a secular cultural nationalist movement, leading to the declaration of independence and Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. In the aftermath of war and independence, the new state endured poverty, famine, political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress."

In this apparently old map, Ceylon, at the tip of India, is now called Sri Lanka, and Burma is now called Myanmar

Another issue is the court itself. Called the International Crimes Tribunal, one Bangladeshi newspaper describes it as "a domestic body with no international oversight, was created by the government in 2010 and has been tainted by allegations it is politically motivated." So the question becomes, indeed, is this justice served or retribution - one would think that setting up such a body headed into the murky world of war crimes would want a larger international network of legal support behind it. The absence of which allows, as we are seeing, protests regarding its legitimacy. A total of 11 top opposition figures — nine from the Jamaat party and two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — stand accused of war crimes.

As the article notes, "Both Jamaat and the BNP have called the cases “politically motivated and farcical”. International rights groups have questioned the proceedings and found loopholes in the war crime laws."

The third issue, is of course, the nature of the crimes themselves. As a UK Guardian newspaper article notes, "Much of the mistrust is rooted in Bangladesh's tumultuous past. Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan in 1971. The Pakistani army fought and lost a brutal nine-month war with Bengali fighters and Indian forces that had intervened. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died, many of them at the hands of Islamist militia groups who wanted the country to remain part of Pakistan. .. Full article at

Bangladesh has its own images of the cost of freedom, and the price war brings.

More specifically, according to an article at Forbes Magazine, "Many academics state that the first time rape was consciously applied as a weapon of war was during the Bangladesh War of Independence." Between 200,000 and 400,000 rapes occurred, as can be read about in the article -

This photo shows a commemoration connected with the violence committed towards women during the 1971 war with Pakistan. A blog posting on the subject can be found at

So, one can hope that Bangladesh is truly coming to grips with its past - a good place to start from, even if decades later.

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