TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Islamist Party Chief Sentenced to Death

Nizami chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami addresses a rally in Dhaka
Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami addresses a rally in Dhaka on Feb. 11, 2006 Rafiquar Rahman—Reuters

Motiur Rahman Nizami was tried on 16 charges, including genocide, murder, torture, rape and destruction of property

(DHAKA, BANGLADESH) — A special tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced the head of the country’s largest Islamist party to death for his role in the deaths of thousands during the nation’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.

The head of a three-judge panel, M. Enayetur Rahim, announced the verdict Wednesday against Motiur Rahman Nizami in a packed courtroom in the nation’s capital of Dhaka. The 71-year-old Nizami was in the dock for the announcement.

Nizami, a former Cabinet minister, was tried on 16 charges, including genocide, murder, torture, rape and destruction of property.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people, raped 200,000 women and forced about 10 million people to take shelter in refugee camps across the border in neighboring India during the nine-month war.

TIME Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Protests Are Creating a More Ethnically Unified City

Members from Hong Kong's South Asian community take part in a protest for democracy on October 9, 2014 in the Central district of Hong Kong. Holing Yip

Many members of Hong Kong's non-Chinese community have been swept up in the Umbrella Revolution

Jeffrey Andrews, a 29-year-old social worker of Indian origin, got a call from a Pakistani friend on the night of Sept. 28, when thousands of Hong Kong people, many of them students, had begun to occupy the streets to demand greater democracy. “What are we doing?” his friend said. “We should be out there with the students, this is our city.”

Andrews agreed, and the next day they mobilized a group of about 35 of their peers, printed banners that read “Hong Kong is our home, we ethnic minorities strive for democracy” and headed to Admiralty, the main protest site. Andrews admits that he was unsure what kind of reception and acceptance they would get from the ethnically Chinese crowd.

“As soon as we got out with our banners people just applauded, and we were so encouraged,” he said. And they’ve been going back there every night since then.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have flooded the streets since the end of September, defying Beijing in a protest that is widely seen as the most politically significant movement in China in more than two decades. Among the crowds are many non-Chinese, who insist that they too belong to the Umbrella Revolution, as the protests are being called, and that it belongs to them.

“Of course it is our movement,” says 19-year-old Kenny Omar, born and brought up in Hong Kong but Somali by origin. “We’re born here, we’re citizens, we support them.”

“This is just as much my city as it is anyone else’s,” says Nick, 23, a filmmaker of Indian origin who did not wish to give his last name. “I think the movement is way past race and ethnicity, it’s deep down in the core of humanity.”

His friend Kamal Mirwani, a travel writer who proudly sports the iconic Hong Kong skyline as a tattoo down his right leg, says the drive for full political rights has real urgency. “This is our chance — this is the only chance we get,” he says.

According to the 2011 census, Hong Kong is home to over 450,000 people of non-Chinese ethnicity, making up 6.4% of its total population. Some, like the Indians and Parsis, trace their roots back to the founding of modern Hong Kong as a British colony in 1841, when they were drawn by the fledgling settlement’s possibilities for trade. Others, like the Pakistanis and the Nepalese, came to provide the policing and military muscle of what was then an outpost of the Raj. Still later communities — like the Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos — came in large numbers to do domestic work as Hong Kong prospered into a global financial hub.

A few non-Chinese, particularly from the South Asian community, have become fabulously wealthy. But in general, Hong Kong’s minorities often face various problems, particularly in the fields of education and employment. According to government statistics, nearly two-thirds of the ethnic minority population earns less than $500 a month, in a city where the median income is more than three times that.

For several of them, supporting Hong Kong’s democracy campaign takes precedence over their pocketbook woes. “I think with this movement right now, it’s so important that we’re focused on the development of democracy, that we’re not really talking explicitly about other issues,” said Holing Yip, research officer for ethnic minority advocacy group Hong Kong Unison. “People are noticing ethnic minorities being a part of Hong Kong, being participants.”

Yip points out that ethnic minorities have always been involved in protest movements in Hong Kong, but says that she has seen an overwhelming sense of solidarity that sets the Umbrella Revolution apart.

“They really see this as a movement that they need to be a part of,” Yip said.

Or at least most do. Others prefer to adopt a neutral stance. “It’s not my job to keep track of what’s happening,” said Mohammad Noor, a 63-year-old Bangladeshi who has lived in Hong Kong for nine years and sells snacks, dates and prayer caps outside the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre. “I think it is injustice to spoil this country,” he said. “It’s giving us a place to stay and work.”

Andrews says his group has faced some opposition of this nature, especially from older members of the community. “All of them say they’ve worked so hard to establish their businesses, and ask why we’re going against the flow of things,” he says. “Many of the Pakistanis even say their country has a great diplomatic relationship with China, that we’re going out and ruining it.” But he also says that negative comments make up only a sliver of the reaction they have encountered.

Unison’s Yip also detects a degree of fatalism. “One of the retorts would be ‘Even if the majority Chinese come out and they can’t do anything, what makes us feel like we can?’” she says. “But the others will say, ‘We are a part of this, if they are helpless, we are helpless too.’”

Nick, for his part, admits that he may not entirely subscribe to the ideology of the movement. But he says that’s irrelevant. “It’s less about whether I believe exactly in what’s going on, but I would be out there because I feel like it would affect the people of my city in the right way,” he says. “That’s why I’d be out there, to support them asking for what they believe is the right thing.”

“I think we’re finally being accepted as locals, we’re finally just like one of them,” says Andrews. “No matter what the result is going to be, at the end of the day I think we’re a much more unified Hong Kong than ever before.”

As the movement enters its fourth week, it’s becoming increasingly clear that — regardless of ethnicity — anyone who wants to get beneath the umbrella is welcome.

TIME foreign affairs

Soldiers From Poor Countries Have Become the World’s Peacekeepers

Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights.
Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights. AP

It is an unfair burden for troops who are less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped

On Aug. 28, rebels from the al-Qaeda-allied al-Nusra Front stormed the Golan Heights border crossing between Syria and Israel, home to one of the oldest U.N. peacekeeping operations. While two contingents of Philippine peacekeepers managed to flee the rebel attack, 45 Fijian troops were captured and taken away by the rebels to parts unknown.

The Fijians were finally released on Sept. 11, but the two-week crisis crystallized a persistent yet under-reported fact: while the U.N. calls upon the international community to act in times of crises, it is often soldiers from developing nations who shoulder the stiffest burden.

In 1994, on the heels of the Rwandan genocide, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.) provided 20% of all U.N. peacekeeping personnel.

But by 2004, Security Council nations contributed only 5% of U.N. personnel. This July, amid a tumultuous summer of violent conflicts, that figure had dropped to a miserly 4%, while the governments of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Philippines provided a staggering 39% of all U.N. forces.

Critics can counter this charge with stats of their own. After all, they say, the permanent members contribute 53% of the U.N.’s annual budget, far outstripping financial contributions made by countries of the global south. But recent years have also seen sluggish rates of payment from wealthier nations — delays that further strain an overburdened system supporting 16 peacekeeping missions around the world.

On balance, the troops contributed by developing countries are more likely to be less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped for the missions. Delays in financial contributions only complicate the challenges of modern peacekeeping.

So does the fractured nature of modern conflicts. Military experts, like General Sir Rupert Smith, have noted the shift from “industrial wars” of the past to today’s “war amongst the people.” Modern conflicts involve combatants whose ends are not merely the control of territory or the monopoly of politics. They wage war with their own rules, without concern for the U.N.’s mission to referee.

In response, peacekeeping has been hurriedly ramped up: more comprehensive mandates are issued and troops are cleared to use force in defense of civilians. But in the end, peacekeepers are redundant where there is no peace to keep.

The Golan Heights are no exception. The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force was set up 40 years ago precisely to observe the contentious border between Israel and Syria. Today, the threats aren’t even nation states. The peacekeepers in Golan must contend with spillover from Syria’s three-year-long civil war, and the aggression of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front. They are forced to become soldiers on the front lines of a perpetually asymmetrical conflict, treated as mere machine-gun fodder whenever the international community seeks to stem the spread of terror by piling blue helmets in its way.

In a New York Times op-ed of Aug. 29, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed U.S. intentions to use its position as president of the Security Council to coordinate a response to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East.

“The United States … will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters,” Kerry wrote, adding that “President Obama, addressing the Security Council, would construct a plan to deal with this collective threat.”

For observers, however, events in Golan should serve as a warning. If the U.N. and its leading members intend to tackle collective threats, it is time to address how best to equitably divide the collective risk. In service of international stability, leaders of the developed world have become far too comfortable asking developing countries to put their troops in the line of fire.

Adam McCauley is a Canadian writer and photographer currently based in Hong Kong. His work has appeared in TIME, the New York Times, Al Jazeera and online in the New Yorker.

TIME India

Al-Qaeda Chief Launches New Wing in South Asia

A photo of Al Qaeda's new leader, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011
Al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on Sept. 12, 2011 Reuters TV

Vying with ISIS militants for jihadist followers, al-Qaeda launches a new chapter in the Indian subcontinent

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on Wednesday announced the creation of an Indian branch, boosting his group’s claims to be the world’s foremost jihadists.

In a 55-minute video posted online, al-Zawahiri urges Muslims to “wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate,” reports the BBC.

Counterterrorism experts say al-Qaeda’s announcement is another effort to compete with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which is successfully recruiting young followers from across the world to join its conflict in the Middle East.

The two groups were previously aligned but fell out over ISIS militants’ brutality and expansion into Syria last year.

Al-Zawahiri said al-Qaeda’s presence in the Indian subcontinent would free Muslims from oppression in Burma, Bangladesh and elsewhere across the region.

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 2

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Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hands Digital Vision.—Getty Images

1. As we approach the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, President Obama should make good on his promise to expand this vital program.

By the Editorial Board of the New York Times

2. Journalists still believe they’re writing for the same old reasons, but the data shows they’re chasing clicks, changing the nature of their work.

By Angèle Christin at the Nieman Journalism Lab

3. A dangerous new trend of policing faculty speech at American universities is threatening academic freedom.

By David M. Perry in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. “Infoladies” bring digital services – from filling online forms to collecting health data – to the people of Bangladesh, and could be expanded to serve many more.

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Al Jazeera English

5. The new batteries coming from Tesla’s “Gigafactory” should remove the final barrier to mass-produced electric cars.

By Daniel Sparks in The Motley Fool

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Ferry Capsizes Southwest of Dhaka With 200 Aboard

Rescue effort is in progress

A Bangladeshi river ferry capsized about 18 miles southwest of the capital of Dhaka while crossing the Padma River on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Initial reports said that the boat, called the Pinak-6, was carrying around 200 passengers, though local media has ventured that as many as 250 may have been onboard.

The success of the ongoing rescue operation remains uncertain, though authorities confirmed that two people had died. Tofazzal Hossain, a local police chief, told the Wall Street Journal that at least two people died and, if eyewitness accounts prove correct, as many as 200 people may have perished. Earlier statements that government and military rescue efforts had pulled 44 people from the waters of the Padma River could not be verified.

TIME Bangladesh

You’ll Never Guess Where Some of the Most Fanatical Fans of the Argentina and Brazil Soccer Teams Can be Found

Bangladesh Soccer WCup
A man examines a T-shirt in the style of Brazil's national soccer team, being offered by a street vendor in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 1, 2014 A.M. Ahad—AP

Hint: it's a long way from South America

Correction appended, June 20, 2014

On June 7, groups of Argentina and Brazil fans clashed over the World Cup — but not on the streets of Rio or in a sports bar in Buenos Aires. Instead, the unlikely location was Barisal, which is not — as it vaguely sounds — some upcountry Amazon backwater. It’s a port city of some 270,000 souls on the Kirtankhola River in Bangladesh. And the fans were Bangladeshi.

The trouble began when a Brazil fan, called Mahmud Hasan, was sitting in the dining room of the Barisal Polytechnic Institute and began chanting that the infamous 1986 “Hand of God” goal against England scored by Argentine star player Diego Maradona’s was “illegal.” Argentina fans sitting nearby took umbrage — and the subsequent clash injured 11.

Then, on June 18, in the town of Hatibandha in Bangladesh’s far north, an 18-year-old restaurant worker, Milon Hossain, was killed when rival groups of Argentina and Brazil fans began hurling stones at each other.

Bangladesh is a country in the grip of World Cup madness — and the two South American giants are luring fanatical levels of support.

The flags of Argentina and Brazil are flying everywhere. Local authorities in the western town of Jessore have gotten nationalist angst over the sight of so many foreign flags and tried to ban them, but in vain.

“We don’t mind people wearing jerseys of their favourite teams or [using] billboards or banners,” Mustafizur Rahman, a government administrator, told AFP. “But it does not look good when flags of foreign nations are flying on your rooftops. We have become a nation of Argentina and Brazil.”

The danger isn’t just limited to outbreaks of violence. In the capital Dhaka, at least three enthusiasts have died hanging Argentina flags from the city’s precarious electric wiring. They were later dubbed “World Cup martyrs” by the local press.

Ifty Mahmud, a journalist at Bangladesh’s largest daily newspaper, the Prothom Alo, says support for Brazil is rooted in Bangladeshi poverty. The Brazil team also “looks like us,” explains Ifty, “just see Pelé, Romário and Neymar, they are dark-skinned so are we, [Brazil] are poor, so are we.”

Support for Argentina, meanwhile, has an “anticolonial character, because Maradona beat the English,” the country’s former colonial ruler. “Beckham is not popular here.” Maradona meanwhile, “is crazy, Bangladeshis love crazy people!”

“The way he cheated the colonial power, because it was daylight cheating, had symbolic resonance,” concurs Abu Ahasan, a researcher and anthropologist at BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, though these days it is known solely by the acronym). “The same thing happened with Muhammad Ali and the West Indies cricket team; it captured the imagination.”

The Argentina team, perhaps aware of their huge support base in Bangladesh, made a rare visit to the country in September 2011 playing Nigeria in a friendly match at Bangladesh’s packed national stadium. Current Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi shimmied his way into the nation’s affections, and giant screens were erected around the city for fans who could not get tickets.

Such is the fanaticism for the two South American teams that members of an E.U. mission have been trying to understand why European teams aren’t more popular. Despite the game being introduced in the country by the British, its mournful memo pointed out, “there are hardly any visible England flags on the streets.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of a journalist. He is Ifty Mahmud, not Ifty Islam.

TIME Bangladesh

Death Toll Climbs in Bangladesh Ferry Disaster

A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district
A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district May 16, 2014. Reuters

It’s unclear how many people were on board when the ship capsized on a stormy river Thursday

At least 29 people were killed and more than 100 remain missing after a ferry capsized Thursday during a storm on the Meghna River near Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

It was unclear exactly how many people were aboard the ship, since the ferry did not maintain a list of passengers. An investigation is underway to determine if the vessel was overcrowded, the Associated Press reports.

Officials told the AP they were trying to locate the ferry crew, who they believe may have left the area after the accident.

Ferry accidents due to overcrowding and defective ships are common in Bangladesh. In 2012, at least 150 people died when a ferry carrying roughly 200 people capsized near the site of the latest accident.

[AP]

 

 

 

 

 

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Ferry Capsizes With About 200 Onboard

The ferry capsized outside the capital in stormy weather, triggering a rescue operation involving the the country's navy and coast guard.

A ferry carrying about 200 people capsized in a river in Bangladesh Thursday, Reuters reports. At least six bodies have been recovered so far.

The ferry overturned in the Meghna River near the capital of Dhaka amid stormy weather. The government has dispatched navy and coast guard vessels to aid in rescue efforts.

One of the six recovered bodies is that of a child, Reuters reports.

[Reuters]

TIME India

While Indian Politicians Argue, People in Assam Stuck in Violent Cycle

An Indian resident salvages valuables in the remains of his house in the village of Khagrabari, some 200 km west of Guwahati on May 3, 2014, after it was attacked by tribal separatists in India's remote northeastern state of Assam Biju Boro—AFP/Getty Images

More than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam late last week, as long-simmering sectarian tensions become seized upon by Indian election rivals

Hanif Ali picks through the remains of what used to be his home, looking for his wife’s gold jewelry. Three nights before, on the evening of May 2, eyewitnesses say men in khaki clothing stormed this isolated village of Khagrabari in western Assam, attacking its Muslim residents and burning down their homes. Ali, his wife and his daughter survived the raid, but many of their neighbors did not. Twenty villagers, including many women and children, died that evening in the latest fit of bloodshed in the restive northeastern state. “Everything is gone,” says Ali. “What good will peace do me now?”

Last week, more than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam, a place better known outside India for its verdant tea gardens than its simmering insurgency. For residents, it was an unwelcome return to the violence that periodically stalks this remote part when tensions boil up between members of the local Bodo community and Muslim residents. In 2012, clashes between Bodos and Muslims, some of whom are migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, left dozens dead and displaced many thousands more. Local police are blaming last week’s killings in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts on a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a militant group fighting for an independent Bodo homeland. Since the killings, Indian security forces have ramped up operations against the group, though it has denied any involvement in the bloodshed.

Outside Assam, as national elections enter their final weeks, the violence has prompted a fresh war of words between national parties about the treatment of minority groups in India. Leaders of the incumbent Congress Party, which projects a secular platform, and its allies have seized on the incident as an example of the divisive influence of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is forecast to win the largest number of seats in Parliament. Both the BJP and its prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, have spoken out against illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh in the past, which critics say fans tensions in a state where the issue is already a polarizing factor.

“In Assam, 30 Muslims were murdered. Why? Because BJP prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, made a speech there and tried to incite people against Muslims,” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said at a rally in his state on Saturday, according to Indian press. “This truth cannot be denied.” The same day, union minister and Congress Party senior leader Kapil Sibal also lashed out at Modi, saying his name stands for “a model of dividing India.”

Taking a stand against illegal immigration is not new for the BJP. After the 2012 Assam riots, senior party leader L.K. Advani blamed the bloodshed on unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh creating competition for resources between communities and general insecurity among Bodos. This week, the BJP quickly shot back at Congress for its comments, and, instead of backing down from the issue, at a rally in West Bengal, Modi reiterated his position against illegal immigrants days after the killings. “Those who come here for vote-bank politics and take away jobs of our youth will have to go back,” said Modi.

It’s impossible to measure, of course, what if any role political rhetoric actually played in last week’s violence. A handful of militant groups have been operating in the area for years. Though some have officially agreed to a cease-fire, the ongoing availability of arms in the region seems a more fundamental culprit in feeding the cycle of violence that afflicts both Bodos and Muslims alike. After widespread displacement in the state less than two years ago, hundreds of people are now back in relief camps, terrified to return home, lest more armed men come to their homes in the night again. Pramad Bodo, president of the All Bodo Students Union, says he does not think last week’s killings were religiously motivated. But, he says, everyone is weary of the seemingly fruitless fight between militants and security forces. “Bodo or Muslim — people are angry,” he says. “If the extremists are involved [this time], what has the government been doing?”

With reporting by Arijit Sen in Assam

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