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

TIME Aviation

Forget Australia, the Missing Jet May Have Crashed Near Bangladesh

Trent Wyatt
Sergeant Trent Wyatt, a crew member of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion, takes part in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean on April 11, 2014 Richard Wainwright—AP

A geological survey company says it has evidence suggesting that MH370 crashed off the coast of Bangladesh, not Australia

The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 should turn several thousand kilometers from the southern Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal, say supporters of new evidence that could suggest that the doomed jet may have crashed around 190 km (120 miles) south of Bangladesh.

Australian company GeoResonance uses radiation scanning technology to locate significant concentrations of minerals and metals. By comparing images of the Bay of Bengal before and after the jet disappeared, the firm uncovered what it believes to be a sudden deposit of aluminum — the chief component of the Boeing 777 that vanished shortly after departing Kuala Lumpur on March 8 — along with titanium, jet-fuel residue and other key substances that may indicate the wreckage of a commercial airliner on the seabed.

Nothing has been confirmed, but the firm says that the technology has previously “been successfully applied to locate submersed structures, ships, munitions and aircraft.” It stresses that it “is not declaring this is MH 370” but that the findings should be investigated.

Malaysian acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says Malaysia is “working with its international partners to assess the credibility of this information.”

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which runs the search from Australia, has dismissed GeoResonance’s suggestion, with officials in Perth saying they are “satisfied” four signals detected in the Indian Ocean came from the black boxes of the missing aircraft.

Those signals were plotted along a corridor defined by analysis of maintenance data by British satellite firm Inmarsat. Hundreds of air and sea reconnaissance missions have been launched based on the analysis, making the search operation the most expensive in history. An underwater drone continues to operate along this route.

However, by Inmarsat’s own admission, the calculations that defined the southern search corridor had never been done before. The firm’s refusal to release raw data, despite repeated desperate pleas from distraught relatives, means the scientific community has been unable to critique or corroborate the findings.

Jules Jaffe, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in California, tells TIME that he would like to think the Indian Ocean pings came from MH370, but: “One would really want to see the data to be more confident of that. I really hope that they have the quantitative analysis to back up their claims.”

There are difficulties with GeoResonance’s theory. While multispectral analysis has been used to discover subterranean mining deposits, electromagnetic radiation is absorbed by seawater, and many simply do not accept that it is capable of detecting a plane lying under a kilometer of ocean. David Gallo of the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who co-led the search for Air France Flight 447, told CNN the data was “perplexing on a number of fronts.”

Nonetheless, GeoResonance says, “The company and its directors are surprised by the lack of response from the various authorities.”

TIME

Pictures of the Week April 18 – April 25

From mourning the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster to the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to Obama in Japan and the running of the Boston Marathon, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Bangladesh

Otters Have Helped Bangladesh Fishermen Catch Fish For Centuries

The rare, long standing technique is in decline as natural fish populations have reduced drastically in recent years

+ READ ARTICLE

Swimming in circles alongside a fishing boat, two otters wait to catch fish in a river in southern Bangladesh. As the animals squeak in the water, fishermen lower a net into the river, in the heart of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Then, one by one, the short-haired otters dive under the water with a splash, chasing a school of fish close to the banks of the river.

Otter fishing is a centuries-old tradition in Bangladesh, where fishermen have been using trained otters to lure fish into their nets – a rare technique passed on from father to son that relies on coordination between man and otter.

“We use them because they catch more fish that we can alone,” Shashudhar Biswas, a fisherman in his 50s whose family has trained otters for generations, told the AFP. Biswas explains that the otters do not catch the fish themselves, but they chase them towards fishing nets.

“The otters manage to spot fish among the plants, then the fish swim away and we stay close with our nets. If we did it without them, we wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish,” says Shashudhar’s son, Vipul. Vipul added that it’s much easier to make ends meet thanks to this technique.

Fishing is usually done at night, and the otters can help fishermen catch as many as 26 pounds of fish, crabs and shrimp.

But the partnership between man and otter is on the verge of extinction. It’s already died out in other parts of Asia as fish populations decline, wildlife experts say. Short-haired otters are an endangered species in Bangladesh and experts say that otter fishing may play a key role in their conservation.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Garment Factories Still Unsafe for Workers, Says Report

Locals and fire-fighters try to control a fire at a garment factory in Dhaka March 6, 2014 Reuters

Nearly one year after the deadly garment factory collapse at Rana Plaza, where more than 1,100 died, a new report after international inspections reveals that most factories still need to drastically improve conditions for workers

Overloaded ceilings, exposed cables, too few fire alarms and sprinklers, and locked emergency exits are just a few of the hazards that international safety inspectors came across while surveying the ten most perilous garment factories for workers in Bangladesh.

The resultant report by Bangladesh Accord Foundation, a group of 150 clothing brands and retailers from more than 20 countries, was published on Tuesday and led to the temporary closure of two firms, reports Reuters.

Ever since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, claiming at least 1,129 lives, mostly women, dismal working conditions in the country’s almost $22 billion apparel industry has been under global scrutiny.

Around 1,500 factories in total are due to be inspected by early September. Major Western high street brands including M&S, Walmart and H&M source from inside the South Asian nation.

“The reports do not highlight any issues of a similar magnitude to those which caused the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April 2013,” Accord said in a statement. However, “they do identify a number of issues to be addressed and explain the steps to be taken to resolve them. Some of these steps are already underway.”

Shahidullah Azim, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, welcomed the report as a way to get the vital industry back on track. Factory owners have been hit in recent months by worker protests and flash strikes to demanding better pay and safer working conditions.

“These disasters were a wake up call for us too, as some of these factories have not been upgraded in [as long as] a decade, some even three decades,” says Shahidullah. “We provide the most cost effective solution to global retailers and that is why they are taking pains to sort the industry out.”

Workers, however, remain wary.

“The challenge now will be to implement the findings,” Nazma Akhter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (Union of Garment Workers Association) and a long time labor activist, tells TIME. “When you treat workers as cheap labor it’s difficult to care for them. The longterm solution to this is simply responsible entrepreneurship.”

TIME Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, Charging of Garment Factory Owner Spurs Hope of New Era of Accountability

The owner of Tazreen Fashions, Delwar Hossain (C) is escorted to court in Dhaka on Feb. 9, 2014. STR / AFP / Getty Images

The Tazreen factory fire claimed at least 112 lives in November 2012, and thanks to international pressure the building's owner is finally behind bars awaiting trial

A Bangladeshi judge made history Sunday. For the first time, formal charges have been brought against the owner of a garment factory where workers have died. At least 112 people perished in November 2012 when the Tazreen Factory on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka burned to the ground. Western brands such as Walmart and Disney were amongst those sourcing clothes there.

That Tazreen’s owner, Delwar Hossain, is now behind bars awaiting trial is being treated as a milestone for the Bangladeshi export industry. “The name of the owner is on the charge sheet for the first time as a criminal, the state has managed to recognize that this is not oversight, but this is as an issue of criminal actions,” said Saydia Gulrukh, an academic who has fought tirelessly to see Hossain face his accusers in court.

Memories of that fateful day remain seared into the minds of survivors, most of who have yet to receive any compensation. “We ran from one stair to another stairwell to get out but authorities had already closed those two exit points,” says Mahfuza, an operator working in the factory when the fire broke out. The 20-year-old says she was filling an order for Walmart on the day of the blaze, and was forced to jump from the fourth floor because of the lack of exits.

Local police initially brought charges against Hossain in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, but these were mysteriously dropped. “He was getting some kind of support, so formally nothing came out against him,” said Humayun Kabir a former Bangladeshi ambassador to the U.S. This was despite a Home Ministry report soon after the fire acknowledging Hossain had acted with “criminal negligence.”

However, changing international attitudes to the global garments industry mean that once-powerful figures like Hossain can no long act with impunity. The Tazreen tragedy and the even deadlier Rana Plaza collapse spurred the U.S. to suspend the limited Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) duty free access Bangladesh enjoyed in response to the lax safety standards.

“International pressure definitely influenced [the case],” says Gulrukh. The E.U. had also threatened to revoke its equivalent allowance, deemed a vital boon to the $22 billion industry.

Bangladesh and the U.S. are scheduled to hold a meeting on restoring the GSP in May, which was postponed from December. “The government now wants to show that it is taking some action for the simple reason that by December the hearing for the GSP was supposed to take place,” notes Kabir.

Hossain surrendered to a court on Sunday to face charges of causing death by negligence after a warrant for his arrest had been produced on Dec. 31. His bail plea was rejected and 14 months after the fire he has finally been remanded in custody.

Hossain, “had managed to sidestep the legal process for 14 months, there was always someone helping from the inside, that’s how things happen,” says Gulrukh, who says many victims doubted this day would ever come. “Now workers believe its possible to hold owners to account, this restores some faith in the system.”

When Hossain’s bail plea was heard, he and his colleagues brought along the t-shirts that one of the company’s remaining factories are making, for the 2014 FIFA world cup, to emphasize the importance of the industry to the country. For the first time, however, it seems the lives of those lost have been placed above the profits their toil yields.

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