A Documentary Film on the Birangona by Komola Collective Needs Urgent Donation
Birangona means ‘Brave Woman of War’. This was the honourific granted to the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the campaign of rape carried out by the Pakistani Army and their Bengali collaborators in the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Their individual stories are largely hidden and forgotten by a society in which rape is considered to be a source of shame for the victims like other rape survivors in conflict situations.
In the aftermath of the war these survivors were not only overlooked by the international community but also were silenced by their very own communities in independent Bangladesh. Having endured brutal rape, torture and enforced pregnancies and abortions many women of war were made to return to their villages, communities, families and husbands, but were never allowed to speak about the brutality that they had had to endure for the nation during the war of liberation.
There are thousands of Birangona living in extreme poverty, being rejected by local people for the religious ‘sin’ (zina) and shame of having been raped by Pakistani military. Their children and grandchildren, as eye-witnesses and as generations of rape-survivors, also experienced endless discrimination in a nation-state that was supposed to be secular and progressive. The Director of Komola Collective, Leesa Gazi, notes correctly: ‘with each day that passes, the Birangona of Bangladesh die out, and with them, their stories: stories that contributed to the making of a nation, and stories which we, as part of an international community striving to end sexual violence in conflict, cannot afford to ignore.’
Komola Collective, a London-based theatre and art group, has therefore taken a timely initiative to document the stories of Birangona. They are producing a film, called ‘Rising Silence’ , in partnership with Openvisor, Making Herstory and Jatrik, that aspires to document and preserve the lived experiences of survivors of rape and the narratives of great survivors of brutal abuse: the Women of War – The Birangona.
Other community women’s rights campaigners, including East London-based organisation such as Nari Diganta, provided unwavering support to the initiative and is trying to raise fund for the important film. A panel of experts and women rights campaigners and Nari Diganta members Pushpita Gupta and I have discussed the significance of the film. Speakers agreed that this film is about the Birangona‘s will to survive and honouring their insurmountable courage. It is a way of bringing a crucial part of a nation’s history – that has been ignored for too long, made taboo and silenced – to the forefront. Above all, it is about documenting the voices of these women and the national reproducers of a nation-state that has 20,000 populations who rarely talk about Birangona.
If readers of this blog can see the significance of the potential film, please donate whatever you can afford. We deeply appreciate your support to make this film happen. Let’s make a history by making a historical film on rape survivors and the ‘women of war’ in a nation that is so proud of its liberation war.
To watch the ‘Rising Silence’ promo film on Birangona click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlm_saJURKY
Fresh Campaign Against Religious Law and Parallel Legal Systems in Britain
Women’s rights and secular organisations urge the new government to take concerted measures to stop the development of parallel legal systems and to facilitate full and proper access to justice for all citizens and to one secular law for all.
For decades, successive governments have appeased undemocratic religious power brokers in minority communities who have sought to gain power through multicultural and now multi-faith social policies. These policies have led to the homogenisation of minority communities including the ‘Muslim community’ and have recognised and legitimated ‘non-violent’ Islamists as ‘community representatives’, outsourcing legal justice to what are in effect kangaroo courts that deliver highly discriminatory and second-rate forms of ‘justice.’ Over the years, we have witnessed with increasing alarm the influence of ‘Sharia courts’ over the lives of citizens of Muslim heritage.
Any government inquiry into ‘Sharia courts’ must also examine the impact of the draconian cuts in legal aid that have adversely affected access to justice for the most vulnerable. Many abused women from minority backgrounds, for instance, are increasingly forced to either represent themselves in court in what are often complex family legal proceedings or go to ‘Sharia courts’ that operate entirely outside the rule of law. The loss of legal aid contributes to a context that is conducive to the consolidation of privatised and unaccountable forms of justice and ‘Sharia courts’ are amongst the main beneficiaries.
Though the ‘Sharia courts’ have been touted as people’s right to religion, they are in fact, effective tools of the far-Right Islamist movement whose main aim is to restrict and deny rights, particularly those of women and children. ‘Sharia’ laws are highly contested and challenged in many countries, including in Muslim-majority countries across the globe – from Iran to Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Pakistan. Those of us in Britain who oppose ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious forms of arbitration over family matters, are part of the same movement that challenge the religious-Right and defend the principle of one law for all underpinned by the notions of universalism, human rights, secularism and equality.
Opposing ‘Sharia courts’ is not racism or ‘Islamophobic’; it is a defence of the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their beliefs and background to be governed by democratic means under the principle of one law for all. What amounts to racism is the idea that minorities can be denied rights enjoyed by others through the endorsement of religious based ‘justice’ systems which operate according to divine law that is by its very nature immune from state scrutiny.
We have seen recent victories against the accommodation of ‘Sharia’ codes within law and policy in the UK. Using equalities and human rights legislation, we have successfully challenged both the Universities UK for issuing guidance that condones gender segregation in universities and the Law Society for endorsing discriminatory ‘Sharia’ codes in the area of inheritance. As well as challenging draconian state measures that criminalise whole communities and aid and abet xenophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, it is vital that we also push back the Islamist narrative and challenge ‘Sharia courts’ since they clearly represent yet another assault on our civil liberties.
We also urge the government to withdraw from its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. Such a move will represent a break from what was the most important social contract to have emerged between European States and citizens, following the Second World War. The agreement to sign up to a simple set of standards that uphold human decency and universal values led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to standards that protect and uphold the rights of all people in the face of state and non-state abuses of power. Now more than ever, we need the Human Rights Act to challenge the arbitrary and unaccountable power of ‘Sharia courts.’
We, the undersigned, therefore, call on the new Government to:
- Reinstate legal aid in all areas of civil and criminal law to ensure equal access to justice for all.
2. Recognise that ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts deliver arbitrary and unaccountable forms of ‘justice’ that discriminate against women and children in particular. Citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.
3. Abolish the use of ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious arbitration forums, including the Beth Din, in family matters since they undermine the principle of equality, non discrimination and universal human rights that must be enjoyed by all citizens.
4. Reject calls for state regulation of ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts and tribunals. This will only legitimate parallel legal systems in the governance of family matters.
5. Re-affirm the principle of the separation of religion and the law. The law is a key component of securing justice for citizens and one law for all.
6. Desist from repealing the Human Rights Act 1998. This move will strip all vulnerable people of their right to protection and justice.
A C Grayling, Philosopher
A Gilani, Spokesperson of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan
Afiya S. Zia, Active member of Women’s Action Forum in Pakistan
Afsaneh Vahdat, Spokesperson of Children First Now
Alber Saber, Egyptian Blogger
Albert Beale, Pacifist Journalist
Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Physician
Ali al Razi, Ex-Muslims Forum
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Blogger
Alison Assiter, Professor of Feminist Theory at UWE, Bristol
Aliyah Saleem, Secular Education Campaigner
Alya Marquardt, British-Iraqi Singer and Composer
Amel Grami, Tunisian Professor
American Humanist Association
Andrew Lowdon, Chair, Nottingham Secular Society
Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values
Anila Atharhasan, Rationalist Society of Pakistan
Anissa Helie, Professor
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-founder and Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Nirmul Committee
Anthony McIntyre, Writer
Armin Nabavi, Atheist Republic Founder
Aso Kamal, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Atheist Alliance International
Babak Yazdi, Spokesperson for Kanoon-e Khavaran, Organisation for Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran
Bahram Soroush, Political Analyst
Bariş Çetin, Board of Directors’ Member of Ateizm Dernegi
Ben Kerr, Chair of Plymouth Humanists
Bo Liao, President of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Bob Charlwood, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Bread and Roses TV
British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Centre for Secular Space
Chetan Bhatt, Professor of Sociology, LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Children First Now
Chris Moos, Secularist Researcher and Activist
Christine M. Shellska, President of Atheist Alliance International
Clara Connolly, Immigration Lawyer
Clive Aruede, Organiser of London Black Atheists
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Darren Johnson AM, Green Party, London Assembly
Dashty Jamal, Secretary of International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
David Silverman, President of American Atheists
Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker and Founder/CEO of Fuuse
Dennis Penaluna, Secular Activist and Organiser
Derek Lennard, Activist
Diana Nammi, Founder and Executive Director, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Dilip Simeon, Labour Historian
Dominic Wirdnam, Secretary of Bristol Secular Society
Elham Manea, Academic and Writer
Ensaf Haidar, Campaigner
Equal Rights Now – Movement for Women’s Liberation in Iran
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Iraqi Activist and Founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement
Faizun Zackariya, Citizens Voice for Justice and Peace
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Host
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director of Shirkat Gah, Women’s Resource Centre in Pakistan
Farideh Arman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Fatou Sow, International Director, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Federation of Iranian Refugees UK
Francis Wheen, Writer
George Broadhead, Secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust
Gina Khan, Women’s Rights Activist and Researcher
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Glen Carrigan, Scientist and Founder of AHSUCLan
Gona Saed, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Guy Otten, BHA Trustee and Humanist Celebrant
Habiba Jaan, Founder of Aurat- Supporting Women in the Midlands
Hamid Taqvaee, Leader of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of Quilliam Foundation
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Harsh Kapoor, Founder and Editor of South Asia Citizens Web
Hasan Mahmud, Advisory Board of World Muslim Congress and General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Homa Arjomand, Coordinator of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada and One Secular School for All
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Ibrahim Abdallah, Muslimish NYC Organizer
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
International Front for Secularism
Iram Ramzan, Journalist
Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Ishafak Tely, Technology Engineer
James Bloodworth, Journalist and Editor of Left Foot Forward
Jane Donnelly, Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland
Javed Anand, General Secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy in India
Jocelynne A. Scutt, Barrister & Human Rights Lawyer
Johnny Monsarrat, Secular Policy Institute Alliance Director
Jonnie Dean, Peace Activist and Filmmaker
Julie Bindel, Writer
Justice for Women
Kamran Ahmed Khan, Oncologist
Kamyar Dadfar, Secretary of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis School of Law
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kazimierz Lyszczynski, Foundation Poland
Khushi Kabir, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work at Nijera Kori with Bangladesh’s landless
Kiran Opal, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Human Rights Activist
Lakshmi Pala, Ateizm Derneği
Laura Guidetti, Rivista Marea
Lawrence Krauss, Foundation Professor of School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Dept., Co-director of Cosmology Initiative and Director of Origins initiative, Arizona State University
Leesa Gazi, Cultural worker
Lejla Kuric, Writer
Lila Ghobady, Filmmaker
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb
Lloyd Newson, Artist
London Black Atheists
Maajid Nawaz, Founding Chairman of Quilliam Foundation
Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development
Magdulien Abaida, Women’s Rights Activist
Maggie Hall, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Mahin Alipour, Women’s Rights Activist
Mariam Faruqi, Rapporteur National Commission on Forced Marriage
Mariam Taheri, Human Rights Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue and Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Mehran Mahbobi , Children’s Rights Activist
Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Mohammed Alkhadra, Human Rights Activist and Founder of the Jordanian Atheists Community Group
Morgan Elizabeth Romano, Vice President of the Board of Directors & Director of International Relations of Ateizm Dernegi
Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America
Muslims for Progressive Values
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism
Natalia Paszkiewicz, Campaigner for Refugee Women and Migrants Rights
National Secular Society
Nazanin Borumand, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany
Network of Women in Black Serbia
Nick Cohen, Journalist
Nina Sankari, President of the Europejska Feministyczna Inicjatywa
Nira Yuval-Davis, a founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zone
One Law for All
Ophelia Benson, Columnist of The Freethinker and Free Inquiry
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Social Activist
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Piara Mayenin, Solicitor and Producer of Legal Help with Piya
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Pushpita Gupta, Women’s Rights Campaigner and Convenor of Secular Bangladesh Movement
Rafai Aadam, Leader of the SOAS Ex-Muslim Society & The Student Room Ex-Muslim Society Organiser
Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist
Ramin Forghani, Ex-Muslims of Scotland Founder
Reza Moradi, Director of Bread and Roses
Ritu Mahendru, Director of South Asian Sexual Health
Robert Stovold, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Robyn E. Blumner, President & CEO of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Rohini Hensman, Writer and Activist
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of American Humanist Association
Roy W Brown, International Representative, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Rumana Hashem, Nari Diganta Organiser and Founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group
Rumy Hassan, Author
Sadaf Ali, Writer and Civil Rights Activist
Salim Mansur, Vice President of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Sally Armstrong, Journalist and Human Rights Activist
Salma Siddiqui, President of Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations
Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International
Sara Mohammad, Chairwomen for Never Forget Pela and Fadime Organisation
Sarah Haider, Director of Development of Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarah Peace, Founder of Fireproof Library
Sawsan Salim, Director of Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation
Secular Policy Institute
Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Selma Dabbagh, Author and Lawyer
Shaheen Heshmat, Writer
Shahla Daneshfar, Coordinator of Workers’ Solidarity Network of the Middle East and North Africa
Sheila Crosby, Author
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Soad Baba Aissa, Feminist
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner
South Asian Sexual Health
Southall Black Sisters
Stasa Zajovic, WiB Belgrade
Sue Cox, Survivors Voice Europe
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, co-editor of Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity
Sultana Kamal, Women’s Rights Defender
Taher Djafarizad, President of Neda Day Association
Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights Defender
Taslima Nasrin, Author
Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Terence Waites, Head of Teesside Humanists
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society
The Angelou Centre
Tolga Inci, President of Ateizm Dernegi
Tom Holland, Writer and Historian
Valerie Mainstone, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Wahid Rahman, President of Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society
Waleed Al-Husseini, Palestinian blogger and Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Women in Black Belgrade
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Women’s Action Forum Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Columnist
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Yasmin Weaver, Trustee of Aurat: Supporting Women in the Midlands
Zahra Asli, Coordinator of Friends of Women in the Middle East Society
See Further News below:
Thomson Reuters Foundation: Britain must ban sharia “kangaroo courts”, say activists http://www.trust.org/item/20150615155710-r8kxz/?source=shtw
‘Nearly 200 hundreds signatories call to dismantle parallel legal systems’ http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/sharia-courts/
IKWRO news: ‘Nearly 200 signatories, including IKWRO, call for dismantling of parallel legal systems’ http://ikwro.org.uk/2015/06/signatories-including-dismantling/
An Open Letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister from International Women’s rights campaigners
We wish to echo the outrage expressed by women’s rights campaigners in Bangladesh against the organised sexual assaults on 20 women in Dhaka by identifiable perpetrators on the evening of 14 April, during the celebration of Bangla New Year 1422. It is appalling that on the auspicious occasion of Bangla Nobo Borsho, women were subjected to such a horrific event in a nation-state which is led by a woman Prime Minister. These organised sexual assaults went on for about two hours within the premise of Dhaka University where women should feel able to be safe.
The University has described the organised violence against women as a ‘normal incident’ and ‘nothing so severe’. It seems incredible that the Proctor of the University has denied having evidence of sexual assaults on women when four surveillance cameras were operating on the premises. Instead of supporting the protesters and detaining the perpetrators who conducted the heinous crime, both police and the proctor have accused the survivors of violence for not having been dressed appropriately in a plural society! It is unacceptable that the police were silent bystanders during the vicious incident.
Additionally, Police cracked down and brutally tortured the protesters against sexual assault on women during a demonstration on 10 May 2015. These demonstrate deep-rooted misogyny in Bangladeshi institutions.
Masculinity is pervasive in Bangladesh even in times of relative peace. It is deeply concerning that a secular regime which has vigorously attempted to bring war criminals for rape in the Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971 to justice fails to prevent sexual violence against women.
We stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual violence and with the protesters in Bangladesh. The following demands should be implemented urgently:
- Immediate arrest and punishment of the perpetrators. But we oppose the use of capital punishment for anyone convicted in this instance.
- A public apology from the local police and administration of Dhaka University for failing to support the women who were tortured for one and a half hours.
- Immediate suspension of Police who tortured and humiliated demonstrators.
- Immediate suspension of the Proctor at Dhaka University for his controversial statements and for attempting to hide evidence from CCTV footage.
- Emergency support to the survivors of sexual violence including provision of economic, medical and mental health resources to overcome social stigma attached to sexual violence
- Ensure immediate support to and security of the protesters.
We, the undersigned:
Readers are encouraged to sign the open letter and share with friends who may support our campaign.
Read published report on the Daily Star : ‘A mothers’ day gift from Police’ http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/mothers-day-gift-police-81752
Watch how Police van ran over human demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUxO6QX0bII&feature=youtu.be
Watch how protesters were tortured during a demo: https://www.facebook.com/naridiganta?fref=ts
Further news: ‘Silencing Outcry’ http://www.thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/silencing-our-outcry-82102
On Tuesday, 21 April, about 70 protesters rallied at the Shaheed Minar at Altabl Ali park at Tower Hamlets to condemn the organised sexual assaults on women which was committed against 20 women by identifiable perpetrators during the celebration of Bangla new year in Dhaka. The powerful protest was co-organised by Nari Diganta and Jubo Union, UK. Nari Diganta activist, Nilufar Yasmin, writes a Bangla report of the protest as follows.
পহেলা বৈশাখে নারীর উপর যৌন হয়রানীর প্রতিবাদে নারী দিগন্ত ও যুব ইউনিয়নের বিক্ষোভ সমাবেশ
ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের টিএসসি এলাকায় বর্ষবরণ অনুষ্ঠানে নারী নির্যাতন ও নারীর উপর যৌন হয়রানির প্রতিবাদ করে উদ্বেগ ও ক্ষোভ প্রকাশ করেছে যুক্তরাজ্যের নারী দিগন্ত এবং যুব ইউনিয়ন সহ বিভিন্ন পেশাজীবী ও সাংস্কৃতিক সংগঠনের সর্বস্তরের জনগণ। প্রতিবাদ সভায় সকল বক্তাই এই ধরনের পৈশাচিক ন্যাক্কারজনক হামলার সঙ্গে জড়িতদের দ্রুত খুঁজে বের করে দৃষ্টান্তমূলক শাস্তির দাবী জানিয়েছে।
একুশে এপ্রিল মঙ্গলবার বিকালে পূর্ব লন্ডনের আলতাব আলী পার্কে অনুষ্ঠিত প্রতিবাদ ও বিক্ষোভে উপস্থিত সকল বক্তাই প্রায় একই সুরে সেদিন পুলিশের যে সকল সদস্য কর্তব্যে অবহেলা করেছে তাদেরকে উপযুক্ত জবাবদিহিতার আওতায় আনার দাবী জানিয়েছেন। এছাড়া, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের প্রক্টরের কর্তব্যে অবহেলার যে অভিযোগ উঠেছে সে বিষয়ে জবাবদিহিতার ব্যবস্থা করার জন্য সক্রিয় উদ্যোগ নেয়ার দাবী জানানো হয়।
নারীর প্রতি সহিংসতা বন্ধে বিভিন্ন শ্লোগান সম্মিলিত প্ল্যাকার্ড বহন করে সমাবেশে বলা হয়, বার বার ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় এলাকায় মুক্তমনা মানুষকে হত্যা, নারীর উপর আক্রমন কোনক্রমেই গ্রহণযোগ্য নয় এবং কর্তৃপক্ষের এই ধরনের দায়িত্বহীনতা মুক্তিযুদ্ধে অর্জিত বাংলাদেশের মূল লক্ষ্যকে পিছনে ঠেলে দিচ্ছে বলে বক্তারা উল্লেখ করেন। যুগ যুগ ধরে জাতি ধর্ম বর্ণ নির্বিশেষে বাংলা নববর্ষের উৎসব পারষ্পরিক সৌহার্দ ও সম্প্রীতির সেতুবন্ধন তৈরী করে। পহেলা বৈশাখে ঢাকায় নারীর উপর যে যৌন হামলা হয়েছে তা শুধু নারীর উপর হামলা নয়, এই হামলা অসাম্প্রদায়িক চেতনা ও বাঙালী সংস্কৃতির উপর আঘাত, এই আঘাতকে প্রশ্রয় না দিয়ে পাল্টা আঘাত অর্থাৎ কঠোর হস্তে দমনের পক্ষে সকলেই মত দেন। আইনের মাধ্যমে দোষীদের শাস্তি না দিলে এই প্রবণতা কখনো বন্ধ হবেনা। পহেলা বৈশাখে নারীদের উপর যৌন নিপীড়নকারীদের সাংগঠনিক পরিচয় নিয়ে বিতর্ক না করে অবিলম্বে তাদের প্রেফতার করে কঠোর শাস্তির দাবী জানিয়েছে সবাই।
সকল সময়ে দেশের চিহ্নিত কথিত ধর্মীয় নেতারা নারীদের প্রতি অসম্মানজনক কটূ মন্তব্য করে নিপিড়কদের পরোক্ষভাবে উৎসাহ দিচ্ছে। আইন করে নারী বিদ্বেষী বক্তব্যকারীদের শাস্তির ব্যবস্থা না করলে এই ধরনের ন্যাক্কারজনক ঘটনা বন্ধ করা যাবেনা বলে সকলেই মত দিয়েছেন।
যুব ইউনিয়নের যোবায়দা নাসরিনের পরিচালনায় বিক্ষোভ সমাবেশে বক্তব্য রাখেন ডা: রফিকুল হক জিন্নাহ, আবু মুসা হাসান, নারী দিগন্ত নেত্রী নাসিমা কাজল, ডঃ রুমানা হাশেম, নিলুফা ইয়াসমীন, পুষ্পিতা গুপ্ত, পিয়া মায়েনিন, কমুনিস্ট নেতা মসউদ আহমেদ, সত্যব্রত দাশ স্বপন, নারী চেতনার নাজনিন সুলতানা শিখা, অজন্তা দেব রায়, যুব ইউনিয়নের নাসরিন এ মনজুরী এবং শাহরিয়ার বিন আলী। আরো বক্তব্য রাখেন আসীম চক্রবর্তী, সাঈদা সিমি, স্মৃতি আজাদ, গোলাম কবীর, সুশান্ত দাসগুপ্ত, রীনা মোশাররফ, নূরুল ইসলাম, পলিন মাঝি প্রমুখ।
লাঞ্চিত নারীকে বাঁচাতে গিয়ে বাংলাদেশ ছাত্র ইউনিয়নের ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় শাখার সভাপতি লিটন নন্দী যে আহত হয়েছেন, তাঁর প্রতি কৃতজ্ঞতা জানিয়ে প্রতিবাদ সভায় এই ধরনের ঘটনায় সম্মিলিতভাবে প্রতিরোধ গড়ে তোলার প্রত্যয় ব্যক্ত করা হয়।
ভিডিওতে অপরাধ শনাক্ত করা গেলেও পুলিশ আজও অপরাধীদের ধরতে পারেনি, যতদিন অপরাধীরা ধরা পড়বেনা, শাস্তি হবেনা ততদিন আন্দোলন প্রতিবাদ চালিয়ে যাবে বলে বিক্ষোভ সমাবেশে উপস্থিত সকলে মতামত ব্যক্ত করেন।
Nari Diganta Calls Everybody to Join the Protest against Sexual Violence of Women
To condemn and call for action against the brutal sexual violence which were committed against 20 women in Dhaka during the celebration of Bangla New Year on Pohela Baisakh, a protest meeting has been arranged by Nari Diganta and Bangladesh Youth Union, UK.
When? Tuesday, 21 April, at 5.30pm.
Where? Altab Ali Park Shaheed Minar, Tower Hamlets, London E1 1, United Kingdom.
Please join us in the protest with your friends. Tell Bangladesh government to take action against the rapists. The perpetrators must be apprehended.
Please check out the facebook event page and indicate your joining here https://www.facebook.com/events/357725651099101/
Celebration of International Women’s Day 2015 at Nari Diganta
By Nazratoon Nayem
Last Sunday, on 8 March 2015, the women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism at Nari Diganta have celebrated International Women’s Day 2015 with a diverse group of women and men belonging to 14 different ethnicities and nationalities in Britain. At a packed room of some 150 audience, the members of Nari Diganta have greeted Bengali creative women and renowned BME women’s rights campaigners at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Tower Hamlets, London. The event was explicitly focused on secular Bengali women who have dedicated their lives to creative work and BME women’s empowerment in Britain and elsewhere.
The unusual event of progressive Bengali women kicked in with a greetings from the Secretary, Nasima Kajol, and an opening message by the Chairperson of Nari Diganta, Shamima Begum. It followed by a compliment of International Women’s Day from a secularist-sociologist and BME women’s rights activist, Dr Rumana Hashem. Rumana invites Sarah Begum, an award winning young film-maker and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, to screen her documentary film about Amazonian life. Sarah took the audience to her film through a showreel and slides followed by a biographical speech, demonstrating the difference, passion and courage that a creative woman does posses in terms of freedom and women’s struggle for emancipation.
Sarah’s talk was followed by a creative women’s panel and a bilingual discussion by three creative women from three backgrounds including music, film and theater. The panel chaired by Nari Diganta’s legal adviser, Piara Mayenin, was attended by a proclaimed Bengali classical vocalist Chandra Chakraborty, the film-maker and explorer Sarah Begum, and Bengali performer, Smrity Azad. The creative panelists have made a point that Bengali creative women are not just performers who would perform to please men and the society. Rather, they are innovative women who posses transformative power, who made valuable contribution to their respective societies by overcoming hazardous barriers and by choosing creativity and performance as a way forward to emancipation and progress of women.
The discussion by the creative women was followed by a panel of prominent BME women’s rights campaigners and secularists. The panel formed by Gita Sahgal, the producer of War Crime File,and a writer and the Director of Centre for Secular Space, and Maryam Namzie, an Iranian Secularist and the Founder and Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, was chaired by Bangladeshi women’s rights campaigner and a core group member at Nari Diganta, Rumana Hashem.
The event ends with a staggering cultural programme of Bengali dance, music and poetry by women and young girls. Finally the singing sensation Farzana Sifat appeared with her solo music, followed by a choir of the members of Nari Diganta.
The cultural event, presented by Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid ended with a powerful choir ‘We remain undefeated, we will remain undefeated.’
Sunday’s IWD event at Brady Arts Centre was as unusual as festive, and was filled with lively music and songs of Bengali women. The diverse audience of a wide range of ethnicities, dressed up in their national outfits, have joined from Iran, India, Libya, Norway, Morocco, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Scotland, USA, and of course, Bangladesh and England.
Despite the delayed start and some alterations to the programme, audience have expressed their full-solidarity to the organisers and the women at Nari Diganta who have shown passion and ability to create a space for a mixed and secular audience in Tower Hamlets. The jolly composer of the event, Rumana Hashem started the evening by calling upon the audience to engage with the ideas of creative Bengali women who appeared on national dresses and on posh-colourful saris in festive mood. Dr Hashem says, explaining the importance of sari for Bengali women: ‘those who are new to Brady Arts and Community Centre or who joined us for the first time at Nari Diganta may get a culture shock by seeing Muslim Bengali women on fancy sari. Believe me it is our everyday dress and this dress demonstrates our professionalism back home. You got to take it easy. Note that we are Bengali women at work.’ The room broke into laughter and a festive breeze had been felt throughout the evening.
Inspite of threats of radicalism by the unexpected intruders who sneaked into the venue in the midst of the programme, without permission of the organisers, the festive atmosphere was obvious at the event. Both the audience and speakers remained calm and bold throughout. The support of the wonderful audience became apparent especially in their efforts of networking and friendly comments. The speakers and presenters were articulate in their statements that Bengali women are progressive, secular and not blind to male-dominated social norms and customs.
Vocalist Chandra Chakraborty declared, in her final comment, ‘indeed, women are the superiors in terms of their ability’. She argued that it is wrong to assume that men are higher than women in relation to ability of creativity and ethics of care. Even though it is mostly men who hold political power, women are the ones who have the real ability to do things innovatively and passionately. We must recognise women’s real power, she said.
In her remark about Nari Diganta, Gita Sahgal said that she was delighted to hear the powerful statements of the creative women and the secular ideas that they upheld. She thanked the women at Nari Diganta for taking a secular agenda in the question of women’s rights.
Maryam Namazie, the Iranian-born women’s rights campaigner and secularist, has similarly expressed her thankfulness to the organisers for their courage to create a space for secular practices and for overcoming religious barriers in Bengali women’s lives.
She said, in her complimentary speech on IWD, ‘It has been great to join you all. We need to keep moving forward with a secular agenda from here’.
The pledge to women’s emancipation and secularism were apparent throughout the event. In her welcome message, Nari Diganta’s chairperson Shamima Begum Hena said:
‘I hope that you will enjoy the event and will stay with us. We are celebrating International Women’s Day at a juncture when our homeland, Bangladesh is burning, as many other countries. We are facing division and confrontation between the progressive and extremist forces. In such a situation women’s insecurity became most obvious in all of these countries. We remain vigilant and we try to establish a clear position in the question of women’s rights there and here. We want to celebrate International women’s day by recognising the good work that our Bengali creative women are doing in Britain, overcoming their situation every day. We want also to scrutinise BME women’s situation in Britain.’
She added, ‘We need to be critical and be careful to any uncritical solidarity. We need to avoid generalisation of BME women’s rights issues with all women in Britain. We want to be loud and clear about the real situation within which we work, and we want to hear how our creative women may make their voices against bigotry and oppressions heard. In a world of uncertainty, we need to be loud and clear about our mission, vision and achievements. I am very pleased to see that so many of you have come to our event, despite it being a Sunday.’
Following Hena, Dr Hashem invites everybody to join Sarah Begum’s talk. She added:
‘Sarah’s film is a politically informed documentary and it bears a highly political message of women’s empowerment and freedom. May I ask everybody please focus on the “theme” of the film rather than the “scene”’. In explaining the significance of the theme and the design of the programme, Rumana Hashem explains also that the programme was designed differently because it bore a political message for women’s empowerment, equal rights and bigotry-free society. She said: ‘We are a young organisation and only four years old. But as you would know, sometimes a four-year child can be more clever, bold, innovative, scrutinising and imaginative than many adults. We believe that today’s event would demonstrate this creativity and boldness of a four years old child. The design of our event is unusual and the theme is important. We hope that you will like it and you will bear with us.’
In commenting about IWD2015 at Nari Diganta, Nasima Kajol, the Secretary of the organisation told that: ‘We have tried to do something different, something new and something especial. I do not claim that it was a fully successful event in terms of Western discipline and order. Still I am pleased that we have done it differently than many traditional events in Tower Hamlets. One does not gain success in one day. I think that we are doing well as a young organisation. I am proud of our ability to unite in a secular and progressive political stand at Nari Digatna.’
The evening was filled with film, dialogue, music and dance with Creative Bengali Women speaking out against oppression and bigotry. It was partially sponsored by the Tower Hamlets Council, PCO Claims, Amifro Associates, Chambers of MM Hussain, and Hillside Travel. The organisers have greeted the sponsors with bouquet of flowers for the much needed support that the funders have provided to Nari Diganta as faithful friends and well-wishers.