No Peace in the Hills Yet

May 29, 2009
Hana Shams Ahmed

Hana Shams Ahmed

It was the previous Awami League government in 1997 that signed the historic CHT Accord in 1997, promising to end 25 years of guerrilla war in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Unfortunately the government-encouraged settlement of poor Bangalis into the area, started in the 1980s, has never stopped therefore destabilising the situation 11 years after the signing. Most of the key provisions of the accord remained unimplemented in the last decade. The newly elected AL government has clearly mentioned in its election manifesto that they will take steps to fully implement the Peace Accord.

Hana Shams Ahmed

[STAR magazine, THE DAILY STAR, February 27, 2009]
Chittagong’s face-lifted Shah Amanat International Airport boasts ceramic artwork of various tourism selling points of Bangladesh. One of them shows a group of quaint-looking Pahari girls doing a traditional dance. Next to it is another Pahari girl in a traditional pinon picking leaves from a hill in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The depiction of Pahari girls as part of our cultural heritage has always been used to attract national and international tourists. Unfortunately how the common Pahari girls are living their lives seems to be hardly of concern. The Chittagong Hill Tracts is the only place in the entire country (except for the Cantonment areas) where the army still remains with nearly six brigades of approximately 35,000 army personnel.
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One big hurdle down

May 27, 2009
Zahedul I Khan

Zahedul I Khan

Hana Shams Ahmed

[THE DAILY STAR, May 19, 2009]

JUST like it took the rape of three women students at Jahangirnagar University (JU) to recognise what an extreme form sexual harassment had taken at the universities it took the suicide of Art College student Simi Banu to bring to mass consciousness the extreme forms “eve teasing” has now taken in this country. And until the defiant JU students took to the streets in 1998, the mere concept of “sexual harassment” in educational institutions was only spoken about in hushed tones among girl students at the university halls.

But now it’s finally here — institutional recognition of sexual harassment. 11 years after the JU case, and many hundreds of silenced and vocal cases in between, the High Court has directed the government to make a sexual harassment law based on the guidelines drawn up by lawyers and human rights activists.

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When It Also Happens At Home

May 27, 2009
Tanvir Murad Topu

Tanvir Murad Topu

Hana Shams Ahmed talks to Sara Hossain about domestic violence

[FORUM magazine, THE DAILY STAR, May 2009]

In December of last year, a case was brought to court by 33-year-old Dr. Humayra Abedin, with the help of human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), against her own family, for confining her against her will.

She had come to Dhaka in August of that year after being told that her mother was seriously ill. As soon as she arrived home, her parents hid her passport and plane ticket and held her captive. She was forced to take mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs until she confirmed that she would not be returning to the UK, and would give up her job and disassociate herself from everybody she knew there.

On November 14 she was allegedly forced to get married to someone against her will. There were repeated attempts on the part of her parents to not comply with court orders. They only responded after the court said it would hold them in contempt if they failed to show up. They kept claiming that Humayra was mentally ill therefore unable to appear.

After a fierce legal battle and after the High Court in England also passed orders requesting the co-operation of the Bangladesh judiciary and the authorities, her parents finally allowed Humayra to come to the Bangladesh High Court. Two judges interviewed Humayra in person and ordered her to be released and she immediately returned to the UK later that month.

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Breaking New Ground

May 27, 2009
Zaid Islam

Zaid Islam

Hana Shams Ahmed and Quazi Zulquarnain Islam applaud the pioneering Bangladesh women’s cricket team

[FORUM magazine, THE DAILY STAR, May 2009]

In July 2004, Bangladesh Amateur Wrestling Federation (BAWF) postponed the first ever women’s wrestling competition, following threats from Islamist groups. One of the religious leaders, Mohiddin Khan said: “Female wrestling is nothing but showing off their bodies in front of male audience. This is totally immoral and against the teachings of Islam.”1

The event had been scheduled to take place at the Women’s Sports Complex. In October, members of the Islamic Shashantantra Andolon gathered in front of the National Sports Council to protest against the country’s first-ever women’s football tournament, clogging traffic in the area for three hours.2

In November of the same year, the Bangladesh government stopped women from taking part in a swimming competition in Chandpur, after a group that went by the name “The Committee for Resistance to Un-Islamic Activities” threatened large demonstrations if the competition was allowed to go ahead.3

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