Statement Protesting the Arrest of Elderly Woman in Bangladesh after Son’s Facebook Post

Date : 23 August 2023

The South Asian Policy Initiative is deeply troubled by the recent events surrounding the arrest of Anisa Siddika, a 60-year-old woman from the Khulna district of Bangladesh, following her son’s Facebook post. The incident, which occurred on 20 August 2023, raises serious concerns about the state of freedom of expression and government tactics in the country.

Ms. Siddika’s arrest is characteristic of the deteriorating state of civil liberties and the alarming erosion of free expression in Bangladesh. The circumstances of her apprehension, without a warrant or specific charges, are disconcerting and suggest a disregard for due process and human rights. The subsequent invocation of the Special Powers Act to detain her further highlights the extent to which authorities can wield broad powers to suppress dissenting voices.

Contrasting accounts of the incident have emerged, with Ms. Siddika’s son, Tanzilur Rahman, shedding light on the situation through his social media account. His version of events paints a starkly different picture than the official narrative provided by the authorities. The catalyst for his mother’s arrest – his Facebook post about Sukharanjan Bali – exposes the lengths to which the government is willing to go to silence its people.

The situation surrounding the prosecution of Mawlana Delawar Hossain Sayeedi and the subsequent events involving Sukharanjan Bali are deeply troubling. The use of judiciary system, the abduction of Bali by law enforcement agencies, and his subsequent mysterious discovery in an Indian prison all point to a concerning pattern of enforced disappearances and suppression of truth.

Furthermore, the swift and aggressive targeting of Tanzilur Rahman’s residence by members of the local Jubo League, a youth faction of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, is an alarming display of intimidation and abuse of power. The arrest of Ms. Siddika, along with her two young neighbours who sought to explain the situation, under trumped-up charges only serves to underscore the extent to which dissent is being silenced.

The South Asian Policy Initiative condemns such tactics of intimidation and harassment by authorities against individuals expressing their opinions, both within the country and abroad. We call on the Bangladeshi government to uphold the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and freedom of expression enshrined in international agreements.

The disturbing parallels drawn between the actions of the Bangladeshi government and oppressive regimes like North Korea raise grave concerns about the direction in which the country is headed. As the global community watches, the erosion of civil liberties and democratic values in Bangladesh is becoming increasingly evident.

We stand in solidarity with those who seek justice, truth, and the right to express their opinions without fear of reprisal. The incident involving Anisa Siddika serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to safeguard the democratic foundations of Bangladesh and protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

As advocates for a just and open society, the South Asian Policy Initiative urges the Bangladeshi government to release Ms. Siddika and her neighbours, drop the baseless charges against them, and take meaningful steps to ensure the protection of freedom of expression and human rights for all its citizens.

We also urge to the international community to take into account the abysmal human rights abuse in Bangladesh and ensure the accountability of the perpetrators.

-South Asian Policy Initiative

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