Sydney Event Pays Tribute to Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh

Location: Sydney, Australia

Date: 10 September 2023

In a solemn gathering held in Sydney on the evening of 10 September 2023, the victims of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh were remembered. Over the past decade, hundreds of individuals in Bangladesh have been forcibly abducted and disappeared at the hands of state authorities.

This Cultural Vigil was organised by the South Asian Policy Initiative (SAPI) and Global Voice for Humanity to commemorate 30 August, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance designated by the United Nations. The event took place at Campbelltown Civic Hall and served as a tragic reminder of the individuals who have suffered these grave injustices.

One of the heart-wrenching testimonies came from Tahsina Rushdi Luna, the wife of Ilias Ali, a prominent leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Ilias Ali was abducted in broad daylight in April 2012 by plain-clothed police along with his car driver in Dhaka, never to be seen again. Despite her desperate plea to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, her husband’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Tahera Tasneem, the sister of Barrister Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem Arman, shared a similarly distressing account. Her brother was abducted from their home in August 2016 by plain-clothed police. At the time, he was the legal counsel for his father, Mir Quasem Ali, a central leader of Jama’at-e-Islami who was facing a politically motivated unfair trial in a kangaroo tribunal. Tragically, her father was executed by the Bangladeshi government next month.

Other notable speakers at the event included Dr. Mahmudur Rahman, the exiled Editor of Amar Desh, a newspaper banned by the current Awami League regime, as well as Pinaki Bhattacharya, an exiled Bangladeshi political analyst, Former Senator Lee Rhiannon, Frank Alafaci from the Australian Business Association, Ian Rintoul from Refugee Action Coalition Sydney, and Shaikh Abu Huraira from St Marys Masjid. They all emphasised the urgency of international attention to restoring democracy and human rights in Bangladesh while discussing this heinous crime against humanity and hundreds of victims.

Prominent Aboriginal elders and indigenous community representatives Uncle Dave Bell and Uncle Smith also offered their reflections. They emphasised that acknowledging these tragedies may not bring back the lost individuals, but it is a crucial step in preventing future human rights violations and saving future victims.

The event included a documentary film showcasing the ongoing human rights violations in Bangladesh. Shibli Sohail, the Executive Director of SAPI, served as the event’s moderator. Several artists and singers, including Apel Mahmud, Rahat Shantonu, Masud Mithun, Sohel Khan, Saikat Paul, Abdullah Yousf, ANM Masum, and others, performed songs and presented a drama highlighting the plight of the victims of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh.

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