Thursday, July 19, 2012

Diplomatic Catastrophe Awaits Bangladesh

United Nations Human Rights Commission [UNHRC] will be sending delegation to Bangladesh soon to investigate the cases of disappearances, secret killing and gross violation of human rights. The independent human rights experts of the United Nations have examined 13 reported cases of enforced disappearance under its urgent action procedure, as well as information on more than 200 cases in 33 countries, including in Bangladesh. According to UN News Agency, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during its 97th session, that took place in Geneva from July 9 to 13, also reviewed the newly-submitted cases and the previously accepted ones. Bangladesh topped the list of the UNHRC committee following alarming rise in enforced or involuntary disappearances of numerous people, including Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader and former MP Ilias Ali as well as the secret killing of Saudi diplomat Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali who was found dead only 30 metres from his home in Dhaka's diplomatic enclave named Gulshan. He had bullet wounds to his chest and was taken to a hospital. Though Bangladeshi police confirmed that the murder was "pre-planned" and professional killers were used in it, the case has not been investigated in proper manner yet and the culprits are yet to be traced by the Bangladeshi intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The 5-member investigation team from UNHRC will be arriving in Bangladesh during first week of August. It is anticipated that current government in Bangladesh may face severe diplomatic catastrophe once the investigation team convincingly finds the facts about enforced disappearance of various individuals particularly the case enforced disappearance of Ilias Ali as well as murder of Saudi diplomat Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali, garment trade unionist Aminul Islam, journo couple Sagor Sarwar and Meherun Runi, it will submit report with the United Nations, which may ultimately result in sending back of Bangladeshi troops from the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces. United Nations may even recommend punitive measures against the Bangladeshi government for gross violation of human rights and extreme expression of press. While signals of imminent diplomatic catastrophe for the current government is already prominent, the Bangladeshi foreign minister Dr. Dipu Moni and entire team are totally ignorant as well as reluctant in taking any immediate measures in resolving the issue without further delay. 

The foreign minister even did not send any emergency note to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, briefing her of the possible outcome of the investigation of the UNHRC team.

Since assuming power in January 2009, the current government led by Bangladesh Awami League has been facing serious diplomatic setbacks internationally as the government and particularly the foreign minister is completely depending on New Delhi's protection and blessings, while she is continuing to ignore the importance of the international community. Dr. Dipu Moni's series of failures has already caused severe crisis to country's manpower exports to various countries including the Middle East, while in recent times, there are signs that US buyers of Bangladeshi textile products are already moving to other countries seeing unending repression of garment workers including the murder of trade unionist Aminul Islam. The US ambassador in Bangladesh, Dan Mozena had already warned the government that large buyers in his country may refrain from buying textile products from Bangladesh due to recent murder of the trade unionist as well as numerous forms of repressive actions of the readymade garment workers in the country. According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, there had already been significant decline in export of textile products to United States and the European nations. It expressed grave concern at such scenario stating, further decline in orders from the United States in particular may force the owners of the garment factories in either suspending productions or cutting off the work forces. If the readymade garment industry owners will go for slicing down the number of their workers, it will surely create a huge employment crisis in Bangladesh, which would be added to already trouble manpower export sector. It may be mentioned here that, a few million female workers are employed in readymade garment factories in Bangladesh as the country is still one of the major producers of textile products in the world.

Following the enforced disappearance of Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader M Ilias Ali, the Prime Minister, home minister and most of the important figures in the government gave assurances to the family of the missing politician that the government would do everything possible in finding out the facts behind this case. There had also been numerous blank promises from the government of finding the missing opposition leader, though now the hope has already started fading out. According to newspaper reports, M Ilias Ali was picked up during late hours of the night by plain-clothe members of an intelligence agency.

Similarly, the current government gave fullest assurances to the Saudi authorities in identifying the murderers of Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali, which also has now been proven to be another blank promise of the ruling party. The murder of Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali and subsequent reluctance of Bangladeshi Awami League led government in investigating the case has already caused dissatisfaction and anger into the minds of the Saudi policymakers as well it also has generated serious doubts about good governance and rule of law in Bangladesh.

United Nations and the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces were already concerned following statements of the ruling party saying a significant segment of the members of Bangladesh Armed Forces were belonging to radical Islamic ideology. Current Prime Minister's son wrote a research-based paper in Harvard journal giving further details of his accusation of madrassa-educated radical Jihadists inside Bangladesh Army. The paper was further supported by statement from Bangladesh Army few months back, following a foiled coup attempt, where claims were made that radical Islamists inside Bangladesh Army were conspiring to stage coup against the current government in the country. Such statements and claims had generated serious concern within United Nations Peace Keeping Forces, who were raising eyebrows thinking, if it was safe to recruit such radical Jihadists or Islamists in the peace keeping force.

BY :  Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Bangladesh keeps door firmly shut on Rohingya

Refugee rights activists say Bangladesh is acting against international humanitarian law in turning back Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. However, Dhaka says it is doing nothing wrong and must put its own people first.
Ignoring appeals from international community, Bangladesh is sticking to its stand not to allow any Rohingya refugee inside its territory as every week boatloads of Rohingyas are seeking to flee Myanmar.
The ethnic violence that broke out in Arakan state in Myanmar last month is continuing. Earlier this month, US-based Human Rights Watch reported that Myanmar’s security forces were indulging in mass arrest and the use of unlawful force against the Rohingyas.
In the past six weeks more than 1,300 Rohingya men, women and children sought to cross over to Bangladesh.
Little more than a hundred of the Rohingyas managed to sneak into Bangladesh in the first couple days after violence broke out in Myanmar. But, despite their fervent appeals seeking refuge in Bangladesh, the remaining Rohingyas keep being turned back.
“Boatloads of Rohingyas from Myanmar are arriving every week. Through many points on our border they are attempting to sneak in,” Lt. Col. Zahid Hassan, a border guard commander in Cox’s Bazar said. “We are not allowing any of them to enter Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Dipu Moni, said that her already poor and densely populated country is facing many crises with the Rohingya refugees. “In no situation we can take any extra load of Rohingya refugees which could worsen our problems here,” said Moni.
After a widespread ethnic conflict in Myanmar in 1978, thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar.
Persecution by junta
After Myanmar stripped the Rohingyas of citizenship and identified them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, more Rohingyas began fleeing Myanmar.
In 1991, following alleged persecution by military junta in another wave tens of thousands of Rohingyas crossed over to Bangladesh. Bangladesh stopped granting Rohingyas refugee status in 1992.
But the trickle from across the border continued, resulting in the number of Rohingya refugees reaching 300,000 in Bangladesh. While 28,000 of them live in two UNHCR-sponsored camps, others live as illegal refugees in numerous decrepit camps scattered across south eastern Bangladesh.
In the illegal Rohingya colonies where electricity and sanitation facilities are absent, the refugees live in extreme poverty. In over-populated and poverty-stricken Bangladesh, local people do not welcome the Rohingyas.
The refugees are draining the local resources and it is resulting in increased poverty among local people, many allege.

“The Rohingyas are ready to work at a very low wage. So the local people are angry as their jobs are being taken away by the refugees,” said Jasimuddin, a police officer in Cox’s Bazar district, where most Rohingya refugees live.
“It leads to conflicts between local people and the mostly illegal refugees. Many local people are dead against the arrival of new refugees.”
In 2009 Bangladesh began a crackdown on illegal Rohingyas living in the country. Many were arrested and sent to jail on charges of illegal infiltration. Many illegal Rohingyas have been forced to return to Myanmar in a formal “push-back” process by Bangladesh.
In 2010 a UN Joint Initiative [UNJI] sought to launch a 33-million-US-dollar project to alleviate poverty in Cox’s Bazar which could benefit the refugees as well as the local population, the initiative said.
‘Underhand intentions’
But Bangladesh government blocked the UNJI project- which was to be funded mostly by the EU and Australia, accusing the UN of “mala-fide intentions” and claiming that it was an “underhand attempt” to rehabilitate the refugees in the country.

Bangladesh says, any new initiative to help the Rohingyas in Bangladesh would attract fresh influx of refugees and so it cannot allow UNHCR to expand its support to the Rohingyas.
Chris Lewa, the director of Rohingya advocacy group Arakan Project said that extreme miseries force the Rohingyas to flee Myanmar and that they should not be denied refuge by Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh should not turn away people fleeing persecution: non-refoulement is a principle of international customary law, whether a country has signed the refugee convention or not,” said Ms Lewa.
Bangladesh says that it firmly stands by its decision not to open its border to the Rohingyas now.
“The international community is pressuring us to accept the refugee as per the international customary law. It’s unfair,” said Foreign Minister Moni.
“Right from the time Rohingyas began taking refuge in Bangladesh, we have been a persistent objector to their entry here. When one country persistently objects to such an issue, the international customary law cannot be applicable to it.”
‘Impossible situation, serious trouble’
Last week in an official statement Myanmar president Thein Sein said, it’s “impossible” for Myanmar to accept the Rohingyas because they are illegal immigrants and do not belong to the ethnicity of Myanmar.
Bangladesh doesn’t look set to change its mind any time soon
“If Bangladesh does not open its border, the poor people will face very serious trouble,” said Nurul Islam, a Rohingya community leader in Bangladesh.
Some rights activists and Rohingya issue experts said that – although the primary responsibility to resolve the Rohingya issue lies with the Myanmar government – by denying shelter to the refugees, Bangladesh is acting against international humanitarian law.
Kelley Currie, a fellow with the Washington-based think tank Project 2049 Institute and a former Asia policy adviser in the US State Department said that Bangladesh is obliged to provide refuge to the Rohingyas.
The first issue is the basic international legal obligation not to return individuals who are fleeing persecution for ethnic, religious or political reasons, said Currie.
“In this case the Rohingyas clearly qualify as refugees if they are able to cross an international border.”
Bangladesh claims that it is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, and is therefore not obliged to accept the RohingyasShaikh .
BY :  Azizur Rahman.

600-year-old linen bras found in Austrian castle

A revolutionary discovery is rewriting the history of underwear: Some 600 years ago, women wore bras.
The University of Innsbruck said Wednesday that archeologists found four linen bras dating from the Middle Ages in an Austrian castle. Fashion experts describe the find as surprising because the bra had commonly been thought to be only little more than 100 years old as women abandoned the tight corset.
Instead, it appears the bra came first, followed by the corset, followed by the reinvented bra.
One specimen in particular "looks exactly like a (modern) brassiere," says Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum. "These are amazing finds."
Although the linen garments were unearthed in 2008, they did not make news until now says Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery.
Researching the items and carbon dating them to make sure they were genuine took some time. She delivered a lecture on them last year but the information stayed within academic circles until a recent article in the BBC History Magazine.
"We didn't believe it ourselves," she said in a telephone call from the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck. "From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century."
The university said the four bras were among more than 2,700 textile fragments — some linen, others linen combined with cotton — that were found intermixed with dirt, wood, straw and pieces of leather.
"Four linen textiles resemble modern-time bras" with distinct cups and one in particular looks like today's version, it said, with "two broad shoulder straps and a possible back strap, not preserved but indicated by partially torn edges of the cups onto which it was attached."
And the lingerie was not only functional.
The bras were intricately decorated with lace and other ornamentation, the statement said, suggesting they were also meant to please a suitor.
While paintings of the era show outerwear, they do not reveal what women wore beneath. Davidson, the fashion curator, described the finds as "kind of a missing link" in the history of women's underwear.
Women started experimenting with bra-like garments in the late 1800s and the first modern brassiere was patented in the early 19th century. It is thought to have been invented by New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob, who was unhappy with the look of her gown over a stiff corset.
Also found at Lemberg Castle in Tyrol was a linen undergarment that looks very much like a pair of panties. But Nutz said it is men's underwear — women did not wear anything under their flowing skirts back then.
"Underpants were considered a symbol of male dominance and power," she said.
Medieval drawings often show a man and a woman fighting for a pair of underpants in a symbolic battle to see who "wears the trousers" in the family.

China's Great Wall is 'longer than previously thought'

The Great Wall of China has been officially declared even longer than previously thought, state-run media report.

The wall measures 21,196.18km (13,170.6956 miles) long based on the latest state survey results, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

A preliminary study released in 2009 estimated the wall to be 8,850km long.

The world's largest man-made structure was built to protect China's northern border. 

This is the first time such a definitive figure has been released, Xinhua reports.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage released the results based on an archaeological survey done since 2007. 

Previous estimates of the wall's length were mainly based on historical records.

Tong Mingkang, deputy chief, said that the survey revealed a total of 43,721 heritage sites that included stretches of the Great Wall, reports Xinhua.

Known to the Chinese as the "Long Wall of 10,000 Li", the Great Wall is a series of walls and earthen works begun in 500BC and first linked up under Qin Shi Huang in about 220BC. 

Only 8.2% of the original wall remains intact, with the rest in poor condition, according to the report.
It was listed as a Unesco world heritage site in 1987.