Shapla Square, the Mavi Marmara of Bangladesh


At 3am on the night of May the 6th 2013, Bangladeshi armed forces massacred hundreds, possibly thousands of sleeping protestors in Shapla Square in Dhaka [1], the capital city of Bangladesh. Just 26 days shy of the 3 year anniversary of the Israeli commando attack on the Mavi Marmara [2], Bangladesh saw its own killing of innocents in what’s being dubbed the Motijheel Massacre at Shapla Square. In fact, both events bare striking resemblances in more ways than one. 3500 miles apart; the tactics used by the Bangladeshi military were near identical as those used to attack the Mavi Marmara. It begs the question: does Bangladesh have more in common with Israel than one is led to believe?

Upon watching and hearing about the events unfolding on May 6th at Shapla Square, I was experiencing an intense sense of déjà vu. Not because it was something that appeared to be from the script of a well choreographed Hollywood movie, no. Rather, it was because of my haunting memories from the events of 3 years ago in the Mediterranean Sea. I myself was on board the Mavi Marmara that tragic night and witnessed the atrocities committed by the Israeli commandos and the measures taken by them in order to obscure and conceal the true nature of their crimes.

On that fateful night of 31st of May 2010, Israeli commandos stormed a Humanitarian Flotilla [3] comprised of 7 vessels filled with humanitarian aid heading for the besieged people of Gaza [4]. It was 4:30am in the morning when Israel launched an attack on the lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara which was carrying over 600 civilians passengers on board. The Israelis deployed 4 warships, 3 helicopter gunships, 2 submarines and 30 Zodiac boats to ambush the international aid workers. We are all aware of the terrible events that followed. 9 innocent civilians were executed [5] in cold blood by Israeli commandos in international waters. More than 50 others were seriously injured. Israel has since accepted culpability and apologised [6] for the deaths,albeit almost a whole two and a half years late.  Yet, for the purpose of this article, we must take a closer look at exactly how Israel carried out its night raid on the aid flotilla.

Upon the Mavi Marmara were several news agencies that were streaming live reports from the ship, some of which included Al Jazeera English & Arabic, Press TV, Al Quds, some Turkish channels amongst many others. The organisers of the Flotilla has arranged for satellites to be on board the vessel to facilitate media coverage of the entire voyage. Right before the launch of the attack, the Israelis began jamming (blocking) the satellite signals being sent from the Mavi Marmara via what is assumed was an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. This was a deliberate attempt by the Israeli commandos to eliminate any media reporting of their unprovoked and unwarranted attack on civilians.

Once the satellites were knocked out, the commandos raided the ship initially using the Zodiac’s unsuccessfully then resorting to helicopter’s to air drop their commandos on board. The Helicopters began firing upon the passengers before the Commandos were dropped on board and they too began indiscriminately [7] firing live munitionsupon its unarmed passengers. The attack came at the most vulnerable moment for the aid workers, which was when people had been sleeping while others (Muslims) were in their dawn prayers (Fajr). It can only be described as a callous and maliciously premeditated assault on innocent civilians at a time they’d least expect it. Once passengers were killed the organisers of the Flotilla began venomously waving the white flag of surrender and desperate pleading by the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, the Israeli Commandos continued to attack and fire upon the passengers relentlessly, showing no sign of letting up.

Once the Israelis had secured the vessel and detained all passengers they then ripped out all surveillance CCTV cameras from the ship to prevent any recording of their actions and they confiscated all media equipment including cameras and laptops.

Following this, the Israeli Commandos then began recording its own version of events aboard the ship, capturing anything that could falsely justify their violence. Israeli authorities then began to spin their propaganda [8], stating that they had found weapons on board the vessel, that their soldiers’ lives were in danger and that they had acted in self defence.

Now, in coming back to the Motijheel Massacre at Shapla Square, one cannot help but observe striking similarities between the night raids conducted by the Bangladeshi military and the Israeli Commandos.

The table below illustrates some of the similar tactics used by both aggressors against innocent people.

Bangladesh is now faced with protesters who are resorting to throwing stones to repel the aggression of the Police and RAB. Meanwhile Israel has become an expert at how to deal with stone throwing protesters in Palestine. It looks like Bangladesh is taking a leaf straight out of Israel’s book; a book shared amongst most dictators of the Arab world.

Support for PM Sheikh Hasina and the hate mongering lynch mob referred to as the ‘Shahbag Movement’ has been seen coming from Israel [12]. This show of camaraderie and solidarity between Israel and Bangladesh may be more than just PR and spin, especially in light of the Motijheel Massacre at Shapla Square. There are alarmingly strong connections between the Awami League Government of Bangladesh and the track record in Israel in respect to their disregard for human life and their dehumanisation of all things critical to their rule.

Bangladesh is now faced with a very difficult reality that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. The government is leading a ruthless crackdown on all critical groups and organisations including independent media and opposition parties, thereby silencing all voices of dissent and destroying the very foundations of democracy.  This has resulted in Bangladeshis coming out onto the streets and revolting against the police and government, much like the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Although Israel is located in the Middle East, the government of Bangladesh actually has more in common with the other rotten regimes of the Arab world. Some of the examples of the commonality are;

Anti-protest operations by governments in the Arab world also mirror those carried out by the Bangladeshi govt. The situation in Bangladesh bears the same hallmarks of the Mubarak era, notwithstanding the violent militia groups that used to be loyal to those despotic regimes. The people of Bangladesh are now demanding that their government step down with immediate effect.

So why is the international community not concerned about; what people in Bangladesh are now calling; the Bangla Spring [18]?  Everyone knows that Bangladesh is a tiny monsoon crippled country, with scarce natural resources to exploit and a non-existent economy.  Bangladesh is also home to the third largest Muslim population in the world.  They are resident in an emerging part of the world completely surrounded on all sides by India. The disaster of the textiles industry has put Bangladesh back on the map for all the wrong reasons, yet the hundreds of deaths at Shapla Square; as reported by Human Rights NGOs [19]; one week later goes largely unnoticed.  Inevitably, the international community are going to have to answer some serious questions…

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Source: Justice for Bangladesh

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