March 26, 2013
Dr Zakia Farhana was arrested by RAB-1 from the Kashimpur area in Dhaka on Saturday March 23. The following morning at 2am she was finally released, following much distress among family and friends.
The wife of a Jamaat Dhaka city leader, Dr Shafiqul Islam Masud and daughter of Rajshahi Jamaat leader, Mr Ataur Rahman, Dr Zakia was on her way back from visiting her father in Kashimpur jail. Mr Rahman is one among the many Jamaat leader currently imprisoned across the country. Mr Rahman is unwell, suffering from diabetes and heart problems. Dr Zakia had been visiting him to see him and deliver medication.
Meanwhile, a government crackdown upon opposition leaders and activists, involving torture in custody, has meant her husband, Dr Shafiqul, has been targeted by the state. The police detained Dr Zakia to question her on her husband’s whereabouts. However, under the current conditions Dr Zakia is unable to see her husband or know his whereabouts as he is in hiding.
The arrest of the young mother provoked sharp criticism, particularly due to her having an infant nursing daughter, Namira, who is dependent on her mother to feed. Furthermore, Dr Zakia is herself expecting and unwell.
Under the duress of the current government crackdown against opponents and dissenters, Dr Shafiqul, the breadwinner of the home, has been unable to see his family nor work to earn and support them. His brother too is in hiding. As a result, Dr Zakia is having to support her family on her own.
The circumstances of the families inflicted by government repression bring into relief the reality on the ground in Bangladesh. Many have expressed concern that women are not spared from political targeting, whether by direct arrest and detention, or by suffering the absence of husbands, fathers and other family members and breadwinners. Many women have lost relatives to indiscriminate police fire and forced disappearance, while many others have relatives who have endured lengthy torture and abuse in police custody.
On December 17 2012, 20 opposition women of Jamaat were arrested without charge from their office by Bangladesh police. The arrested included 19 university students and one elderly lady. Among them was a 5 month pregnant young lady, Habiba Nasrin, who was denied bail & forced to remain in prison for 20 days. She was also forced to climb 7 stories of stairs at the court even though a lift was available. Habiba Nasrin was ultimately released on bail and recently gave birth to a boy. Other students who were with her were forced to miss crucial university exams while one young lady was forced to give her medical exams from behind bars.
On January 5 2013, over a dozen female organisers and attendees of a women’s rights press conference organised in protest of the detention of the women in December. The detained were women of the opposition, including Jamaat. After being detained for the day, the women managed to gain release in the evening.
On March 7 2013, 4 opposition BNP female ministers were arrested and detained for eight hours during a protest outside their party offices.
On March 19 2013, 18 opposition members of Jamaat were arrested from Narayanganj. They included 16 women and girls, most of whom were students of class 9 and minors. The gathering had been organised to celebrate the results of the students, all of whom had gained A* grades in recent exams. The police stated that they arrested them on suspicion of “planning sabotage”. They later gained release on bail.
Given the rampant corruption in the police forces, it is common for those detained to also be coerced of money by guards and officers.
With such violence and unrest occurring, one is forced to question the sincerity of a government claiming justice for women victims of 1971 but inflicting injustice on women in present day Bangladesh.