Marking the one year anniversary of the Gulshan terror attack on Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016, politicians, diplomats, activists, friends and families of the victims returned to the old Holey premises and held a memorial on Saturday in their honour.
This was the first time the premises had been opened to the general public since the attack. Friends and families were visibly shaken being there, at the site of their loved ones’ murders.
Sombre family members arrived at Holey with wreaths and flowers unable to hold back the tears as the entered the premise.
Akku Chowdhury and Monica Chowdhury, family members and friends of Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain and Ishrat Akhond arrived at noon to pay their respects.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune about her nephew Faraaz and friend Ishrat, Monica said: “Faraaz was our pride. He was a bright talented young man, the likes of which are one in a million.”
Managing Director of Transcom Foods Limited, Akku Chowdhury said: “People from all religions have their right to live here in Bangladesh. There is no place for terrorism in Islam. I believe the younger generation has the power to build a bright future for Bangladesh.”
[caption id="attachment_72074" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Police are providing security as mourners gather to the spot of the terrorist attack Syed Zakir Hossain
Sister-in-law of Italian victim Nadia Benedetti said she was scheduled to fly out of Dhaka on July 2, 2016. Nadia Yasmin Preema said: “Nadia was a good soul. She loved helping people. The last time I spoke to her was right before she left for Holey that night.”
Maksuda Begum, mother of Holey employee Zakir Hossain Shaon, came all the way from Narayanganj to pay her respects but was initially barred from entering the premise but was later allowed after media backlash.
Shaon had escaped the restaurant with bullet wounds during the attack but later died in hospital.
Maksuda was heartbroken that neither the government nor anyone from the law enforcement agencies spoke to her or her family for a year, claiming that her son was killed in police custody.
“When we went to the hospital to see my son, it was clear he had no chances of survival. I am a poor person and all I want is justice,” she said.
Politicians and Diplomats
At 7am, the Japanese Ambassador Masato Watanabe arrived with a small delegation and held a minute of silence for the seven Japanese citizens who were killed by the militants.
An Italian delegation, led by Ambassador Mario Palma, payed their respects to the nine Italian men and women who lost their lives during the attack.
[caption id="attachment_72075" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
An Italian delegation led by Ambassador Mario Palma pay tribute on Saturday to the victims of July 1, 2016 terror attack on Holey Artisan Bakery. Politicians, diplomats, cultural activists and general people gathered at the old Holey premises to pay their respects to the lives lost in the attack Syed Zakir Hossain
On behalf of the ruling Awami League, General Secretary Obaidul Quader placed a wreath at Holey at 9:50am. He was accompanied by Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and many other leaders and activists of the party. Wreaths were also placed on behalf of local Chhatra League and Awami League units.
Obaidul Quader spoke briefly to the press, saying: “Although militancy has not been entirely uprooted from the country, the government’s efforts had weakened them significantly.”
The senior Awami League leaders also urged people to help law enforcers in fighting against militancy.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor came to pay his respects and placed a wreath. Speaking to the media, he said: “The government is working very hard to combat militancy. The history and tradition of Bangladesh speaks of peaceful coexistence. We never thought something like the Holey Artisan terror attack could happen.”
A delegation of BNP led by Senior Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi placed a wreath and conveyed their condolences to the victims’ families.
Calling the attack a dark chapter in the history of Bangladesh, Rizvi said: “Bangladesh is a country of acceptance and incidents like the Holey attack is uncharacteristic. There is still a mystery surrounding who actually is responsible for the attack, since the IS claimed responsibility but the government has denied their existence in Bangladesh.
“After the attack we expected a concerted effort to root out any radical network in Bangladesh but that does not seem to be the case. The entire country needs to step up and fight radicalism.”
We need a political effort to really combat this. We cannot root out terrorism with temporary solutions
After placing his wreath, Ekattorer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee President Shahriar Kabir said the country is dealing with the threat of terrorism in a wrong way and trying to push it out by force.
“We need a political effort to really combat this. We cannot root out terrorism with temporary solutions.
“Religion based politics is being used to incite violence. Allowing terrorism in the name of religion, the killing of minorities, foreigners and free thinkers should not be tolerated in Bangladesh,” he said.
Former employee of Holey Artisan Bakery Popilson John Cheran also came to pay his respects. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Cheran said: “The people who were killed at Holey were regulars at the restaurant. It was there second home. They knew all the servers and treated them like family. Always very kind and friendly.”
Cheran, who now works at Sushi Samurai, managed to escape during the attack that night.
Additional Inspector General of Police (Administration and Operations) Mokhlesur Rahman and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia also came to pay their respects having lost two active members during the attack.
“It was a turning point for Bangladesh Police. The country has never seen anything like that,” said Additional IGP Mokhlesur Rahman.
Around the country
In Rajshahi, a memorial was held in the memory of Faraaz Hossain. There was a minute of silence in remembrance of Faraaz at Rajshahi College Shaheed Minar.
Principal of the college Hobibur Rahman said at the memorial: “Faraaz was given the chance to save his own life but he sacrificed himself for his friends. When faced with such a difficult choice, a lot of people including me would take the option to save themselves, but he did not. He stood up against terrorism. He acted like a soldier and did the right thing by standing along with his friends. His act of courage will always be a reminder to society against terrorism.”
In Naogaon, a sports competition was held in remembrance of the Holey victims in Lokhaijani area.