'Starting in 2013 it became very violent. There were a number of brutal killings, we had people who were bloggers – who had written very strongly in support of the war crimes trials, who had been very critical of political Islamism—and were hunted down and killed'
Speakers at a discussion on extremism in Bangkok on Tuesday, said that Bangladesh is not immune to global trends, referring to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent radicalization of many Muslim majority nations.
UNDP in Asia and the Pacific, and the ExtremeLives by UNDP Asia Pacific, jointly organized a panel discussion on the issue. The speakers at the panel discussion were renowned Bangladesh security expert and former Elections Commissioner, Brigadier General (Retd) M Sakhawat Hussian, Dhaka Tribune’s Editor-in-Chief, Zafar Sobhan, and Rajaratnam School of International Studies Assistant Professor, Dr Mohamed Nawab Osman.
“Starting in 2013 it became very violent. There were a number of brutal killings, we had people who were bloggers – who had written very strongly in support of the war crimes trials, who had been very critical of political Islamism—and were hunted down and killed,” said Zafar Sobhan, speaking on extremism in Bangladesh.
“In 2014 a hit list was published with 84 names on it, of which nine people have actually already been killed. The first person attacked was Asif Mohiuddin in January 2013. A month later, Rajib Haider attacked and killed, and since then there have been a number of high profile killings.
“All this came to a head in July 2016 when we had Bangladesh’s first major terrorist attack at the Holey Bakery Restaurant. Since then, the government has really moved into high gear in terms of countering extremism, stepping up their campaign against militancy. As a result, things have quietened down over the last two years,” he added.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in its latest statement, said that in 2017 they arrested 486 people in 156 operations, because of their involvement with militancy. A total of 21 militants were also killed in eight other operations.
Saying there is no proof or evidence that international militant group ISIS or AQIS have links with the homegrown militants or base in Bangladesh, Brig Gen (R) M Sakhawat Hussian said Bangladeshi people are becoming sensitive to security concerns, and people’s attitudes in this regard have been changing over the last couple of years.
Citing his own research on militant organization funding in the subcontinent, Dr Nawab Osman said political space is needed in Bangladesh for removing extremism and controlling militancy. He also warned there are chances of the Rohingyas becoming radicalized in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.
#ExtremeLives, an organizer of the panel discussion, wanted to uncover the human impact of extremism through video storytelling. Broadcast live on Facebook, this second episode of their new season of videos will feature a range of experts drawn from the fields of investigative journalism, the military, and academia in Bangladesh, to discuss what is causing people to join or support extremist movements, and what can be done to prevent the radicalization of youth.