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The curious case of Tahmid

  • Published at 12:01 am October 6th, 2016
The curious case of Tahmid

One should never underestimate Bangladeshi people’s supersonic ability to reach conclusions, sometimes even faster than NASA spaceships, basing on trivial events. And when it comes in the form of video footage or photographs, they never hesitate to harshly comment, no matter how foolish it may sound.

Tahmid Hasib Khan, who has been released on bail very recently, is now going through extensive criticism by a sizeable number of social media commentators, who have concluded that he is a terrorist. Some of them were found assuming some sort of corrupt connection between the government and his wealthy father.

The curious case of Tahmid Hasib Khan began the very moment the Holey Artisan attackers decided to spare the Bangladeshi diners of the restaurant. They took them to another room where they were served food and treated with respect, according to the statements of some of the hostages.

Tahmid, a student of global health at the University of Toronto, fortunately or unfortunately, somehow managed to include himself among the Bangladeshis who were decided not be killed that night.

Though the exact version of the events inside the restaurant during the siege is yet to come into light, curious readers who follow The New York Times can have a slight idea about what happened then.

According to a report published on July 8 this year, several times during the siege, the attackers ordered Mr Khan and Mr Karim to perform specific tasks for them, and one of those tasks was to carry a gun and go with them to the roof of the restaurant.

Citing at least two hostages who detailed the events under anonymity, the newspaper wrote that Tahmid was reluctant to carry guns, and the attackers even fired it to show him the magazine was empty.

Evidence in the form of photographs, which surfaced within weeks of the event, showed how Tahmid had accompanied one of the terrorists to the roof with Mr Karim in the morning.

Those photographs drew much flak on social media, where many of the commentators opined that Tahmid must have been among the attackers, and should be tried summarily.

Before arguing on whether Tahmid was a terrorist or not, one should go through the past records of the attackers, who got killed during the military operation, and whose identities have been confirmed.

Before arguing on whether Tahmid was a terrorist or not, one should go through the past records of the attackers who got killed during the military operation and whose identities have also been confirmed

All of the deceased attackers were missing for several weeks, according to their families, prior to the attack. They went incommunicado, and cut their bonds with their families. Families of some of them even contacted the law enforcers, and according to the agencies, they were searching for them.   

On the other hand, Tahmid, a model UN practitioner, was ready to join Unicef in Nepal as an intern from early July. According to The New York Times, an official letter from Unicef in Nepal confirmed this information, and Tahmid was ready to fly for Nepal on the first week of July, according to the ticket he bought prior to the attack.

People with experience in UN operations are well aware of the fact that none of the UN bodies provide internship opportunities to someone overnight, and one’s papers need to go through a rigorous selection process for such opportunities.

This evidence at least clarifies that, unlike the attackers, Tahmid was in constant contact with his family, and with the office of a UN body that even permitted him to join them as an intern.

But what made all of us doubt the possibility of his innocence and victimhood was his smiling face on the roof with a terrorist, and the photographs published on national dailies, convincing many readers that Tahmid was comfortable with the terrorists during the siege.

An interesting thing noticed by Dhaka Tribune’s social media curators is the contrast in the reaction between the readers of the Bengali portal and the readers of the English version.

This happened probably because the photographs came as a shock to the Bengali readers, who may not have read The New York Times articles that gave a brief detail of the events on the roof.

Contrarily, English daily readers had read those articles and were not shocked to see those images.

Notwithstanding the photographs, questions are there whether they are enough to tag him as a terrorist right. This case is indeed a curious one.

Aaqib Md Shatil is an Executive of Brand Development at Build Better Bangladesh Foundation.