Geneva conference demands recognition of Bangladesh genocide

Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani

Geneva, 10 October 2023: Speakers at the United Nations side event on 10 October called upon the governments and international institutions, including the UN agencies, to recognise the Bangladesh genocide committed by Pakistan in 1971. They said silence is complicity and opined that every genocide and every crime against humanity deserves to be recognised to give solace and honour to the victims and members of the victims’ families and stop the recurrence of such crimes against humanity. The international community has a moral obligation and role in this regard. They were speaking at the side event on ‘Justice & Peace: Bangladesh Genocide’ 1971’organised jointly by the European Bangladesh Forum (EBF), Global Solidarity for Peace. International Human Rights Commission, Switzerland and Bangladesh Support Group (BASUG) at the UN building in Geneva, Switzerland.

Addressing the side event, Bangladesh ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Offices Mohammad Sufiur Rahman said that the Pakistani government intended to destroy a community in 1971. The other part of Pakistan wanted to subjugate the Eastern part from the beginning. They wanted to destroy Bengali culture and identity and started marginalising economically and socially by attacking the Bengali language.

Referring to the recent visit of the European fact-finding mission in Bangladesh, veteran Dutch politician and human rights activist Harry van Bommel said by talking to the victims, visiting killing sites and reading testimonials documented by the International Crimes Tribunal. We have come to the conclusion that there is enough physical evidence in Bangladesh to support the scientific consensus that there was a genocide in Bangladesh in 1971.

In his speech, British journalist and publisher of EU Today, Gary Cartwright, said West Pakistan realised the values of East Pakistan. The desire of Bangladeshi people for independence is quite understandable. He added currently, Bangladesh’s GDP is higher than that of the European Union. This is an incredible achievement for such a young country. Regarding the recognition of the 1971 genocide, he added, Britain has a moral responsibility to recognise the genocide without any delay.

In her paper titled ‘Truth-seeking and the 1971 Genocide’, Aleena Khan, an American of Pakistani descent and who is a lecturer at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs at Leiden University, Netherlands, said, ‘the Pakistani government and society’s desire to entirely erase the history that almost halved its population was hard for me to understand. I also know that as an American of Pakistani descent, I do not have the same perspective as a person from Pakistan only. However, I don’t think that should matter. I think all Pakistanis need to make an effort to open this dialogue. I don’t think reaching justice without a collective history and shared understanding is possible.

In his paper, Dr. Hossain Abdul Hai, a former journalist of German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle and researcher at the University of Bonn, Germany, said 1971 was a black chapter of human history. The brutality during the war in 1971 was not limited only to a group of soldiers, fighters or a community. It has left the evidence of torture, rape, killing, burning and cleansing of the whole nation and ethnicity.

Munir Mengal, President of Baloch Voice Association, France, said that in the same way Pakistani soldiers killed Bangladeshi intellectuals on the eve of Bangladesh’s independence, they are brutally killing Baloch intellectuals now. We believe that international recognition of the genocide committed in 1971 and the exemplary punishment of those responsible would not have allowed them to repeat it in Balochistan today.

Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party, Switzerland, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, referring to the events of 1971, said, in response to a journalist’s question, General Tikka Khan, the butcher of Bengal, said, “I do not believe in history, I believe only geography.” On the other hand, General Niazi said about their rape and oppression of Bengali women, we are here to change the race of the Bengali. Such was the mindset of the Pakistani military rulers.

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