Rohingya refugees walk in a market area in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on March 24. (Suzauddin Rubel/AFP via Getty Images)

The coronavirus has unleashed so many problems around the world that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. Even so, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the situation facing one of the planet’s most vulnerable groups. They’ve been persecuted, maligned and terrorized — and now they’re preparing to confront the virus with minimal protection.

In the summer and fall of 2017, the Myanmar military launched a campaign of terror against the ethnic group known as the Rohingya, driving some 700,000 of them across the border into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist ruling elite has long discriminated against the Muslim Rohingya, treating them as a nefarious alien presence in the country’s midst even though most have lived there for generations.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Asia Turn to Illiberal Democracy

The return of the Rajapaksa brothers to power in Sri Lanka drew delighted cheers from their Buddhist nationalist supporters this weekend. But it should bring a shudder of alarm from those concerned for the island’s future.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the nation’s wartime defence chief, emerged as a comfortable winner on Sunday after a presidential poll on Saturday marked by deep ethnic divisions – signaling a likely return to the autocratic style favored by his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who served as president from 2005 to 2015.

More importantly, the result fits a broader and more alarming trend: the rise of illiberal democracy in South Asia as Sri Lanka joins India and Bangladesh in particular in backing nationalist strongman leaders with scant concern for the niceties of constitutional rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

Keeping the Internet free from incitement to violence, hate speech and child pornography is a priority around the world. It is particularly important in countries that have seen rapid and immense growth in Internet usage. Unfortunately, all too often, countries adopt laws and policies that appear to target online evils, but instead punish people who criticize the government or its leaders.

This is the case in Bangladesh, where more than half the population is now online, up from under 15 percent five years ago — and where the space for free speech has shrunk at an alarming rate in the process.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bangladesh is once again calling for the establishment of «safe zones» for the Rohingya in Myanmar so that it can begin resettling some of the 1 million or so refugees in its care around the district of Cox’s Bazar . This is not the first time the government in Dhaka has pushed for this. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pressed Myanmar on the issue before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017.

Now, Bangladesh’s new foreign minister, Abulkalam Abdul Momen , has started lobbying Russia, China and India, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to try to use their influence to persuade Myanmar to establish safe zones within its territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Revisiting Bangladeshs election

When Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was elected in 2009, she promised to reduce poverty, stimulate growth and propel her then-impoverished nation into the digital age. Over the last decade, she has done exactly that.

Per capita income has nearly tripled. Instances of extreme poverty have been halved. Women are far better educated, safer and more prosperous than their mothers. No wonder the prime minister and her Awami League party were overwhelmingly re-elected in December for a third consecutive term.

Some in the international media found it hard to believe that Bangladeshi voters could back one party so thoroughly. A closer look at the polls and how much life has improved in Bangladesh over the last 10 years removes that doubt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina flashes the victory symbol after casting her vote in Dhaka on December 30, 2018.

On December 30, Bangladesh’s government was reelected in a landslide. According to the country’s Election Commission, the Awami League (AL)-led ruling coalition won an astounding 288 out of the 300 parliamentary seats up for grabs. The political opposition has understandably alleged massive rigging, rejected the results, and called for new elections.

The disputed election outcome could plunge Bangladeshi politics, already poisoned by bitter and often violently expressed partisanship, into a new and dangerous era.

The opposition has every reason to be furious. For several years, the AL has engaged in a systematic campaign to undercut the opposition, if not dismantle it altogether.…  Seguir leyendo »

Election posters on a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Wednesday. After being in power for a decade, the Awami League faces serious anti-incumbent feelings.CreditMunir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Elections in Bangladesh are never tame. There were boycotts during the last parliamentary election in 2014, and voting-day violence killed some 20 people. The one before that, in December 2008, was notable for having taken place at all: Originally scheduled for January 2007, it was postponed after a military-backed coup and street battles that shut down the country.

This year again, in the lead-up to the next parliamentary election on Sunday, violent skirmishes have broken out between supporters of the two main camps, the incumbent Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (B.N.P.). Fatalities remain lower so far than in the past, but the stakes of this race are no less high: At bottom, this election is a contest between two forms of authoritarianism — only one is more dangerous than the other.…  Seguir leyendo »

This woman in a refugee camp in Bangladesh is among those raped and impregnated by soldiers. After she gave birth to a son, her husband blamed her for the rape and abandoned her.CreditCreditWong Maye-E/Associated Press

No one knows how many Rohingya became pregnant as a result of rape by the Myanmar military. No one knows how many babies were born to survivors of sexual violence living among the 750,000 Rohingya in camps in Bangladesh.

The systematic sexual violence against the Rohingya reminded many in Bangladesh of their own painful history: During Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971, the Pakistani military and local collaborators killed about 300,000 civilians and raped and tortured as many as 400,000 women and girls.

After the fighting ended in late 1971, reports abounded of rape survivors who, shunned by their own communities, had killed themselves or their newborn babies, or died from attempts to self-induce an abortion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was detained by plainclothes police at his home on Aug. 5 after giving an interview to Al Jazeera about student demonstrations. (AFP/Getty Images

The arrest in Bangladesh of the celebrated photojournalist Shahidul Alam is personal for me. He’s been a friend for over 20 years through our work on media and South Asia. As in Bangladesh, the nascent democracy in my own country, Pakistan, is marred by censorship, illegal detentions and extrajudicial killings.

Our common problems notwithstanding, the dominant narratives of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are hostile to each other and suspicious of those who don’t follow the official script.

Shahidul, who is still in jail, has done more to promote a positive image of Bangladesh and counter stereotypes than those who ordered him to be arrested and are now charging him with ruining the country’s image through his social media posts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images Photojournalist Shahidul Alam arriving for a court appearance following his arrest after a student protest, Dhaka, August 6, 2018

The renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam is supposed to be in New York on October 28 to receive a humanitarian award from the Lucie Foundation, which honors photographers every year. Alam is a worthy recipient. His career goes back to the mid-1980s when he returned from Britain to his native Bangladesh with a doctorate in chemistry and, noticing his home in political turmoil, decided to record the democratic struggle to end General Hussain Muhammad Ershad’s autocratic rule with a camera.

Through his lens, he went on to capture the human drama around him—children growing up in poverty but displaying joy and resilience across the country; human rights defenders fighting for minorities, including the Chakmas and the stateless Rohingyas being driven out of Myanmar; and the spirit of Bangladeshi lives confronting great adversities—working in brick kilns, in garment factories, in makeshift ship-breaking facilities along the coast.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cerca de una limpieza étnica en la India

Setenta y un años después de la partición de la India, y 47 años después de que lo que antes era Pakistán Oriental se convirtiera en Bangladesh, uno de los legados de la caótica división del subcontinente vuelve a cernirse sobre el país. La crisis que se desarrolla en relación con la publicación, en el estado indio de Assam, de un “registro nacional de ciudadanos” (NRC, por la sigla en inglés) pone en duda la ciudadanía (y el futuro) de unos cuatro millones de personas y amenaza con debilitar la paz en la región.

Cuando en 1947 los británicos se fueron de la India, hicieron una partición basada en la religión, por la que con las provincias de mayoría musulmana en el oeste y el este de la India se creó un estado musulmán, Pakistán.…  Seguir leyendo »

Students block a road on Aug. 5 to protest recent traffic accidents that killed a boy and a girl in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)

Last month, a speeding bus lost control and killed two teenagers in Dhaka, and thousands of schoolchildren protested on the city’s streets, demanding safer roads.

University students soon joined the protests, and the police then cracked down on demonstrators. The students have since returned to school. But academics, journalists and analysts are calling this an unprecedented movement. Here is what you need to know:

On July 29, two buses raced across an overpass to pick up passengers. One bus ran over students waiting for transportation after school. Such accidents occur often in Bangladesh, where private bus companies operate unfit vehicles driven by underage and unlicensed drivers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arafat Kabir is a writer and a graduate student of political science at the University of Utah.

Student protests have a long tradition in Bangladesh. Yet the mass demonstrations that have swept across the country for the past week mark an intriguing departure from the past. This time around, the protesters aren’t airing political demands; they’re fighting for a better road and transport system. But the impact of their efforts might be far-reaching nonetheless, since their selfless activism is giving new hope to the country’s people.

The proximate cause of the protests was the death of two high school students who were killed after getting trapped between two city buses whose drivers were concentrating on competing for passengers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 25. (Clare Baldwin/Reuters)

The world’s largest refugee camp, a densely packed agglomeration of bamboo and tarp huts with 626,000 people, sits near this town in Bangladesh. It expanded rapidly and haphazardly following an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar last August.

“Our entire village came together and settled on this spot,” said a 19-year-old refugee who arrived in September. “At first this was a jungle, but we cleared it. Now there are no trees.”

Monsoon season is here, and high winds and flooding are happening now. For months, the refugees have been busily shoring up their huts, but the camp remains vulnerable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees rebuild their makeshift house, in preparation for the approaching monsoon season at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh. April 28, 2018. (A.M. Ahad/AP)

On my first visit to this immense refugee settlement on Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, I crossed a bamboo bridge that refugees had built. It spanned a stream and connected an old settlement, where Rohingya refugees from previous waves of forced displacement have lived for decades, to the new one, now a sprawling city where more than 600,000 have taken shelter.

The bridge is a vital artery for the refugees here. It allows them to carry jerrycans, blankets and solar lamps from a distribution point in the old settlement to their families in the much larger new settlement. The stream becomes a river when it rains; when the refugees first arrived, the only way across was to swim until they were able to suspend several stalks of bamboo just above water level.…  Seguir leyendo »

In August 2017, the flight of 700,000 Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar produced the world’s newest refugee crisis – and one of its worst. Now stuck in miserable camps in Bangladesh, the Rohingya have little prospect of returning to their homes any time soon.

Their suffering is primarily a grave humanitarian concern and the Bangladeshi government and its foreign partners should focus their response on protecting the well-being of those displaced and assisting host communities. But the Rohingya’s plight also raises a so far unspoken question: Will they wait patiently to return in a safe and dignified manner – for now an unrealistic goal – or will the main militant organization in their midst lead them to pursue their goals with violence?…  Seguir leyendo »

El empoderamiento de las trabajadoras del sector textil en Bangladesh

Durante cuatro décadas, el sector de las prendas de vestir ha impulsado la economía de Bangladesh y dado más trabajo que ningún otro. En particular, las mujeres se han beneficiado de este auge laboral y, hoy en día, la mayoría de los cuatro millones de empleados de esta industria son de sexo femenino.

Pero si bien la actividad textil ha dado dinero a la economía de las mujeres y desafiado a que esta sociedad patriarcal evolucione, el empoderamiento económico no ha mejorado mucho la igualdad de género y el bienestar femenino. Al contrario, las mujeres en el mayor sector industrial de Bangladesh se encuentran en peligro en dos frentes: en el hogar y en el trabajo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una fábrica textil en Dacca, Bangladés crédito Daniel Rodrigues para The New York Times

Mosammot Bulbuli es una joven que forma parte de los millones de trabajadores de las fábricas de Bangladés, unos establecimientos que abastecen de ropa al resto del mundo.

También es una de las miles de personas que estaban trabajando en el edificio Rana Plaza en Savar hace cinco años, cuando colapsó. Más de 1100 trabajadores perdieron la vida; más de 2000 resultaron heridos.

Los sobrevivientes narran el momento de la misma manera: la luz se fue durante los primeros minutos del turno de la mañana; a continuación, se activaron los generadores con mucho ruido; luego se sacudieron los muros; se empezó a desmoronar el techo, y se cayó.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Rohingya child at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on Jan. 25. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

As of February 2018, the United Nations estimates that almost 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled Burma’s violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Almost universally, they’ve moved into refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

That is straining Bangladesh, which has absorbed a remarkable number of people in just six months, leading to desperately cramped conditions in the camps. Bangladesh is small, low-lying, under-resourced and overcrowded. And its leaders and citizens are growing impatient with the fallout of Burma’s purge of the Rohingya. Here are five ways this massive number of refugees is straining their host nation.

Political impact

When the military of Burma, also called Myanmar, launched its mass violence campaign in late August 2017, Bangladesh was initially reluctant to open its border to Rohingya refugees.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estructuras fueron recientemente agregadas a lo largo de la costa de la isla en un intento por frenar la invasión del océano. Credit Thomas Nybo/Redux, para Unicef

Cualquiera que tenga dudas sobre el cambio climático debería venir a esta adorable isla baja, bañada por suaves olas y hogar de cerca de 100.000 personas.

Pero ha de venir pronto si aún quiere encontrarla aquí.

“Mi casa estaba ahí”, dijo Zainal Abedin, un agricultor, señalando las olas a aproximadamente 30 metros de la orilla. “Cuando la marea está baja, todavía podemos ver señales de nuestra casa”.

Gran parte de Kutubdia ya ha sido tragada por el creciente nivel del mar, dejando a incontables familias sin nada. Nurul Haque, un campesino que perdió todas sus tierras, pues quedaron cubiertas por el mar, me dijo que quizá tendrá que sacar a su hija, Munni Akter, de 13 años, de la escuela y casarla con un hombre mayor que busque una segunda o tercera esposa, pues a él le quedan pocas opciones económicas para mantenerla.…  Seguir leyendo »