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T.A.N.G.O = totally autonomous nongovernmental organization

The Young Psychopaths ‎

Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR) is a national NGO; ‎Sigma Huda is the general secretary; Nazmul Huda, her husband, is a member. Sigma ‎Huda is also the UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, and has delivered speeches ‎at several UN conventions, and elsewhere, on abuses against women and violation of ‎human rights in general. ‎

On 10th July, a kidnapped teenage girl called Ruma (15) was found murdered on an ‎embankment in Keraniganj in Dhaka. The police allege that Ruma had been gang raped ‎by a local Juba Dal leader and his friends in 2004, and a case had been filed against them. ‎Ruma was supposed to appear in court to testify on July 22, 2007. ‎

What is the Jubo Dal? The Jubo Dal is the youth wing of the Bangladesh Nationalist ‎Party (BNP); and the Jatiyatabadi Chatra Dal (JCD) is the corresponding student wing of ‎the party. ‎

The Awami League also has such organizations: the Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL) is ‎the student wing, and the Jubo League (JL) is the youth wing. ‎
Without these organizations, democracy in Bangladesh would be impossible - because ‎these boys are the private armies of the parties, unleashed when one party tries to remain ‎permanently in power. The boys, therefore, have to have certain qualities without which ‎they could not render their services to the parties: qualities such as insensitivity to others' ‎suffering, a love of risk and disdain for law and order, the ability and willingness to kill ‎without a qualm - in short, they must be psychopaths. ‎

Whether psychopaths gravitate towards the political parties, or the parties turn boys into ‎psychopaths remains a moot question. The author conducted several interviews of student ‎politicians, one of which is available online at ‎http://ritro.com/sections/worldaffairs/story.bv?storyid=3664. However, he has not been ‎able to answer the question definitively, but evidence would suggest the latter possibility: ‎that the parties' youth and student wings are schools in psychopathy. ‎

‎ ‎
When the boys rape or gang rape, and when they extort money from businessmen, ‎they are allowed to do so with impunity. But one must spare more than a dollop of ‎sympathy for these youngsters: before the military takeover in January, 2007, the boys ‎were dying at the rate of 50 per year, according to the author's researches. And they killed ‎each other, usually within the same party, over the sharing of the spoils. ‎

The UNICEF web site says: "The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first ‎legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights-‎civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that ‎children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old ‎often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to ‎make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too. ‎

‎"The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells ‎out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to ‎develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and ‎to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. (http://www.unicef.org/crc )" ‎

‎ ‎
The reader will notice that all the highlighted rights have been violated in the case of the ‎student politicians of Bangladesh. For student activists begin their violent careers well ‎before they are eighteen. A typical news item might relate that a fifteen-year-old student, ‎‎Redwan Ahmed, had been killed by members of his own student wing, the Jatiyatabadi ‎Chatra Dal (JCD) in ‎Sylhet on April 19th (Bangladesh Observer, 20 April 2006, p 6). And ‎the Daily Star chronicled how fifteen students were murdered at Tejgaon Polytechnic ‎Institute between 1985 and 2000, that is, in as many years (April 3rd 2000‎, p 1). Students ‎graduate from the institute at the age of eighteen. ‎

Similarly, UNESCO has failed to live up to its commitment "to the long-term and ‎continuing process of developing a culture of non-violence and cooperative learning in ‎schools and other educational institutions as an important contribution to a global ‎movement for a culture of peace. (click here

The gratitude of genuine students for the military ban on student politics since January ‎has been obvious from numerous letters to the editor. Here are a few samples from the ‎Daily Star:‎

‎"Armed clashes, harassment of general students, unscheduled closure of the seats of ‎learning--all these became common phenomena of our public universities. Needless to ‎say, it is the general students that suffered because of the activities of a handful of so-‎called student leaders....Finally, we appreciate the government move regarding the ban ‎on student politics (25th May)."‎

‎"I want to convey my heartiest congratulations to the interim govt. for taking the ‎initiative to ban students' and teachers' politics on the campus (18th May)."‎

We began this article with the general secretary of BSEHR and UN Rapporteur, Sigma ‎Huda. The lady would appear not to have raised any fuss over the students' extramural ‎activities: the rapes and murders, for instance, which it was clearly her duty, indeed her ‎office, to bring under the glare of publicity. And why did she stay silent year after year? ‎

It was observed that Nazmul Huda is her husband. Now, Nazmul Huda has been a ‎member of the BNP, that is to say, he has been a politician; not only that, he has been a ‎very successful politician: he was minister for information and communication in the two ‎governments formed by his party since 1990. ‎

Cheri Blair, Laura Bush: Human Rights Advocates? ‎

Now, why is a minister's wife a UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and Violence Against ‎Women? Surely, her status as a minister's spouse would motivate her not to divulge any ‎information detrimental to her husband's career. Would the UN appoint Cheri Blair or ‎Laura Bush as human rights advocates? Yet, that is exactly what the UN has done by ‎appointing Sigma Huda to that role. ‎

Now we begin to understand why the world knows nothing about the boy psychopaths ‎and their political minders. But there's more. ‎

When the present government prevented Sigma Huda from leaving the country, UN ‎Watch, an international NGO, kicked up a row. It issued a press release on its web site: ‎

‎" UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer today issued the following statement:‎

‎"We welcome High Commissioner Louise Arbour's decision to pursue our call to action. ‎We urge other officials-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Council President Luis ‎Alfonso De Alba and the leaders of the Council's Asian and Islamic groups-to use their ‎own considerable influence to obtain Ms. Huda's immediate release.‎

‎"By preventing her from leaving the country, the government of Bangladesh is in ‎violation of Ms. Huda's internationally-protected right to freedom of movement and ‎expression. Bangladesh has no right to deny a UN expert-or any citizen-her right to ‎leave on the reported basis that "she may give statements detrimental" to it". ‎‎(http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1316871&ct=3948025)'

The author has written to UN Watch, using the generous provisions for communication ‎on their web page, to query why they had been using the services of the wife of a minister ‎and why they were now rooting for her when both husband and wife had been charged ‎with corruption. Now, however, the couple have been jailed, not only for corruption, but ‎also for - wait for it - extortion. The arrest of Sigma Huda had been stayed by the High ‎Court, but had been cleared by the Supreme Court. Therefore, the actions of UN Watch ‎are tantamount to interfering with the legal system of Bangladesh, where she has been ‎getting every legal remedy available under law, and has the chance to prove her ‎innocence using proper legal remedies. ‎

Needless to add, I have not, to date, received a reply from UN Watch to my queries. ‎

Another source of concern is Amnesty International, especially given the fact that the ‎general secretary of Amnesty is a lady from Bangladesh, Irene Z. Khan, who regularly ‎comes to visit her mother. Why has Amnesty failed - or refused - to voice any shock or ‎horror at the denial and abuse of the fundamental rights of children and students? ‎

Perhaps the glossing over of facts had something to do with Amnesty International's lack ‎of presence in Bangladesh - which has, however, not prevented it from condemning ‎Bangladesh on several occasions. In a report in the Bangladesh Observer (13th September ‎‎2003, page 1), it was stated that Amnesty had closed its local branch. The reasons were ‎vague and cryptic and indicated some sort of hanky-panky by local members, who had ‎registered Amnesty Bangladesh as a limited company, when, of course, it is a NGO. "The ‎individual members will be able to participate in AI actions and campaigns, but will not ‎have any entitlement to use the name AI Bangladesh, the letter says. However, the letter ‎mentioned that in due course, it is expected that AI may retain and recruit sufficient ‎membership to rebuild groups and a structure in Bangladesh, but until such time, AI ‎Bangladesh has no status or legal standing and the name must not be used." Confused? ‎So was this writer. ‎

Again, the author wrote to Amnesty International asking why the office had been shut ‎down and all he received was an e-mail from "Franziska Grobke, Unit Assistant, ‎International Mobilization Programme (IMP), Amnesty International, International ‎Secretariat On behalf of : Irene Khan, Secretary General, Amnesty International, ‎International Secretariat."

She wrote: "Thank you for your interest in becoming involved in Amnesty International ‎‎(AI)! ‎
‎"AI is currently undergoing a major review of its international membership program for ‎individuals such as yourself who reside in countries where we do not have an established ‎Amnesty International section.‎
‎"While this is happening, it would be useful if you could send us your postal address and ‎any other relevant contact details, including which language you would like to receive ‎information in and we will add you to our database for international members. We are ‎grateful for your interest and would like maintain contact with you and continue our ‎communication." ‎

When I repeated that I wanted information on how Amnesty functions in Bangladesh, and ‎why its local chapter had been shut down, it was clear that Ms. Grobke had no desire to ‎‎"continue our communication". In sum, I never heard from her again. ‎

This recalls to my mind another famous shutdown of a NGO towards the end of the ‎‎1990s. The NGO in question was called Gono Shahajjo Sangstha (GSS) and it was the ‎third-biggest NGO in Bangladesh. Again, it closed down under mysterious ‎circumstances. Mosharraf Hossein, an employee of GSS, gave me some inside ‎information at the time: apparently the Executive Director, Mahmud Hassan, had upset ‎the donors for some reason, and then it was brought to light by newspapers that the ‎Director was sexually harassing a widow - and yet the Director had been known to be a ‎sexual predator for years, as Dr. David Lewis of the Centre for Civil Society at the ‎London School of Economics later told me. Mosharraf Hossein and other employees won ‎a court case against GSS, which was directed to pay the employees for the days they had ‎worked without pay - but the ex-staff have not seen a cent of their money, and the ‎organization just disappeared. ‎

That the Director was a sexual predator was further confirmed to the author by Dr. ‎Mozaffer Ahmed, one of the members of the board of trustees of GSS. Indeed, what ‎appalled the staff was the fact that the trustees - men like Dr. Mozaffer Ahmed (who ‎now heads Transparency International, Bangladesh) and Rehman Sobhan (now top ‎person at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a think tank) - were rooting, not for the widow ‎and other victims, but for the top dog! Clearly, the elite in Bangladesh hang together - no ‎doubt at the thought of having to hang separately. ‎

Why then was news of his sexual exploitation of female staff leaked to the press just ‎weeks before the NGO shut down, and not earlier? Clearly, it was a smear campaign, not ‎an ethical blip in someone's conscience, and the trustees were willing to exonerate him ‎completely. Did the donors push him? Without doubt. But why? ‎

It Takes More Than Two

TANGOs, as my neologism implies, operate in a murky world, unaccountable to anyone, ‎opaque as prisons and secretive as intelligence services. ‎

Take the corruption at CARITAS, the local branch of the Roman Catholic Church's ‎NGO. Its immaculate reputation sits totally at odds with its maculate workings. When the ‎author was an English teacher at a seminary, one of his students confided to him that he ‎would never work at CARITAS because of the corruption. I took this cum grano at the ‎time, such was, and still is, the reputation of that organization. However, the fact was ‎further confirmed when Mosharraf Hossein (mentioned above) joined CARITAS and ‎regaled the author with descriptions of the rampant corruption there. Incidentally, he was ‎one of the very few Muslims at CARITAS, which prefers to recruit mostly Christians. ‎Whether that is charitable or not is perhaps a question of conscience. ‎

Indeed, setting up an NGO is the road to a quick buck here. For the most important ‎question must surely be: why has there been no outcry against student politics from ‎human rights organizations, NGOs, donors and intellectuals?‎

‎ ‎
Both because the myth that students - a glorious, upright group of youths - had ‎overthrown the autocratic General Ershad would be irreparably shattered, and the Good ‎versus Evil dichotomy would become unsustainable; and because without student ‎politics, democracy in Bangladesh would collapse. We have considered their primary ‎function: to serve as private armies of the political parties. According to The Daily Star: ‎‎"Immediately after a party serves out its tenure in government, its rivals invariably go on ‎the offensive to settle 'old' scores. And, as a matter of practice, the battle line is drawn ‎first at different universities and colleges" (July 31st 2001, p.10).‎

Donors want democracy; they are willing to pump money and prestige into the ‎idea. In fact, the role of donors in promoting NGOs in Africa has been studied by Patrick ‎Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz in their book Africa Works: Disorder as Political ‎Instrument (Oxford: James Currey, 1999). The writers speak of an "aid market" that local ‎NGOs know how to exploit. ‎

‎"The political significance of such a massive proliferation of NGOs in Africa deserves ‎closer attention. Our research suggests that this expansion is less the outcome of the ‎increasing political weight of civil society than the consequence of the very pragmatic ‎realization that resources are now largely channeled through NGOs." (page 22)‎

The authors also - like myself - attribute the spread of democracy since 1990 to ‎foreign donor pressure, and reject outright the notion of an emerging civil society: "It ‎cannot simply be a coincidence that, now that the West ties aid to democratization under ‎the guise of multi-party elections, multi-party elections are taking place in Africa." (page ‎‎118). In a private communication to the author by e-mail in July 2003, Patrick Chabal ‎observed again that the breakdown of the neo-patrimonial state would result in more ‎chaos and violence. He adduced the example of Zimbabwe, which had surprised even ‎him for it appeared more institutionalized. ‎

Therefore, a 'freedom industry' has developed that systematically denies to the ‎international audience what goes on in Bangladesh. ‎

The Freedom Industry

The Legitimacy Nexus(A to C)/ Cash,Career Nexus
‎(right to left)‎

‎(A) Western intellectuals, journalists/ Western universities, think-tanks, media
‎(B) Local intellectuals/ Western organisations, western governments, NGOs‎
(C) Local political parties/ Crime‎

That crime has been the bottom of the pyramid of democracy here has today been made ‎abundantly clear - if it was ever in doubt (TIME observed: "...on average a truck on its ‎way from Dhaka to the port city of Chittagong, the country's most important commercial ‎route, is stopped 8-12 times by extortionists. Trucks are frequently hijacked at night, and ‎drivers who attempt to fight off the hijackers are sometimes shot. Bahar [a truckers' union ‎member] says 35 drivers were killed last year by extortionists" (April 12 2004, p. 22)). A ‎recent BBC report notes: "For a glimpse of what this military-backed emergency ‎government is all about you could do worse than wander along to Dhanmondi police ‎station in central Dhaka. ‎

‎"A peek over the wall reveals that the forecourt has begun to resemble a luxury car ‎showroom, packed with impounded cars belonging to the arrested political elite. ‎

‎"Their owners, many of whom have accrued enormous wealth during their few short ‎years in power in one of the world's poorest countries, are now awaiting trial ‎‎(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6293170.stm)."‎

Two of them are Sigma and Nazmul Huda, UN Special Rapporteur and member, ‎BSEHR, respectively, protected all these years, it would seem, from public scrutiny by ‎both national and international TANGOs. ‎
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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, ├ éČ┼ŻBangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL ├ éČ┼ŻTEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. ├ éČ┼ŻHe (more...)
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