ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE : Families call for return of 19 youths

Staff Correspondent
Family members of victims of enforced disappearance hold a press conference at National Press Club in Dhaka on Friday, demanding whereabouts of the victims. — New Age photo

Family members of victims of enforced disappearance hold a press conference at National Press Club in Dhaka on Friday, demanding whereabouts of the victims. — New Age photo

Families of 19 Dhaka-based opposition student activists who disappeared before the January 5, 2014 elections urged the president and the prime minister on Friday to ‘return’ the victims showing ‘humanity.’
They made the urge at a press conference they jointly organised at the National Press Club.
‘We have been suffering unbearable pain for the past two year…Our prime minister, please ask your agencies to find out the 19 youths and return them to us,’ Hajera Khatun, the mother of Ward-38 unit Bangladesh Nationalist Party general secretary Sajedul Islam Sumon, 38, of Shahinbagh, said in tears.
Sajedul was one of the 19 victims who were abducted in a two-week period between November 28 and December 11 in 2013 during general strikes and blockades enforce by the opposition BNP-led alliance protesting against the January 5, 2014 elections boycotted by all opposition parties and demanding fresh elections under a non-party neutral government.
The families described how plainclothes men or people in uniform had abducted the 19 and what types of harassment they had been facing for the last two years in order to know the whereabouts of the victims.
Witnesses had also provided evidences of the involvement of government agencies in the abductions, while the law enforcers continued to deny that they had abducted the opposition activists.
The enforced disappearances took place at a time when the government and the law enforcers were accusing opposition protesters of killing over a dozen of people in Dhaka by setting buses on fire and throwing crude bombs over the previous weeks.
The whereabouts of the 19 youths, some of whom were named in criminal cases involving election-time violence, still remain unknown.
Families of some of them continue to hope that the men remain somewhere in the government’s custody, while others increasingly fear that the authorities may have killed them.
The men were picked up in eight incidents at places in the city, including outside the central jail, Shahbagh, Basundhara residential area, Shahinbagh, Mollartek and Pallabi. Two were also abducted from Sonargaon in Narayanganj.
The organisers said that they had invited over a dozen of right activists and eminent personalities, while none but Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul and Ain O Salish Kendra director Nur Khan Liton attended the press conference.
Sajedul’s mother Hajera read out a written statement demanding the return of all the youths disappeared. The statement said that political activities with dissent voice were the prime target of enforced disappearance and the crime against humanity continued in the country.
Another victim Khalid Hasan Shohel’s son Sadmaan Shihab, 7, also demanded the government to bring back his father. ‘I want my father back,’ he cried.
‘I want to go to school with my father…Mom has no money, she cannot buy me chocolate,’ cried nursery student Ridi Hossain, the daughter of victim Parvez Hossain.
The families of the victims burst into tears after little Ridi cried for his father.

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