Don’t want US foreign policy failures in Bangladesh: Elected Bangladeshi-American officials write to Biden

Flags of Bangladesh and the US

Bangladeshi-American elected officials, and members of human rights as well as professional organizations have urged US president Joe Biden to change the current course of action and ensure a violence-free, secular, democratic future for Bangladesh.

In a statement addressed to Biden, the Bangladeshi-Americans said that they are concerned about the repeated failure of the US foreign policy in its attempt to “establish democracy” without considering the historical and socio-political context in Muslim countries and regions.

“The vivid examples of American foreign policy failure are Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. We don’t want that to happen in Bangladesh,” the statement reads.

The recent US policies and rhetoric are only “motivating terrorists and confounding liberal forces,” said the signatories of the statement.

The Bangladeshi-American elected officials, rights activists, and professionals also said they firmly support Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s strategies in combating terrorism in Bangladesh and South Asia.

“While we appreciate the concern of your administration about the upcoming election in Bangladesh, the US policy must also consider the widespread terrorism incidents in Bangladesh perpetrated directly by the BNP-Jamaat alliance and terrorist groups under the patronage of the alliance,” they said in the statement.

Bangladesh held four widely praised and well-participated elections in 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2008, the statement noted.

“But it appears from the current political stalemate that holding only free elections does not guarantee liberal democratic outcomes,” the signatories said.

“Especially, the terrorism incidents under government patronage between two free elections in 2001 and 2008 indicate just having a free (and so-called fair) election in 2024 indeed will not change the current political deadlock unless stakeholders find a sustainable solution guaranteeing the security, safety and post-election political participation of the minorities and political dissidents,” the statement reads.

For example, the signatories said, in October 2001, the BNP-Jamaat-led coalition won the election under a caretaker government. Right after their victory, the coalition unleashed an unprecedented attack against the Hindus and Awami League supporters across 11 districts in Bangladesh, they said.

The Hindus and opposition activists were targeted for voting for Bangladesh Awami League, they added.

The violence led to massive looting and burning of houses, rape of Hindu women, and members of the minority community being evicted from their homes.

It continued throughout the BNP-Jamaat rule during 2001-2006, in some cases, with the direct patronage of the coalition leaders, the statement reads.

While in power, the BNP-Jamaat alliance failed to ensure justice, and all the terrorism-related cases were resolved only after the coalition left political office, the signatories said.

They also shared a timeline of major violences during 2001-2006, under BNP-Jamaat patronage.

“Our concern is what type of democracy would be safer if Tarique Rahman and other convicts somehow manage to contest the election through the back door and win?” —they asked.

“Recently, we have been observing some actions of your administration and statements by some lawmakers sounding like anti-Bangladesh rhetoric, and these actions are hurting the US-Bangladesh relations. We are concerned about these developments and humbly urge you to take steps considering the historical perspective of the Liberation War, which aimed to establish a secular and democratic Bangladesh free of violence,” the statement reads.

“The political field of Bangladesh is populated with two opposing forces — one with the secular, liberal ideals of Bangladesh and the other with religious extremism mixed with political jingoism,” the Bangladeshi-Americans said.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina leads the first one, and the other side is led by the BNP-Jamaat coalition, they said.

The signatories are: elected Bangladeshi-American officials — Councilman Dr. Nuran Nabi, NJ; Mayor Mahabubul Alam Tayub, PA; State Representative Abul Khan, NH; Councilman Abu Ahmed Musa, MI; and Councilman Nurul Hasan, PA; activists — Prof. ABM Nasir, NC, of Shompriti Forum; engineer Rana Hasan Mahmud, CA and engineer Shikrity Barua, NY, of USA Bangabandhu Parishad; Golam Mostafa Khan Miraz, NY, of Bangladesh Liberation War Veterans 1971, USA Inc.; Nazrul Alam and engineer Tasnim Salam Aslam, CA, of California Bangabandhu Parishad; Fahim Reza Noor, NY, of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee, USA; engineer Ahad Ahmed, MI and Ali Ahmed Farish, MI of Michigan Bangabandhu Parishad; Zakaria Choudhury, NY of USA Committee for Democratic and Secular Bangladesh; Rumi Kabir and Mahabubur Rahman Bhuiyan, GA of Georgia Bangabandhu Parishad; Khurshid Anwar Bablu of Bangladesh Freedom Fighters Solidarity Council, USA; Nasrin Munna of Bangladesh Freedom Fighters Solidarity Council, USA; Dr. Abdul Baten of Muktijoddha Sangsad; Sofeda Basu, MA of Massachusetts Bangabandhu Parishad; Morshed Alam, Democratic leader, NY; Zahedul Mahmud Zami, CA of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad, California Command Council; Abu Taher Bir Pratik and Kazi Shamim, PA of Pennsylvania Bangabandhu Parishad; group of academics — Prof Ziauddin Ahmed, PA; Prof Mizan R Miah, IL; Prof Jamil Talukdar, WI; Prof Shahadat Hossain, NY; Nurannabi Choudhury, NJ of South New Jersey Bangabandhu Parishad; and Tawfik Soleman Tuhin and Zamiul Belal, CA of Bangabandhu Cultural Organization.