Human chain: 'I’ve never seen my dad... Please send him back’

Sadika Sarkar Safa breaks down in tears while demanding justice to her father at a programme in Dhaka on 9 December, 2023.Sazid Hossain

On the eve of World Human Rights Day, distraught families formed a human chain before the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday, demanding the return of their relatives who have been subjected to ‘enforced disappearance’. 

Sadika Sarkar Safa, whose father Sohel disappeared almost a decade ago when she was a three-month baby, joined the programme with a portrait of his missing father. She broke down in tears while placing an emotional appeal for justice to her father. 

“I have never seen my father… never been able to call him ‘Dad.’ I have only one demand… please return my father. I want nothing else,” she wailed. 

Her father Sohel is the vice president of the Bangshal unit of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the student wing of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

He has been missing since 2013 when a group of people, identifying themselves as law enforcement agency members, picked him up from the Shahbagh area in Dhaka. 

At the human chain, Sadika alleged that her father had been picked up from the street and subjected to ‘enforced disappearance’ in 2013.   

Family members of around 50 missing people joined the human chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka.
Sazid Hossain

Like Sadika, family members of around 50 other people, who have been missing after being picked allegedly by law enforcement agencies, joined the human chain in the afternoon, demanding return of the relatives.  

Maayer Daak, an organisation formed by relatives of the missing people, held the programme, with the call, “Stop enforced disappearance, killing, crossfire, custodial torture; stand against human rights violations.” 

The organisation had initially gathered before the national museum in the capital’s Shahbagh area to form a human wall, but the police did not allow the gathering. Later, the Maayer Daak members went to the National Press Club area for the programme. 

The police drove the Maayer Daak members out of the Shahbagh area when they gathered before the national museum in the afternoon.
Sazid Hossain

Nagarik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, BNP standing committee member Selima Rahman, central executive committee member Hummam Quader Chowdhury, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal vice president Taniya Rab, Ganosamhati Andolon coordinator Zonayed Saki, former DUCSU VP Nurul Haque, among others, spoke on the occasion. 

Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the Maayer Daak, a non-political organisation, took position at Shahbagh, but the police drove them out of the area. The organisation continued its activities despite the assaults carried out by the police and other state agencies. 

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“This fight must go on. I have stood here in front of the press club on numerous occasions, spoken about human rights, but the call did not reach the government. Now, they are staging a farce, stripping people of their human, democratic, and fundamental rights,” he alleged.

Selima Rahman lauded the organisation’s dedication in fighting against the injustice endured by their missing relatives and alleged that the government is trying to retain its power through blood shedding and sacrifice of lives. 

Zonayed Saki alleged that the law enforcement agencies, in addition to other state entities, are blatantly violating human rights on government orders. Enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and custodial murders have turned rampant. Besides, the opposition men are being arrested and tortured under fictitious and false lawsuits.