Subscribe to SIAWI content updates by Email
Home > impact on women / resistance > Bangladesh: Amnesty international defend Sultana Kamal

Bangladesh: Amnesty international defend Sultana Kamal

Friday 23 June 2017, by siawi3


Amnesty international defend Sultana Kamal

8th June 2017

Editor Desk

Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani

London: Prominent human rights defender Sultana Kamal has received threats of violence from the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, following comments she made on a TV talk show. The authorities must take immediate steps to ensure Sultana Kamal’s protection, investigate the threats made against her and hold those responsible to account.

Sultana Kamal is a lawyer and prominent human rights activist in Bangladesh who used to serve as the Executive Director of the human rights NGO, Ain O Salish Kendra. Since 2 June, she has received numerous threats of violence from supporters of the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam. The threats against her relate to a recent controversy around the removal of a statue of the Lady of Justice outside the Supreme Court in Dhaka on 26 May 2017. Although the government claims that the removal was a decision made by the Court, and not the government, critics say that it was a move by the government to win favour with conservative Islamist groups. Such groups have for months campaigned for the statue to be taken down, arguing that it is an “idol” and anti-Islamic.

On 28 May, Sultana Kamal appeared on a debate show, on private TV channel News 24, together with Mufti Shakhawat Hossain, a member of Hefazat. During the debate, Mufti Shakhawat Hossain argued that the statue was a religious structure and that no religious structures should be on the Supreme Court’s premises. Sultana Kamal responded hypothetically that if that was the case, then logically “no mosques should be on the premises either”. There was no adverse reaction from Mufti Shakhawat Hossain to her comments on the programme or over the next few days. However, on 2 June, during Friday Prayer at the country’s largest mosque Baitul Mukarram in Dhaka, her comments were distorted. The Hefazat Vice President Junayed Al-Habib said, ‘How dare Sultana Kamal! She said that if the statue is not in the country then mosques should not be in the country. If you [Sultana Kamal] come out to the streets, we will break every bone in your body.’ Hefazat also demanded that she be arrested within 24 hours or forced to leave the country. Numerous YouTube videos have been posted by Hefazat supporters since 2 June threatening or inciting violence against her.

On 6 June, police in Dhaka announced that they had taken unspecified measures to provide protection to Sultana Kamal. As far as Amnesty International is aware, however, no senior government official has publicly condemned the threats against her, nor has a police investigation been launched into the threats.