Hana Shams Ahmed
Published by the Star Weekend Magazine on 9 October 2009.
When Samia arrived at the lawyer’s office with her friend she was hoping to get advice on how to file for a divorce. The lawyer asked her some obvious questions about what was wrong with the relationship and whether she had children etc. When she told the lawyer that her husband had molested two teenage maids in the house, Samia expected the lawyer to be in full solidarity with her decision. The lawyer did not display much emotion, what she said in response shocked Samia instead. “This is quite normal for men of our country,” she said. Instead of pointing out to Samia that her husband had committed a punishable crime which she was an eye-witness to, the lawyer was showing her commiseration and in a meandering way saying that this was not serious enough for the dissolution of a marriage.
In another incident in a corporate office, a woman — involved in among other things, human rights activism — was complaining to her colleagues about how shoitan (evil) her young maid was. When asked what were among her greatest ‘sins’, she replied that the maid lapsed from her work regularly when she went out of the house and watched TV and received phone calls from her boyfriend!
The attitude and choice of words of the female lawyer and ‘human right defender’ points to how deeply embedded this acceptance of abuse of the underprivileged is. The discrimination and complete disregard of a domestic worker’s right to live like a human being has been discussed in the media in small columns, but has had little effect on societal outlook. The middle-aged approach of treating domestic workers as a human punching bag (sometimes literally) of everyone’s anger and frustration stays on, and is still the most exposed, yet invisible, form of human rights violation.
Published by the Daily Star on 19 September 2009.
WE, in Bangladesh, are used to waiting. We have been waiting to find out the perpetrators of the BDR massacre, who were really behind the August 21 grenade attack, or who killed one of the most brilliant sons of our soil, Shah AMS Kibria. Our waiting does not stop at that — even for cases for which we know who the perpetrators were, we wait for them to be brought to justice. Some of the self-declared murderers of Bangabandhu and his family are still at large. So are the “war criminals” who attempted to eradicate the intellectual backbone of the nation in 1971, only to be riding cars bearing our national flag in less than a generation, as no less than ministers. We live in this ‘strange’ country where one can emotionally survive this uncertain and excruciating wait only if one knows how to wait, wait and wait only to see the reason for the wait becoming a distant memory at one point.
Published in the Daily Star on 4 Sep 2009.
GRADUALLY we are getting used to the initial covering up and subsequent disclosure of criminal cases. Under one government, we learn how an apparent killing or a bomb blast is either just an accident or deep-rooted political conspiracy. And then after the change of government, we learn how the criminal cases were distorted during the previous regime to cover up the truth. From “media created” Bangla bhai to the attack on Humayun Azad, or from the Ramna bombing of 2001 to 21st August 2004 grenade attacks — it’s the same story.
Published in the Daily Star on 23 May 2009.
ON Thursday 14 May 2009, a grenade explosion critically injured a two-year old boy and a two-month old girl. Under ordinary circumstances, these children would have the sympathy and support of most. But these children have had no such luck. Their parents’ sins overshadow their plight as victims. Their father is “Boma Mizan”, the explosives expert of the banned Islamic militant group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and their mother is his dutiful wife who in an effort to save her husband exploded a grenade, blowing up her right hand and injuring her children.
These children now lie helpless in their hospital beds, and a visit revealed their dismal condition with no adult supervision and minimum care.
Published in the Daily Star Forum, May 2009.
This piece critiques male entitlement and looks to a more equal future.
Published in the Daily Star Forum, May 2009.
This piece refuses to quietly ‘deal with it’.
Published in the Daily Star on 11 April, 2009.
…there was a particular way that Taslima ignited passions. She was unique and necessary, in that Bangladesh of that time. That earlier role has evolved today not into any central feminist icon, but rather many activists, many movements. Working quietly and loudly, with negotiation and confrontation. For the rights of women on the factory floor, corporate office, university classrooms, home sweet home, and of course, the streets.