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Recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971

2022 Dhaka conference on recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide (left to right: Dr. Hoque, Dr. Stanton, moderator, Dr. Momen, Dr. Jarvis

Recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide

by Tawheed Reza Noor

In 1971, Bangladesh emerged as a new country after experiencing one of the most devastating genocides of the twentieth century.

The massacres and material destruction of the Bangladesh Genocide were intentional and systematic. Renowned scholars have recognized the Bangladesh case as genocide. But to date only a few governments have done so. The genocide is omitted from most publications about genocide.

2021 was the golden jubilee of Bangladesh independence, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh Genocide.

In 2021, Tawheed Noor, son of the slain journalist Serajuddin Hossain, requested the recognition by the Lemkin Institute and Genocide Watch. The Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh requested the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience to publish its statement of recognition.

In 2021 and 2022, three United States-based organizations, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, Genocide Watch, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience recognized the atrocities committed by the Pakistani occupation force and their allies during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971 as genocide.

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention said, “…the West Pakistan government, the center of political, military and administrative power in postcolonial Pakistan, perceived Bengalis as being influenced by Hindus, and therefore, not “true Muslims”. West Pakistan established discriminatory policies with the intent to destroy their cultural and national identity and impose on them a singular West Pakistan identity.” Identifying the Pakistani army as the key perpetrators, The Lemkin Institute also mentioned the local collaborators – such as Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams– who were responsible for committing the atrocities following a systematic policy.

Genocide Watch recognized the Bangladesh Genocide in detail in its Country Report on Bangladesh in 2016. In 2021, Genocide Watch repeated its recognition of the Bangladesh genocide.

Genocide Watch declared: “Conclusive research by internationally recognized genocide experts indicates that the nature, scale and organization of the Pakistani Military operations demonstrates planning and intentional design by the Pakistani junta leadership and military command to destroy a substantial part of the Bengali ethnic and national group and a substantial part of the Bengali Hindu religious group.” Genocide Watch stated that the crimes committed against the Bengalis of East Pakistan during 1971 were widespread and systematic and had the specific intent to constitute genocide.

Genocide Watch urged the member states of the United Nations, especially the US, the UK, and Pakistan, to recognize the crimes committed by Pakistani Military Forces in Bangladesh as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It also demanded that surviving leaders of this genocide be prosecuted in national courts with universal jurisdiction. It called for proper reparations for these crimes from Pakistan to Bangladesh.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience officially recognized the Bangladesh Genocide on 24 March 2022.The organization expressed its concern that lack of formal international recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide has meant that – fifty years later – no Pakistani war criminals have faced prosecution. The genocide also resulted in the forced displacement of millions of Bengalis to India. At least 200,000 Bengali women and men were victims of sexual violence, leaving them with lifelong trauma.

A draft resolution recognizing the Bangladesh Genocide was submitted by Tawheed Noor in August 2021 to the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and approved by the IAGS Resolutions Committee and Executive Board. On its initial presentation to the IAGS membership, a quorum was not obtained for passage, so the resolution has now been resubmitted to the IAGS for a vote of the membership.

Many Bangladesh diaspora organizations have called for recognition of the Bangladesh genocide. During the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a discussion was organized in Geneva by the Europe-based diaspora organization Bangladesh Support Group (BASUG), in collaboration with European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) and Switzerland Human Rights Forum, Bangladesh. A distinguished panel discussed the Bangladesh Genocide and the importance of its recognition. Sanchita Haque, Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, demanded recognition of the 1971 Genocide committed by Pakistan. BASUG and Projonmo ’71 (Platform for children of the martyrs of 1971), and Aamra Ekattor appealed to the UN Human Rights Council to issue a resolution recognizing the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide.

On October 14, 2022, bipartisan legislation seeking formal recognition of the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Steve Chabot and Congresswoman Ro Khanna.

The US resolution titled “Recognizing the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971” calls for:

· punishment under international law against war criminals in the Pakistan Army and their allies for the murder of 3 million people in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh);

· the government of Pakistan to acknowledge its role in the genocide and to offer formal apologies to the government and people of Bangladesh;

· the government of Pakistan to prosecute, in accordance with international law, any perpetrators who are still living.

All these initiatives pay tribute to the innocent millions who were the victims of the Bangladesh Genocide. It is hoped that in the coming years other organizations and countries will recognize the Bangladesh Genocide.

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