South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of Human Rights Defenders, expresses its serious concern at the demands made by Hefazat-e-Islam, for the immediate arrest, exile from the country, and inciting of physical violence against Sultana Kamal a well known human rights lawyer and regionally and internationally respected human rights defender.
Hefazat-e-Islam is a coalition of Islamic hardline groups and organisations known for its provocation for inciting violence and killings in the recent years in Bangladesh. Hefazat’s demands are a blatant denial of freedom of expression of citizens’ voices and also a grave provocation for the extremist elements in the society.
The matter arose at a recent television talk show where Sultana Kamal along with others participated and a representative of Hefazat misconstrued a hypothetical argument which Sultana Kamal is stated to have made. A statement which she and others on the talk show made have subsequently been clarified and corrected.
SAHR urges authorities of the Government and the State of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, to oblige by the constitutional stipulations of the secular nature of the state, as well as the international obligations it has signed. SAHR reminds the government and the state of Bangladesh that the growing influence of religious extremism has so far contributed to violations of many rights and freedoms of the people of the country, including right to life, right to follow a religion of one’s preference and freedom of expression. It urges the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to provide Sultana Kamal with adequate protection for her safety, in order to enable her to continue to play the important and iconic role in society in defending the rights of all its citizens. Importantly, to take necessary steps to restrain and stop extremist groups from inciting violence, threats, and harm to Sultana Kamal and other citizens.
Sultana Kamal risked her life at an early age to create Bangladesh during the Liberation war in 1971, upholding the idealist wishes and common sentiments of the majority to create a secular Bangladesh. She was acclaimed as a freedom fighter, among many. Till now, she has been unwavering in upholding these very ideals in her numerous capacities as an adviser to the caretaker government, a human rights lawyer and a human rights defender at regional and international level as well as an intellectual in contemporary Bangladesh. As a SAHR bureau member, Sultana has been serving well supporting the efforts of giving voice to the people of Bangladesh and advocating for common issues at national and regional level.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr. Nimalka Fernando