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Bangladesh: Women denied entry to Hifazat -e Islam rally area - assault on some journalists

Wednesday 10 April 2013, by siawi3

April 07, 2013, bdnews24.com

Women denied entry to Hifazat rally area

Reazul Bashar, Moinul Hoque Chowdhury, Golam Mujtaba and Faizul Siddiqui,

Published: 2013-04-06 16:29:21.0 Updated: 2013-04-06 17:17:05.0

The Hifazat-e Islam not only barred women from entering its rally in the capital on Saturday, but also harassed physically and mentally several female journalists performing their professional duties there.

Activists of the Chittagong-based radical Islamist group assaulted Ekushey Television Reporter Nadia Sharmin at Bijoynagar and interrupted Financial Express Reporter Arafat Ara at Paltan when she was going to office.

On Friday, Mohona TV Chief Reporter Sumi Khan faced obstruction from the Hifazat activists in Chittagong.

Female journalists were not alone to face the Hifazat harassment, even the women garbage collectors were driven out from the rally area.

Leaders of the group demanded imposition of restrictions on open movement of male and female together, from the rally organised in Motijheel to press for their demands, including action against ‘atheists’.

Nadia Sharmin told bdnews24.com that she was attacked around 3pm when she went to cover the rally.

“Some Hifazat activists came to me and told me that admission of women to the rally is not allowed. They said, ‘You resort to falsehood. You’re the agents of Ganajagaran Mancha.’ At one point of the conversation they assaulted me. I took shelter in a car nearby and then they even tried to vandalise the car,” she said.

Later, several journalists tried to take Nadia to Bijoynagar where she was attacked again.

“Fifty-sixty activists hurled brickbats and water bottles at me at Bijoynagar. They snatched my mobile phone and handbag having several thousand takas. Then they threw me on the ground and beat me up,” she said.

Injured in the head, left side of the neck and leg, Nadia was sent to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment.

She said she was attacked only for being a woman.

Financial Express Reporter Arafat Ara said she was obstructed by the Hifazat men around 4pm at the Paltan intersection when she was going to office.

“Several activists stopped my CNG (auto-rickshaw). Then they said ‘You’re not wearing scarf, so you can’t go this way’,” she told bdnews24.com.

“I asked why I can’t go just because I am not wearing scarf? It’s my personal business whether I wear scarf or not. Who’re you to talk about this? Then they got locked in argument with me. At one stage I started for my office again ignoring their obstruction.”

She said it is beyond anyone’s imagination that women would face such obstruction while going to office. “Females of our country attained progress in education and employment. Now moves are trying to take it (progress) back.”

A poor old woman collecting water bottles at Paltan at noon was driven away from the area on the pretext that ‘it is not a place for females’.

Several people working for the women rights condemned the harassment of women by the Hifazat activists at a time when the progress of Bangladesh’s females is being acclaimed globally.

“It seems that they want to take the country towards Afghanistan. But the people will never allow it,” Karmajibi Nari chief Shirin Akter told bdnews24.com.

Rasheda K Choudhury, Executive Director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), said, “What happened is unexpected and most undesirable. I’m very worried and angry. We didn’t want this Bangladesh.”

She questioned how the ‘wheels of economy’ would keep moving if the women stopped working because of harassment.

“Women of our country are now everywhere – from the grassroots level to the peak of the Himalayas. But move is on to pull the females back. This cannot continue if democracy and freedom of speech are there.”

Rasheda, also a former Adviser to the caretaker government, said: “Chiefs of the two top (political) parties are women. We’re waiting to see what they will do. Otherwise, we will have to take our own course.”

Several of the 13-point charter of demands that the little-known Hifazat is pressing for are contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, women’s rights, national women’s policy and cultural development, it is being felt.

The group had staged a long-march to Dhaka from Chittagong to press home its demands.