Friday, September 11, 2009

Open Letter: We Condemn International Oil Companies in Bangladesh and State Violence against Bangladeshi Activists

On September 2, 2009, the members of a nationwide alliance in Bangladesh—the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports—were brutalized by the state police in Dhaka. More than fifty members were injured. The national committee was conducting a peaceful demonstration and march as part of an announced program to protest the Bangladesh government’s offshore gas and oil exploration deals with international oil companies. Such anti-people deals, according to the protesters, would enable those companies to explore, extract, and eventually own the country’s gas resources without the people’s consent. Indeed, those deals reveal how the ruling classes in Bangladesh operate in close class cahoots with corporations and imperialism.

The immediate reason for the protest in question was the Bangladesh government’s recent decision to award gas and oil exploration rights in the Bay of Bengal to international oil companies. The national committee announced the program in protest against the government’s decision to award three blocks to two international oil companies—the US-based company called ConocoPhillips and the UK-based company Tullow Oil plc—with a provision allowing them to export up to 80 per cent of gas. The protesters feared such a move would threaten the energy security of Bangladesh, and, by extension, the very sovereignty of the country. In fact, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports has long argued that the government’s drive for plundering its own people’s resources comes at a high price, and lacks forethought about how these resources might benefit the people of Bangladesh instead of multinational companies.

As the protesters were marching peacefully in Dhaka, the police charged on them, threw many of them to the ground, while brutally beating them with batons and kicking them with heavy boots. Over fifty protesters were injured, and a number of them even suffered serious injuries. Certain key members of the committee were clearly targeted. Among the seriously injured was the member-secretary of the National Committee—Professor Anu Muhammad. His legs were badly fractured by police batons. Anu Muhammad is not only chair of the Department of Economics at Jahangirnagar University and the leading political economist in Bangladesh—whose work has proven immensely influential among the youth—but he is also internationally known for his committed political activism for democracy and justice, and against capitalism, imperialism, racism, patriarchy, and many other forms and forces of oppression—local and global. We see the brutal attack on Anu Muhammad and his co-activists as an attack on democracy and progressive politics. Others injured included Saiful Haque, the general secretary of Biplobi Communist Party in Bangladesh and Biplob Mondol, the Chhatra Front leader, along with such activists as Mushrefa Mishu, Jannatul Marium Tania, Montu Biswas, Srikant Samaddar, Gazi Shafiullah and Sumi Akhtar.

As teachers, students, writers, artists, and activists—who also consider ourselves citizens of the world believing in peace, justice, and democracy—we declare the following:

a) We condemn the police brutality against the members of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports in Bangladesh.

b) We condemn the international oil companies involved in exploiting the natural resources of Bangladesh. We think they should back out of any deals they have or wish to have with Bangladesh.

c) We demand that the Bangladesh government ensure the most appropriate and effective medical treatment of all who were wrongfully injured by the police.

d) We demand that the action plan and demands of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports be taken seriously rather than silenced through any form of brutality.

We express our deep solidarity with the people of Bangladesh who are struggling to protect their own national and natural resources from foreign companies. And we support the Bangladeshi people’s right to self-determination under any circumstances.


Concerned Teachers, Students, Writers, Artists, and Activists Around the World:

1. Dr. Azfar Hussain, Convener of the International Campaign against Oil Companies in Bangladesh, and Visiting Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA

2. Rumana Hashem, Researcher and Lecturer, University of East London, UK

3. Melissa Hussain, DeVry University, Allendale, Michigan, USA

4. Nurul Kabir, editor, (daily) New Age, Dhaka, Bangladesh

5. Dr. Joel Wendland, Editor, Political Affairs Magazine, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

6. Dr. E. San Juan, Jr., writer and activist, Philippines Cultural Center, Connecticut, USA

7. Dr. Bertell Ollman, Professor, Department of Politics, New York University, USA

8. Dr. Vijay Prasad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Connecticut, US

9. Dr Gopal Balakrishnan, Associate Professor, History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA, and member, Editorial Board, New Left Review

10. Dr. Michael Lupro, North Carolina A&T, Greensboro North Carolina, USA

11. Aimee Nolte, Pomona, California, USA

12. Robin Witt, California State University Northridge, Los Angeles, California, USA

13. Faisal Rahman, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh

14. Matthew Trease, University Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

15. Kenneth Tennyson, Northern Virginia, USA

16. Karin Barbee, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA

17. Dr. Maria J. Estrada, Harold Washington College, Chicago, Illinois, USA

18. Dr. Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA

19. Dr. Carlos Adams, Green River Community College, Auburn, Washington, USA

20. Mahbub Sumon, Narayanganj, Dhaka, Bangladesh

21. Nasrin Siraj Annie, MA student, VU, Amsterdam, Netherlands

22. Zahirul Islam Kochi, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

23. Abdullah AL Mehdi , North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

24. Zakir Kibria, Director, BanglaPraxis, Dhaka, Bangladesh

25. Arup Rahee, poet and singer, Dhaka, Bangladesh

26. Nusrat S Chowdhury, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA

27. Fatina Sarwar, Lecturer, English Department, Bangladesh University of Business and Technolgy (BUBT), Dhaka, Bangladesh

28. Rehnuma Sazzad, Nottingham Trent University, UK

29. Dr. Matthew Mace Barbee, Defiance College, Defiance, OH, USA

30. Dr. José Anazagasty Rodríguez, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

31. William J. Emerson III, Siena Heights University, Detroit, USA

32. Maheen Sultan, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh

33. Anna Keenan, Youth Climate Advocate, Gordon Park, Australia

34. Dipankar Chakrabarti, Editor, Aneek, Kolkata, India

35. Chowdhury Golam Kibria (Jibon), Associate Professor and Ex-Chairman, Department of Business Administration, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh

36. Elizabeth Siler, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA

37. Dr. Lamia Karim, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon-Eugene, USA

38. Renato Redentor Constantino, Manila, Philippines

39. Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta, Research Initiatives, Dhaka, Bangladesh

40. Ratan Bhandari, Water and Energy Users' Federation, Nepal

41. Anuj Sitoula, Himalayan and Peninsular Hydro-Ecological Network, Nepal

42. Rabin Subedi, Nepali Policy Institute, Nepal

43. Rana Raihan, Samhati Publications, Dhaka, Bangladesh

44. Raihan Sharif, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh

45. Faruk Wasif, journalist, writer and activist, Dhaka, Bangladesh

46. Hana Shams Ahmed, Journalist and Human Rights Activist Coordinator, CHT Commission, Bangladesh Secretariat, Bangladesh

47. Dr Rahul Mukherjee, Consultant Physician, Milton Keynes, UK

48. Salil Biswas, Retired Lecturer in English/Translator and Writer, Kolkata, India

49. Hasan Mehedi, Environmental and Human Rights Activist, Chief Executive, Humanitywatch, Khulna, Bangladesh

50. Dr. Sezan Mahmud, Associate Professor of Public Health, Florida State University, USA

51. Fardeen Ferdous, Freelance Journalist, Writer and Researcher, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

52. Nikhil Neel, Shah Jalal University of Science & Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh

53. M Sohieb Murtuza, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

54. Meherun Minu, Lecturer in political science, Jatir Pita Bangabandhu College, Kaliakair, Gazipur, Bangladesh

55. M Yasin Bazli, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

56. Anisur Rahman, scholar and writer, Sweden

57. Tara MacKay, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

58. Izlal Moin Husain, North South University Alumni. Dhaka, Bangladesh

59. Soumitra Chakraborty, Department of Fisheries, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

60. Adrita Mulk, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

61. Khan Asif Imran, Department of Economics, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

62. Nasrin Khandoker, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh

63. Dr. Michele Ren, Assistant Professor of English & Women’s Studies, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA

64. Santanu Chacraverti, Secretary, Society for Direct Initiative for Social and Health Action, Kolkata, India

65. Dr. Partha Joarder, Scientist, Bose Institute, Kolkata, India

66. Moshahida Sultana, Lecturer, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

67. Dr. Susan W. McDowall, Central Community College, Hastings, NE, USA

68. Rabindranath Chakraborty, President, Hindu Muslim Friendship Association, Bangladesh

69. Dr. Jessica Maucione, Assistant Professor of English, Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, USA

70. Dr. Rosemary Briseno, Lecturer in English, The University of California-Merced, Merced, California, USA

71. Sufia Jamal Khan, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA

72. Dr. Matthew Mace Barbee, Defiance College, Defiance, OH, USA

73. Maksudur Rahman, Dept. of Economics, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

74. Syed Jashim Uddin, Assistant Professor, Dept of English, Premier University, Chittagong, Bangladesh

75. Tarek Chowdhury, Dhaka, Bangladesh

76. Murad Khan, Birmingham, UK

77. Dr. Kelvin Monroe, Assistant Professor of Ethnic & Religious Studies, Metropolitan State University, Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA

78. Imran Saadat, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

79. Rifat Islam Esha, North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

80. Nabeel Hassan, Macquarie University Alumni, Sydney, Australia

81. Rifat ara Shova, BUBT, Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh

82. Parvin Sultana, Melbourne, Australia

83. Shehroon Ifteker, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

84. Sky Wilson,Washington State University, Vancouver, Washington, USA

85. Dr. Lisa R. Williams, Creswell, Oregon, USA

86. Ayse Asim, Kent, England

87. Sarah Bostock, Harcum College, Bryn Athyn, PA, USA

88. Rafiq Uddin, Dhaka, Bangladesh

89. Md. Manzoorul Kibria, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh

90. Abe Tarango, Golden West College, Huntington Beach, California, USA

91. Rubaiyat Aumi, development worker, Dhaka, Bangladesh

92. Abu Saeed Md Galib, South East University, Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh

93. Dr. Taufiq Rahman, Cambridge University, UK

94. Rahman Siddique, cultural activist, Dhaboman Literary movement, Narayanganj, Bangladesh

95. Saif Ahmed, Ottawa, Canada

96. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Dhaka, Bangladesh

97. Musharrat Sharmee Hossain, Department of English, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA

98. Sabera Ekram, University of East London, UK

99. Nishat Khan, UK

100. Hasan Tarique Chowdhury, Dhaka, Bangladesh

101. Melissa Baker-Boosamara, Affiliate Professor of Liberal Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA

102. Shantanu Majumder, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University, Bangladesh

103. Soma Dey, AIT, Thailand

104. Paul V. Dudman,University of East London, UK

105. Jennifer Kalafut, Co-Director, International Accountability Project

106. Mehedi Hassan, political activist, Dhaka, Bangladesh

107. Callie Palmer, Instructor, Linn Benton Community College, Albany, Oregon, USA

108. Tomas A. Madrigal, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

109. Saydia Gulrukh, Department of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh

110. Dr. Tony Zaragoza, Associate Professor of Political Economy, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, USA

111. Dr. John Streamas, Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies, Washington State University, Washington, USA