Bangladeshi students and their families protested on campus Friday in hopes of bringing justice to the millions of citizens killed in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War
Protesters gathered in between the Wyoming Union and Ross Hall to hold signs that demanded justice for those who were murdered and raped, and capital punishment for those who were responsible for the war crimes.
“It started in 1971 when Bangladesh received its independence from Pakistan and the Pakistani army killed about three million citizens of Bangladesh,” Shaikh Eskander, a UW doctorate student, said. “Those soldiers were never brought into any tribunal of justice and we’re demanding they receive capital punishment.”
The Bangladesh Liberation War began in 1971 after countries were divided into West and East Pakistan. East Pakistan later became known as Bangladesh. The war began when Bangladesh officially declared its independence from Pakistan and it lasted about nine months. During those nine months, the West Pakistani army killed several citizens of Bangladesh, including students and professors at the University of Dacca.
The protests were sparked after Abdul Quader Molla, who was the assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami during the war, was sentenced to life in prison. Molla and Jamaat-e-Islam played a crucial role in the deaths that took place in 1971. Some felt that his imprisonment was not a harsh enough sentence so they chose to protest.
Students at UW were not the only ones participating in the protest, as demonstrators across the globe were also taking part, Eskander said.
“There’s a Facebook group that listed 63 schools around the world that are participating in this protest and it’s still counting,” UW student Rajib Shaha said.
However, it was not just schools and universities that took part as citizens across Bangladesh also joined in. One of the larger protests took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where protesters called for the capital punishment of Molla.
“Some have spent five to 10 years in prison, but we’re calling for the maximum punishment for proven killings,” Eskander said.
In addition to those protesting for a harsher punishment, the Associated Press also reported that supporters of Molla held counter-protests to have his conviction overturned.
Protests in Dhaka continue while Molla has still received only a life in prison sentence.