Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

December 31, 2007

New year's eve in a police state

Once again the Bangladesh Government will be trying to subdue the new year celebrations that occur in the Gulshan-Banani area and the Dhaka University area. From the Daily Star:
Around 6,000 law enforcers will be deployed in the city including the diplomatic zone and the posh areas of Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Dhanmondi, Uttara and on the Dhaka University Campus.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) authorities made a number of city roads off limits to traffic for 10 hours from 8:00pm on New Year's Eve.
A Bangladeshi Blogger responds:
Why do I suddenly feel like I live in a military state? Maybe its got something to do with the six thousand policemen stationed around the capitol to maintain safety as New Years celebrations go ahead. It’s sad that the first few hours of a fresh year have to be a nerve racking time for the people ensuring our safety. The government seems to frown on parties tonight. Lol. With reason, I’m sure. Still, there’s no stopping the young - and there shouldn’t be.


* People who complain about New Year celebrations are just jealous no one invites them. They would go if someone did.
* The rioters are not really people who are celebrating. They’re criminals using the event as an excuse to burn cars or rape (harass)women. Problems like these are not caused by our decision to make something of this night but because of the 364 other days of the year when crime goes unpunished.
* If you’re looking for a party, you’ll find it ;)
* A lot of losers are out on the streets tonight.
* As a nation with people of different religions, backgrounds, etc some have a right to party tonight.
* You can party and get high without drugs, drinks or a smoke.
* Some people who are well within the law get harassed tonight.
* People need to chill.
The truth is that if your only tool is hammer all your problem looks like nails. Lack of common sense are the roots of these problems.

Creativity and copyright

December 30, 2007

The shock

The thoughts of Boris (a Canadian) during a taxi ride in Delhi:
"Please sir, two rupees," she said as she weakly presented some daily newspaper to me and mimed putting food in her mouth. Her eyes were dull. Almost dead. She was under ten years of age and perched here on the side of an overcrowded roadway, peddling whatever she could for survival.

I, on the other side of the open window, was in a taxi that was going to cost me 350 rupees. I rather not even think for one second how many rupees I just credited the last 3 nights in a 5 star hotel to without going flush, with a weight in my chest.

The taxi began to move again, but I was paralyzed.

(I have no illusions of the many faces of this coin: a few moments later, at the next intersection, two children came and begged and after another tortuous refusal, they both cracked huge mischievous smiles, the younger boy smacking me on the knee as they ran away laughing... It was not malicious, and I am not callous or over sympathetic; I laughed then too.)

The anxiety I had been feeling came from weeks of preparation for this horrible moment. Weeks of dulling my emotions, killing my heart and steeling up for the moment when another sentient human being came to me and asked for help that I could so ... SO easily and fluidly provide... and have to refuse.

Why refuse? I don't know. But the shock is tremendous.

Picture of Benazir Bhutto's attackers

Image: Reuters

"A Pakistani television channel broadcast on Sunday grainy still pictures of what it said appeared to be two men who attacked and killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

One was a clean-cut young man wearing sun glasses, a white shirt and dark waist coat. Behind him stood a man with a white shawl over his head, who Dawn said was believed to be the bomber.

Two other photographs showed the clean-cut man pointing a pistol at Bhutto as she left the rally."

More news: Reuters.

Update: Video footage of the assassination and teh declaration of Benazir's son being the new chairman of PPP courtesy the Jawa Report:

Update: McClatchy reports:
The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in rigging the country's upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.

Some facts about Google

• Google is the “fastest growing company in the history of the world.” – Times of London, 1/29/06
• Google controls 65.1% of all searches in the U.S. at the end of 2007 and 86% of all searches in the UK, according to measurement company Hitwise.
• Google was searched 4.4 billion times in the U.S. alone in October, 2007 (three times Yahoo), says Nielsen. Average searches per searcher: 40.7.
• Google’s sites had 112 million U.S. visitors in November, 2007, says Nielsen.
• Google’s traffic was up 22.4% in 2007 over 2006, according to Comscore.
• Google earned $15 billion revenue and $6.4 billion profit in 2007, a profit margin of 26.9%. Its revenue was up 57% in the last quarter of 2007 over 2006, says Yahoo Finance. As of late 2007, its stock was up 53% in a year. The company has a market capitalization of $207.6 billion.
• Google controls 79% of the pay-per-click ad market, according to RimmKaufman. It controls 40% of all online advertising, according to web site HipMojo.
• Google employed almost 16,000 people at the end of 2007, a 50% increase over the year before.
• Google became the No. 1 brand in the world in 2007, according to Millward Brown Brandz Top 100.

And Buzzmachine thinks Google is God.

December 28, 2007

Should Bangladesh recognise Israel?

This is what some Bangladeshis think:
"Israel, the Jews State, was established in 1948 in the land of Palestine unlawfully evicting tens of thousands of Palestine Muslims, has been a subject of debate in recent time in the country.

The debate is whether should Bangladesh recognise the Zionist State or continue to pursue the present foreign policy? We know that the Tel Aviv Government does not trust the Muslims and ordered its troops to kill them at will. The troops do it calmly.

The Arabs fought three wars to recover the lost land. But instead, they lost more lands to Israel, part of which was regained through negotiation initiated by the USA. Still a large area of Jordan and Syria remains under the occupation of the Zionist State. From this point of view, Israel cannot be recognised.

On the other hand, recognition can be accorded provided the Tel Aviv Government allows all the Muslims evicted from Palestine since 1948 to return to their fatherland, pursue peaceful co-existence policy and pay full compensation for the damage caused to them.

I believe that the Jews should have a state of their own. In the Quran, there is no verse denying their right to a state of their own.

They were only forbidden to Palestine for 40 years for their refusal to fight a race that illegally occupied (Palestine, part of Syria and part of Jordan)-(Ref: 5/26). It happened during the time of Hazrat Moses (AS)."

World's best market this year

If you are an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist you must know which markets have the best returns. From the Motley Fool, a commercial website about stocks, investing, and personal finance:
Comparing world markets is tricky because it involves adjusting for currency fluctuations and inflation, which is never straightforward. Thankfully, the Motley Fool Global Gains team has developed a model to compare world markets on a more even basis. With a common reference, yearly and monthly comparisons help investors see just what regions of the world are flourishing or decaying.

The results for 2007 so far follow the amazing discovery in 2006 -- the United States comes nowhere near the top five markets for 2007. Neither do many other advanced, industrial nations we commonly equate with economic growth. So, which international market currently tops the list?

(Opening the envelope ...)

Bangladesh, with a whopping 134% return year to date. But most investors haven't a clue where Bangladesh is, let alone how to invest in the country.

The political turmoil in Bangladesh also makes the region one where all but the most risk-tolerant investors don't want to tread anyway. And the early stages of growth in Bangladesh have just as good a chance of reversing course as they do continuing higher, so investors shouldn't just jump at the best market determined by any one year's time frame.

This is a pleasant surprise. And the world should know that now the political situation is stable in the country and we hope that it will remain so as the country return to functional democracy next year. Despite the blows of cyclone and flood the GDP growth is projected to be consistent.

Consider CFDS and Investing in Bangladesh:

CFD trading gives everyone access to global markets.

Invest online in Bangladesh or anywhere while having the ability to limit risk and at minimal upfront cost.

History corrected

AFP reports:
"School textbooks in Bangladesh have been revised to reflect the latest government version of the role of two slain leaders when the country won independence in 1971.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh's bitter independence struggle against Pakistan, is now once again referred to as the "father of the nation".

In another change, former president Ziaur Rahman, who was slain in an attempted military coup in 1981, was acknowledged to have made an independence proclamation "on behalf of Bangabandhu at Kalurghat Radio Station in Chittagong, on March 27".

School textbooks containing the changes have already been printed and would be read in the schools from January 2008.

Since 1991, textbooks have been subject to alterations by governments led alternately by Sheikh Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, and Ziaur's widow, Khaleda Zia. The two women are bitter rivals and lead the country's two main political parties."
Hope the next Government will not try to distort history again.

December 27, 2007

Pakistan further away from democracy

There is something wrong in the way General Parvez Musharraf runs Pakistan. Today Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, the garrison town of Pakistan. Ironically she was assassinated at the same place in Rawalpindi where the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan was killed and her father was hanged there. Her death puts the future of Pakistan's political future in turmoil and Pakistan may as well plunge into a civil war.

An eye-witness from Pakistan says its chaos in Pakistan now. People have come out on the streets, and they are burning tires, public properties, and vehicles. Police is nowhere to be seen. People are angry, and all the major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Rawalpindi, Quetta, are in the severe riots. People are showing their anger against the scourge of terrorism.

According to the recent reports. 3 people have been killed in Khairpur, Sindh, and 1 is killed in Lahore. In Badeen, Thatta and Shikarpur, many people have been injured.

“Bhutto’s supporters at the hospital began chanting “Dog, Musharraf, dog…” Some of them smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst into tears.

A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest then the gunman blew himself up. She was waving to the rally standing in her bullet proof SUV’s and protruding her head from the open sun-roof. It is currently unclear as to whether or not her death was caused by the blast itself or shots fired by the assassins. Conflicting reports on assassination: Bhutto's supporters say snipers shot her followed by suicide bomber. Govt. official says its suicide attack.

KO Blog says:
“Interesting sight on BBC news - the bomb site has been cleaned, and fire trucks are pouring water on the scene to clean away away any last shred of evidence. It looks like a literal cleanup is underway...

The attack was the work of professionals - Benazir was shot in the neck from 50 meters away - so must have been an expert marksman.”
Earlier, at least four supporters of Pakistan’s former premier Nawaz Sharif were killed and another 12 wounded in the capital, Islamabad, when gunshots were fired on an election rally.

The Pakistani president Musharraf asks the people to remain calm in a televised interview. Musharraf blamed the terrorists and said political parties should be united against terrorists.

The Pakistani Perspective reports:
“President Musharraf has announced three day national mourning in the wake of the Benazir Bhutto's demise. Government of NWFP has closed all the schools for unspecified time, and Government of Punjab has followed the suit.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the leader of MMA (the religious alliance) has called for a nationwide protest tomorrow including rallies, wheel-jam strike and public meetings.

International fraternity also condemns the attacks. President Bush, Karzai, Rudd, Sarkozy, Manmohan Singh and host of others have expressed their grief over the horrendous act of terrorism.”
Nawaz Sharif told PPP supporters "I will be fighting your war now". However Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford said from Pakistan the country’s upcoming January elections would “most likely be postponed or cancelled” because of the attack.

Asma Jahangir, the human rights activist of Pakistan reiterates what Nawaz Sharif said that Government & the Military are responsible not the religious extremists as Parvez Musharrof is pointing fingers at. Bhutto’s husband says to a TV channel: it’s the work of the government. Another beneficiary of this death is Nawaz Sharif whose possible hand in this cannot be ignored.

Jules Crittenden has a round-up trying to find the answer, “Who killed Bhutto?

The Acorn says:
It was clear that Benazir Bhutto’s re-entry into Pakistan was on the back of an American plan to engineer a political outcome in Pakistan. Those who assassinated her succeeded in frustrating this plan. What’s the US left with? Supporting a Musharraf 2.0 is out of question, because the people won’t have it. Supporting Nawaz Sharif is not workable either, for Musharraf won’t have him.
Günter Knabe, a South Asia analyst says in Deutsche Welle coverage:
“Her husband is a criminal, corrupt. She was no angel. She was a politician...of the Pakistani kind”
Jamima Khan is not impressed with her either and called her a kleptocrat in a Hermes scarf:
She has only been able to return because Musharraf, that megalomaniac, knows that his future depends on the grassroots diehard supporters inherited from her father's party, the PPP.

As a result, Musharraf, who in his first months in power declared it his express intention to wipe out corruption, has dropped all charges against her and granted her immunity from prosecution. Forever.
Drishtipat Blog says:
(This is) almost reminiscent of August 21st, 2004 when Bangladeshi opposition leader Sheikh Hasina’s assassination was attempted when a bomb blast was followed by targeted shooting. We don’t want another Pakistan in Bangladesh.
Global Voices has a special coverage page which contains a lot of info. Another great roundup is at Gateway pundit

* Benazir Bhutto’s profile:

* Getty’s images has photos on Benazir Bhutto.

Update: Al-Qaeda took responsibility for the assassination.

Image credit: ABC News

December 26, 2007

Broadband revolution in India

Digital Opportunity reports:
"The (Indian) government along with Nasscom and private industry associates will set up 20 IIIT's (Indian Institute of Information Technology) in various parts of the country for which the Planning Commission has already made a provision of Rs 100 crores. The government will ensure broadband accessibility to almost every citizen in countryside, covering 97% of its geographical area by 2012."
I wonder where its neighbors will be during that time. I only hope not on the other side of the digital divide.

Experience Bangladesh

December 25, 2007

Today's Links

* Twitter helps find missing girl.

* OhmyNews citizen journalism school opens.

* My Facebook friends: please read this.

* At Wikipedia, illustrators may be paid.

* Taslima Nasrin: A personal account.

* The evidence the CIA destroyed……might have incriminated Saudi and Pakistani governments in the 9/11 conspiracy.

December 24, 2007

Does anybody care if Bangladesh drowns?

Via Bangladesh Blogger:
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and communications development expert based in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Toronto, Canada. Director of the film "Climate Change - Does anybody care if Bangladesh drowns?," he is also Director of Advocacy and Human Rights at The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC).

What is web 2.0?

Its all about connecting people.

The MacBook Service

Dave Winer reports that he replaced a faulty 80GB Hard disk of his MacBook from Apple Store and did not get the defected disk in return.
"They were going to send it back to the manufacturer. I figured it would be refurbished and sold cheap to someone in a third world country. Little did I suspect.

He got his supervisor. She insisted that the drive belonged to Apple, even though I had paid an inflated price to buy a new one. She showed me the language on the reverse side of the form I signed. It was even worse than she had said. There was no guarantee that the drive they had just put in my Mac was new! It might have been someone else's defective drive.

I scanned the agreement, highlighting section 4, the part the store manager cited."
He is outraged:
"Falling back on the fine print is really lame. I think they should tell you up front, before they do the work, that you're not getting the old drive back. What if the data on the drive can be recovered? What if there are credit card numbers and other personal information on the drive? Source code? Trade secrets? Does Apple really want to treat their customers privacy so shabbily? For what? Don't they already make enough money off the $160 price for the new disk? It's amazing that a company can make it this far, having such special customers, and rarely if ever acknowledging it."

Eat the poor

Eat the Poor” will take a satirical look at poverty in the 21st century– a golden era when the designation “Millionaire,” having lost both its luster and its meaning, needed to be replaced by a new category: the simple yet apt “Super-Rich.”

Interesting are the statistics of US population under poverty and the statistics on poverty & food wastage in America:

* 35.9 million people live below the poverty line in America including 12.9 million children.

* 3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes (source).

* On average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.

* Almost 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. 700 million hungry human beings in different parts of the world would have gladly accepted this food. (source)


The Musée Guimet affair

Cross posted in the Global Voices Online

From January 2008 the Musée Guimet of France is holding an exhibition of the masterpieces of Ganges from the collections of the Bangladesh museums for the first time outside of Bangladesh. From the museum catalogue:
“Bangladesh possesses an immensely important cultural heritage, this arising from the fact that the eastern half of Bengal has been one of the cultural richest regions of the Indian world; a vision far from the catastrophic one that the western world often tends to favour. The region is associated with the art of the Pala and Sena dynasties (8th – 13th century)....and goes back to the Maurya and Sunga periods (3rd – 1st century BC)....Bangladesh also harbours the oldest Buddhist monastery of the Indian world, Paharpur, which has now been listed on the UNESCO’s list of protected monuments.”

Sonar Bangla

Black and Grey blog has more on the backgrounds of the archeological artifacts in question. (Images courtesy: Black and Grey)

This exhibition was scheduled to start from October, 2007 but was delayed due to a lot of drama. Bonbibi at Unheard Voices reported on the first of October, 2007:
“The conditional has crept in because the High Court has issued a two-month stay order on the travel of the 189 art pieces following a writ petition by a group of Bangladeshis. They raised concern over the legality of the contract and filed a public litigation case in the High Court that ordered to stop sending the exhibits. The litigants feared that the precious items to be sent to the Paris museum might not be returned to Bangladesh (‘The New Nation’ 27th Sept 2007).”
Unheard Voices later reported of an unholy alliance that stopped the archeological artifacts from sending:
“…a (second) case was filed before the District Court, again by ‘art lovers’ including former DGs of Archaeology etc. Interestingly, the case was filed (according to newspaper report) against the French Ambassador and others. The Court issued a show cause order, but did not stop the artifacts from going.

At this point, with no more puppets to join the dance, the DGFI’s (Military Intelligence) fist finally came out from beneath the glove. It directly intervened at the airport to stop the artifacts from going on the ground that an ‘inquiry’ is to be held.”
Unheard Voices blog also posted the protests in detail which raised concerns over the security of the artifacts during shipping and the financial discrepancies (The total value of insurance is Euro 400,000 whereas only a major artifact is said to be worth more than Euro 800,000).

The Bangladeshi Blogosphere was divided right from the start on the issue. Rumi of In The Middle Of No Where answered the allegations of the skeptics with a question and answer style and commented if a solution is reached sooner than later then:
“The Exhibition will go ahead. And thousands of people will be able to learn about Bangladeshi art architecture and our heritage and to understand the depth and diversity of our culture – in a contrast to the negative images portrayed through the news every day.”


On 1st of December 2007 the first assignment of the archeological artifacts was flown out of Bangladesh to France rather controversially – in the middle of the night in suspicious crates under police guards evading protesters and journalists. In order to camouflage the mission, the authorities utilised vehicles bearing 'Save The Children Cyclone' and 'USAID Sidr Emergency Relief' signs.

Renowned photo journalist Shahidul Alam did an excellent piece of investigative citizen journalism. In this post he reports with photos portraying the first consignment being sent to France. He also points to the fact that the Musée Guimet in Paris incidentally had been alleged to hold previous stolen artifacts from Bangladesh and there are similar allegations that stolen objects from China and the rest of Asia are held by the Guimet.

He recently visited the Musée Guimet in Paris but had been denied access to both the director of Guimet Jean-Francois Jarriage and the curator of the show Vincent Lefevre, for the answers to his questions.

Unheard Voices Blog has a brilliant post called “Tintin in Bengal or Musée Guimet controversy” detailing the whole episode with a lots of links to other blogs, pro-contra views, protests, collected media reports, explanations from the French embassy and the organizers and a lot of debate on this issue.

Shahidul Alam also tried to find the missing piece of the jigsaw:
“Guimet is a respected museum, and there has been natural interest in a show that should be very special. Why then such resistance from art lovers of Bangladesh? Surely art is to be appreciated?

Why on the other hand, the secrecy? The organisers should be taking credit for arranging such an event and not trying to sneak away under police protection. If there is nothing to cover up, why the covert operation?

The emotions are high. I’ve seen people weeping because something very special to them has been taken away. I have seen people angry because they feel violated. I have seen people frustrated, because they feel helpless against the power of the establishment.”
And at last the inevitable had happened. Unheard Voices Blog reports:
“At approximately 2 am on Dec 22, one of the 13 crates in the 2nd shipment of artifacts to Musée Guimet in Paris vanished from the tarmac of ZIA International Airport, Dhaka.

Crate 5 contained Statue of Visnu (terracota, black) & Bust of (Hindu Lord) Visnu. High resale value on international underground art market as they are unique pieces.”
Shahidul Alam, who reported about the protests to stop the second shipment is furious:
Their fear of items being stolen, or not being returned, was considered preposterous. News of the missing crate, and the priceless statues it contained, had been suppressed, but the information leaked out. Could the guarantors please explain?
Please stay tuned for the next episode of this thriller.

The migrant economy

From the Washington post:
Migrants around the globe sent more than $300 billion to their home countries last year, a “staggering” sum that surpassed foreign development aid and foreign direct investment and carries major development potential for poor nations if properly channeled.

India took in more remittance money last year than any other nation, $24.5 billion. It was closely followed by Mexico, with $24.2 billion, which receives most of its remittances from migrants in the United States
Migration plays a critical role in sustaining the Bangladeshi economy. In 2005-06, official remittances into Bangladesh constituted $4.8 billion, equal to 7.73% of GDP, and over three times higher than net aid flows into Bangladesh. It is estimated that in 2006-07 remittances will exceed $6 billion. (The Daily Star)

However the above figures are the money remitted through official channels like bank , transfers, drafts and postal remittances. The problem is that these are expensive and especially the official banking channel involves opening bank accounts (which singles out a lot of population in the rural areas who do not enjoy banking facilities or are simply wary of bank accounts). Moreover after 9/11 many Western countries track large transfers and people fear harassments from authorities. There are many unofficial ways to send to these people like Hundi (or hawala in India). And these involve a lot of risk and are not cheap either.

In recent days more and more of these money are being remitted with the help of agencies like Western unions or other money transfers via local banking channels and the process does not require the receiver having a bank account. There is a huge potential of the banking/financial sector in remittance management of the developing countries.

December 23, 2007

The story of the trash we are generating

I had another visit to Euro shop (everything priced at 1 Euro) yesterday. You get amazing things at one Euro for example a stainless steel (rust free) bowl something you will not get even in Bangladesh at this amount.

Did we ever wonder why are stuffs being offered cheaper and cheaper even less than the developing country standards?

A relevant video might provoke some questions:

The story of Stuff has answers to those questions.

Black Looks Blog points to the fact:
90% of the stuff consumed in the US is trashed within six months - now that is truly scary.
One thing I can urge to people (including me) please please buy less. How much do a human being needs?

Secret of Success

Richard St. John of TED [Technology, Entertainment, Design] summarizes the secret of success in 8 Words And 3 Minutes:

Link via Tiffinbox.

December 22, 2007


* Using Internet via mobile in bangladesh

* How to make money from blogs

* Journalism 2.0: How to survive and thrive

* Networking without borders: the universal language of Facebook

* Reconstructing reporting: revamping the story flow for journalists

* PC Magazine's 100 favorite blogs

December 19, 2007

Towards a border free world

On December 21, nine new EU countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Malta) will join the border control-free group known as Schengen.

As of this weekend, travelers can go from the easternmost tip of Estonia all the way to the Atlantic coast in Portugal without encountering a single border official.

More in Spiegel Online International.

Quotes of the day

"knowledge is the key driver for a world of equal opportunities and that ICTs are key in enabling access to knowledge for everyone"

"The Internet expects to reach 5 billion people by 2015, in turn creating enormous market opportunities and new jobs."

- Experts at the third Global Knowledge Conference hosted by the Global Knowledge Partnership from December 11-13, 2007

December 18, 2007

Today's Links

* Swiss financial heavyweight UBS alerted over Phulbari Coal mine: Human rights concerns for Bangladesh mine investment.

* Human rights: Official failures lead to workers' deaths.

* Garrison democracy for Bangladesh: Fighting for the soul of Bangladesh.

* Who rules Bangladesh: world of Terror, SIDR and the US 'Help'.

* US provided real time intelligence for Turkish strikes on Iraq.

* Indians know how to multiply and divide better than anyone else.

* What milestones would you include in a timeline history of blogging?

* The Bali deal is worse than Kyoto?

Hips don't lie

(Picture courtesy Canada Eh who comments Shakira has a heart of gold)

..And make a great goodwill ambassador.

The two-time Grammy Award-winning artist Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll (known as Shakira) has visited the cyclone Sidr-ravaged region and Rajshahi in Bangladesh as an Unicef goodwill ambassador. The visit was not widely publicized by Unicef. (details in BDNews24.com)

More from BangladeshNews.com.bd:
“Amid all this calamity, sadness and grief, I saw kids playing, singing and smiling in this semi-destroyed school. It was like an oasis…of relief,” she said, speaking about Child Friendly Spaces, an institution where children traumatised by the deadly cyclone’s devastation spend their days playing and learning.

“This made me think more than ever that the world should focus on providing these safe spaces where the children can grow healthy up in places away from trouble, at least for a few hours,”

Free Rice

Play a vocabulary game and end the world hunger. For each word you get right, 20 grains of rice is donated to the United Nations World Food Program.

What do you get?

* Formulate your ideas better
* Write better papers, emails and business letters
* Speak more precisely and persuasively
* Comprehend more of what you read
* Read faster because you comprehend better
* Get better grades in high school, college and graduate school
* Score higher on tests like the SAT, GRE, LSAT and GMAT
* Perform better at job interviews and conferences

So what are you waiting for? Go and play it. Warning: its insidiously addictive.

England, a photo essay

London is a bustling city with funny looking vehicles and a lot of congestions. You have to pay a lot to get your car stuck in traffic in certain areas. The clever option is to use the tube (underground).

This giant egg represents many of the modern architectures that are dominating London skylines.

Suddenly you spot a Shahid Minar (White Chappel road) and realize that you have entered Bangla Town.

The Bangla Town in East London has the full flavor of Bangladesh. Shops at Shadwell.

London city has all the historical attractions that a tourist craves for. Tower Bridge at night.

Don't forget that it is a big island with hundreds of miles of shorelines. The photo was taken from The Deep in Hull, East Yorkshire.

December 16, 2007

Victory day and the quest for the truth

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Victory day in Bangladesh, a day when Bangladesh came into being. 'Victory against what?' one may ask. It was a victory against the farcical two nation theory, The colonialism of West Pakistan and their oppression against their East Pakistani brothers in economic, administrative and cultural sectors, victory against one of the worst genocides in the history of the world, victory against the rape of thousands of women by the Pakistani soldiers and the nine month long liberation war.

The history of the Bangladesh liberation war is an epic itself, the journey from east Pakistan to Bangladesh was long and full of struggles.

This year's victory day is different because there is a renewed call for trial of the war criminals who are trying to rewrite history.

I was watching TV talk shows in a Pakistani channel which talked about the fall of Dhaka and what mistakes Pakistan made. To Pakistan Bangladesh's father of nation Sheikh Mujibur is a traitor and India was the driving power behind the cessation. However they did not mention the Genocide that took place during nine-month war in which official records say 3 million people were killed and thousands of women raped. The general Pakistanis were provided with the wrong version of the truth all the time. From a Pakistani newspaper:
Only foreign media aired the news of the Fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. Radio Pakistan kept airing usual transmission and giving a picture of “all is well”.
Even the reports the Pakistani people get display a fragment of the truth.

So it is imperative that the truth is available to everyone along with evidences. I have started a project supported by E-Bangladesh which will publish an online archive of all the available information, evidence, eye witness portraying the true story of the genocide committed by the Pakistanis in 1971.

When this is done this will be the greatest gift for the families of the millions of people who have lost their lives. You can help in the endeavor by providing eye witness accounts, scanned copies of relevant copies of the books etc.

December 14, 2007

The art of Kite-flying

Ulysses's article about Maanja brought me back sweet memories from the past when I used to fly kites.

Maanja involves in pasting the tread of kites with glass and sand to make it tough and sharp to aid in the battle of kites. Soon children would scream "Bho-kattaaa" as soon as the lost kite was beheaded from the thread by the sharp thread of the winning kite. And some would run after it for miles to retrieve from a distant roof or treetop.

Those were the days and Ulysses reveals the sad news:
Kites have been driven out from the center of congested, claustrophobic Dhaka.

December 13, 2007

Blame it on Bangladesh

After the blames that each and every recent terrorist attacks in India originated from Bangladesh now Bangladeshi migrant laborers have been blamed for transporting cholera from Bangladesh and causing an epidemic in Orissa.

It is ironic that although most major rivers in Bangladesh flow from India, Bangladesh has never blamed India for any of its similar epidemics.

Religious intolerance

Quite contrary to what the media usually depict that all the religious intolerances exist among Muslims, we hear this story:
A Brooklyn man whose "Happy Hanukkah" greeting landed him in the hospital said he was saved from a gang of Jew-bashing goons aboard a packed Q train by a total stranger - a modest Muslim from Bangladesh.

Walter Adler was touched that Hassan Askari jumped to his aid while a group of thugs allegedly pummeled and taunted him and his three friends. So Adler has invited his new friend over to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

The two new pals - Adler, 23, with a broken nose and a fat lip, and Askari, 20, with two black eyes - broke bread together and laughed off the bruises the night after the fisticuffs.

"He's basically a hero. Hassan jumped in to help us."

But Askari, who is studying to be an accountant, shrugged off the praise.

"I just did what I had to do," he recalled. "My parents raised me that way."

Photo: Askari and Adler courtesy New York Post via Gateway Pundit

Friday’s altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out “Merry Christmas,” to which rider Walter Adler responded, “Happy Hanukkah,” said Toba Hellerstein.

“Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy’s face like I’ve called his mother something,” Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler’s companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, “Oh, Hanukkah. That’s the day that the Jews killed Jesus,” she said.
So you see we can see the world from a new angle if we refrain from the stereotypes and see others not through the filter of religion.

Watch the amazing video report from here.

Details about Askari and his dynasty here. And isn't this wonderful?

The student - whose mother, father and younger brother live in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka - says that his long term aim is to return to his beloved home country where he grew up as a child.

"Home is where the heart is and at least there is no subway there," he said.
Read more about the Hanukkah festivities from here.

December 06, 2007

Cyclone relief efforts via a citizen journalist

Shawn is a 26 year old Canadian who came to Bangladesh for a small, short-term, and self-funded project to see what difference he can make in helping some of the world's worst off.

Read his blog entries which described first hand accounts of the destruction of cyclone Sidr and the relief efforts aftermath.

I am particularly impressed with his video blogging reports from different parts of the country. a must watch. He even got nominated in a video contest and won the 2nd place.

Here are all of his videos hosted in YouTube.

In London

I am back in London for my exams, a town which has the most Bangladeshi flavor in Europe. If you don't believe it just walk through the Bangla town. You can feel the known Bangladeshi faces popping up everywhere in all shapes, sizes and attires and speaking in various languages. Don't be surprised to see a Shahid Minar in the Whitechappel Road. A bustling community. Fully multicultural and quite unique.

I visited some local Bengali shops in Shadwell, for the ingredients of the Khichuri and fried Hilsa my friend cooked for me. The shops had fishes from Bangladesh in awesome sizes some of which are even rare in Dhaka. A popular commercial in TV shows a big size Ruhi (carp) being caught fresh from a pond in bangladesh. A guy asks the price. The fisherman asks "do you have British Visa"? He was telling the perplexed buyer that that fish was bound for UK so he has to buy it from there. The theme couldn't be much befitting.

Dinner was in the Lahore Kebab house courtesy of my friend who came all the way from Luton just to visit me for a couple of hours. The environment was Bangladeshi (or South Asian to say) but it was packed with Sahibs (Britons) and some odd South Asians.

London is a busy city. You get the glitters and shabbiness packed in one box. Accustomed in left-hand-drive road direction I got honked for not watching right in an intersection with a lane on the left, while a car could just brake to save me. Even the taxis are typical British, new models old looks, with two folding extra sits behind the front seats. The tube was crowded, some moving like a sloth and special boards for the service status of tubes are vital if you have to reach somewhere in hurry and find a non-existing fast alternative.

But I like the British people in general, for their cordial behavior, courtesy and most importantly being catalyst of a friction free (almost) multicultural society.

And what do you know we will be having a London bloggers meet again. If you are in London and happen to be free tomorrow evening feel free to join us.

I will be here a few days more. But I feel like going home as my little one is terribly seek. She was crying loud for papa over phone. I am missing her, she is missing me. I wish I could go back right now.

Photo: Farid Akbar. My snaps will be uploaded on the next available opportunity.

December 01, 2007

The Musee Guimet Controversy

Shahidul News has a touching story on the protest to halt sending Bangladeshi artifacts to Musee Guimet, France.

The reasons:

* Some media in Bangladesh started the conspiracy theory raising doubts on the transparency of the process.

* Allegations that “Musée Guimet in Paris incidentally also holds thousands of stolen/illegal objects from China and the rest of Asia,” and it may steal the artifacts replacing with carbon copies especially when the Bangladeshi ones were not individually and clearly marked rather listed with homogeneous counts.

However there are other sides of the story:

Rumi Ahmed answers the sceptics with a question answer style:
What is the ‘Sonar Bangla’ Exhibition?

This exhibition is scheduled to showcase 189 pieces of Bangladeshi ancient art, over four months from October 2007 to March 2008 at the National Museum of Asiatic Art, the Musee Guimet, Paris.
It has been planned for several years, and has involved extensive negotiations between the Governments of France and Bangladesh.
It is being held at one of the most prestigious venues for Asian Art in the whole of Europe, a major national museum which holds an important permanent collection of South Asian Art. It recently held very well reviewed exhibitions of Afghan gold and Cambodian ancient art.
It is the first major international exhibition of Bangladeshi ancient art – the first opportunity the world will have to see our national heritage, and to see it in all its diversity and richness. It will show a face of Bangladesh which is little known in the west. It is likely to generate not only new interest in Bangladesh, but to catalyse further research and perhaps also future cultural exchanges and engagement.

Why are some people objecting to the exhibition?

As each objection has been met and responded to, new ones have been generated. It seems that the real objection of many of the ‘experts’ is that they were not involved/consulted)

1. The Musee Guimet is not a state museum.
[stated by the writ petitioners’ lawyer]
The Museum is a national museum, and regulated, like all other national museums by the Director Museums, an official of the Ministry of Culture. It’s not very difficult to find this out, just go on the website of the French Government.

2. The Musee Guimet is not well known and has a dubious past.

The Museum is internationally renowned as one of the leading European museums of Asian Art.

3. The artefacts listed for exhibition include unique pieces and these are too valuable too travel, so only replicas should be taken. [stated by ‘experts’ eg Prof. Shafi]

International exhibitions do not show replicas, but only originals. Visitors to art exhibitions are interested in seeing original, unique pieces.

Please check the details of the Tutankhamun exhibition, the Pompeii Exhibition, the Arts of Persia Exhibition etc etc all held in major international venues, and more recently the Gupta sculptures exhibition held in Paris.

The artefacts if sent in the original will be copied while abroad, and the French Government will keep the originals and return the copies and no-one in Bangladesh will know the difference. [Dr. Yuree, and also Prof. Shafi] In addition to a clause in the agreement that the artifacts will be returned within four weeks, the French Government has passed an order – as is usual– clearly stating that under no circumstances could the artefacts be retained in France on conclusion of the exhibition. It should be noted that while many artefacts have been and continue to be smuggled out of Bangladesh, this is invariably by individuals and is hardly likely in the context of a government to government agreement.

6. The French would never allow the Mona Lisa or Picassos to travel. . [prof. Nizamuddin, an ‘expert’ and petitioner seeking injunction]

Of course the Mona Lisa has travelled abroad as have many Picasso artworks (including to India).

7. The removal of the artefacts will hamper research. [prof. Shafi of Jahangirnagar Univ.]

Quite the contrary. It will enable new interest in the artefacts to be generated. Physical examination of individual items is not always necessary for research.

Concerns for Clarification
One of the Government officials who is supposed to travel with the exhibit has earlier been accused of theft of artefacts. [raised by writ petitioners and their lawyer]

There is an absolute prohibition of any unique antiquities being taken abroad.
This is a misreading of the law. Antiquities may be sent on ‘temporary export’ ‘for purposes of exhibition etc…’ (See Rule 22 (1) (a) Antiquities Act).In this case the artefacts are obviously going abroad for temporary export as exhibits.
More about the artifacts from Ahmede Hussain:
Bangladesh's rich and colourful heritage caught the attention of the western eye last summer, when Bangladeshi and French archaeologists, in a joint excavation, unearthed a temple that dates back to the 800AD. This, however, did not come as news to veteran archaeologists as the country's civilisation is believed to be as old as the Aryan conquest of the South Asian sub-continent. In fact, the ancient city of Pundranagar, now situated in the village of Mahasthan (The Sacred Site) in Bogra, has been mentioned in the Vedas, and has remained one of the oldest urban settlements discovered in the eastern part of the sub-continent.
Talking about unholy alliance in Drishtipat:
“The past few weeks have seen tempers run high in some part of the artistic and heritage community over the supposed ‘theft’ of our artifacts by a foreign government, their ‘threatened destruction’ and the ‘anti-state’ activity constituted by their exhibition abroad. Quieter voices within both communities have talked about the importance of culture being part of a “universal heritage, which cannot be confined within geographical borders and boundaries but must be shared across communities and countries. But our press has done little to give space to these voices, reporting only the shrill and frankly ignorant (’the Mona Lisa has not been shown outside France’ says one eminent former DG Archaeology – now involved in litigation to stop the artefacts being taken abroad).”
And how it was denied travel previously:
The conditional has crept in because the High Court has issued a two-month stay order on the travel of the 189 art pieces following a writ petition by a group of Bangladeshis. They raised concern over the legality of the contract and filed a public litigation case in the High Court that ordered to stop sending the exhibits. The litigants feared that the precious items to be sent to the Paris museum might not be returned to Bangladesh (‘The New Nation’ 27th Sept 2007). This concern was surprisingly raised only at the last minute – when the statues were already on their way to the airport!
You be the judge.

Update: The Musée Guimet affair

November 28, 2007

In the eye of the storm

BBC's month long project Bangladesh Boat Diary ends with this note:
While exposing the apparent dangers of climate change, the BBC team were on hand to report the horrors of Cyclone Sidr.

Are the two issues connected? Might the ferocity of the storm have been weakened were it not for rising temperatures in the Bay of Bengal? Might such storms become more common in future?
The questions are accumulating but we don't seem to find the answers.

Today's Links

Sobbing General

Parvez Musharraf quits as the army chief to become the President of Pakistan. We have watched this scene many time in many places of the world.

November 27, 2007

Combating the next cyclone

An Ordinary Citizen reassesses Bangladesh's capabilities to combat mega-cyclones.

November 26, 2007

Taslima again

Taslima Nasrin is again in media spotlight because fundamentalists in India are demanding India to expel her. The Bangladeshi writer is in exile since 1994, when fundamentalists issued a fatwa against her for the allegedly blasphemous first novel Lajja. Read some interesting commentaries on the latest controversy:

* The sword and the monk’ s cowl

* Taslima Nasreen: The Daughter of Eternal Bangladesh on the run in India- But Why?

* How Taslima Nasreen knocked Mossamat Akhera Bibi off the headlines?

* Taslima Nasrin, the outcast.

* Bangladesh writer wins ally in hardline Hindu leader.

*Renowned Theatre activist Aly Zaker said:
I don't know Hyederabad in the Andhra Pradesh and its muslims who drove her out of that city, but I have some experience of knowing the mindset of the majority of muslim inhabitants of the city of Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) during our war of liberation in 1971. Most of them not only refrained from supporting us they were most annoyed with us for breaking Pakistan. To give vent to their anger and frustration they even did not hesitate to physically torture fellow muslims from Bangladesh who took refuge in Kolkata.

Cyclone Sidr related news

* Concern Worldwide's update on the cyclone Sidr damage, relief and rescue efforts.

* The fatal shore: Tahmima Anam writes in the Guardian:
A couple of days ago, someone sent a proposal to a mailing list entitled "Sidr cyclone compensation fund". "What do people think of the following idea? Set up a fund, funded totally by expatriates, to pay cash compensation to families of the deceased? If we set a scale - 5,000 taka (£35) for each adult and 2,500 taka (£17.50) for each child." The fundraising target was set at $275,000 (£133,000), to be raised through global appeals.

Other people replied almost immediately. Some were uncomfortable with placing a price on the victims. "Your suggestion is crude," wrote one. "How do we know whether the victims' families are the ones most in need?" Another person responded: "Can we give the money to the women of the household? Less chances of the money being spent on hooch and gambling."

The fund was set up by the following morning. A name was found (United Bangladesh Appeal); $100,000 has already been pledged.
* Aid and Brand recognition: US also creates some brand awareness in a muslim country.

* A thanksgiving toast from Bangladesh: A CNN journalist remembers what thanksgiving is all about.

* LSU helps Bangladesh save lives with storm surge models.

* Report in a Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.no

* Photo Essay- Cyclone Sidr: Bramwell Ryan, a Canadian Salvationist journalist working in Bangladesh posts a 5:17 photo documentary in the rubicon. Look for more of Ryan's reports from the Slavation army International site.

* After cyclone, Bangladesh faces political storm: soaring food price is another disaster the government faces.

More aid intiatives:

* Shawn of the Uncultured Project is live-blogging his aid initiatives from the disaster ground.

* Pics, videos, posters, fliers and list of charities for Sidr victims.

* Mikey Leung, a Canadian expat living in Bangladesh: Cyclone Sidr devastates Bangladesh, please help

* A cyclonic perspective from Ashley Wheaton, an expat working in the clothing industry who looks at what poverty means in Bangladesh:
Living in a country like Bangladesh constantly forces me to redraw the lines around my mental conception of poverty. A factory worker seems hard done by until you meet the construction worker. The construction worker earns your sympathy until you see the child collecting trash. The child is then outdone by a disabled beggar... When I was not immersed in this reality it was easy to treat them all as poor, to condemn all of the conditions they faced as equally bad. But in reality the poverty here is extremely complex and it isn't realistic or meaningful to treat each person's poverty as if it were the same.

So what does one do? How does one wrap their head around it all? That's the tough part. I'm still working on it, and a long way from finding any answers I'm afraid. I constantly question and constantly fail to come to a clear conclusion. It's frustrating, but perhaps it is best not to try to pack these predicaments into neat little boxes.

I also face this confusion in my current job. I work for a textile company. We exist because labour here is cheap, because people are willing to work long hours in factories to earn their living. We do not pay them what you or I would want them to be paid. We cannot. If we did we would go out of business and everyone would lose. We try our best to improve, to make things better, to reach lofty goals, but it's not easy. The market and the global economy are against us. I find it frustrating, and yet I also find it rewarding to know that the people I am working to help are not carrying bricks on their heads and their children are not collecting garbage. Is that enough? Of course not. Is it something? Yes, it's something. And hopefully there is much more to come.

Using SMS for raising funds

Dina Mehta highlights the efforts in Bangladesh using simple SMS to get people to donate for the victims.
Bangla blogging platform Somewherein, in association with Save the Children, has launched an innovative SMS based campaign “Jagoron” (which literally means ‘the awakening’) to enable those living in Bangladesh to do their bit in aid of Sidr victims. The campaign works as follows:

A mobile phone user types SAVE and sends SMS to a given number. Each SMS costs Bangladeshi Taka (BDT)2. Then Somewherein and other sponsors add a certain monetary figure, currently standing at 15BDT (this is a dynamic figure which will go up as more corporate sponsors join the campaign) for every BDT2 generated through the SMS and the total amount is deposited in the Save the Children Cyclone Relief fund.

For those living outside Bangladesh, Somewherein requests them to send their donations directly to the Save the Children Cyclone Relief fund as this SMS facility is available for local residents only.

She wonders whether an application like Twitter can enable donations like this on a larger global scale!

So far more than 6000 sms has been sent and 100,000 BD Taka has been raised.

Dina also notes the Bangla Blogging Platforms use of sms blogging tool:

well its very simple…the blog gives directions @bba eg., @bba curfew relaxed from 8am to 10pm. send to 5455. and it gets posted on the blog, that’s it. and the right hand bar of the blog reflects the comments. since its sms generally comments are short. but people are now using it even to wish happy birthday or send general messages :). its useful and fun! and taps the Asian’s love for texting :)

For the Sidr Victims in Bangladesh: need of the hour

Prominent writer Anisul Haque wrote this in Prothom Alo questioning some Bangladeshi's attitude of negligence towards the cyclone Sidr victims. The piece is translated by Asif Saleh of Drishtipat.

Need of the Hour

- Anisul Hoque

I feel really mad at myself at times like these. In fact, I feel like spitting on myself. What sort of shenanigan is going on these days? I have just returned from sidr hit Patuakhali and Borguna's worst hit areas. I can already hear people requesting others to ask for help in a low voice. The background score is attempting to create pity for the victims. "Man needs to stand by another man", "Reach out with your helping hands", etc, etc. How poetic and beautifully rendered words being displayed in radio, television and newspapers. Many kind of humanitarian appeals have appeared. They are asking for help and coming up with various innovative ways to raise funds. Now there will be poetry recital for sidr victims, plays, art exhibitions for fund raising and what not. I feel like a phony and so does everyone around me. I myself is part of this middle class shenanigans.

I know those who are doing this (and I myself have done this many times) have noble and kind goals. But what will be the outcome of these funds? Today is Nov 24th, 2007. It has been eight days since Sidr struck. For the past eight days, hundreds and thousands of people are homeless. Having just lost their family members, these mourning and penniless people have spent sleepless nights under open sky. They don't have any work. They don't have a penny. Gone are their crops, the fishes from the pond, the cattle, the boat, the nets, their life savings - EVERYTHING !! The water of the tube well is rotten, the water of the pond is polluted by saline water from the sea. Even that water is carrying the dead bodies of livestocks. These people don't have a single thing. What have they eaten in the last eight days? What have they drank? How did the skeletal children of theirs pass such cold nights of winder? Have we ever thought about it?

We are now making relief committee? We are asking people to contribute? We are saying we will sing songs, do poetry and collect money?? When will this money be raised? When will they reach these people? Have you ever thought about that?

After directly talking to these people and having seen their sufferings, I have created a list for all of us -- the must dos for all of us based on the need of the hour.

What we, the average citizens, can do?

We shouldn't waste collecting funds for people now. Whatever we have, we should scamper to the affected areas. We need to stop going to the same areas and giving relief to the same people. Rather, my advice for those whose hometown is in the coastal areas, is that they all should go home to their own villages. They should take food with them with rice and daal often being the best choice. The sufferers can barely lit the stove and cook rice for food. They don't consider any thing else to be proper food. If you take matches or candles, it may come of some use as well. Its good if you can take water. But since the communication system is not in functioning order, it may not be feasible to take a lot of water. It would be great, if deep tube well can be placed. This can be done after doing area wise research to find out whether the shallow tube wells can raise enough water.

Those who are not from those areas should also immediately rush there with relief. But please promise that you will reach the remotest areas where no one has gone before. Don't go to the same areas where others are going and distributing relief to the same people repeatedly. If you cannot take food with you, take cash. Give some cash on a per family basis. Even after lot of the roads are destroyed, the markets are still open and goods are being transported by boats. If people have money, the business people themselves will bring the food and other important goods on their own initiative.

It will be nice to give warm clothes as well. But the primary need of the hour is food and water. Then they need medicine. So form your own medical team and rush there with medicine and do treatment in health camps for 7 days. You will save many lives. People will build their houses themselves later, perhaps. If they get the cash, they will figure out their own priorities themselves. We think the next 10 days are EXTREMELY CRITICAL! If you can help these people to survive the next 10 days, they will be able to manage after that. By then the government's Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) program should start as well.

What the government should do?

1. Identify the damages and assess the needs as fast as possible.

2. Start the VGF program really quick in the affected areas. The government of Shaikh Hasina did this during flood with help from the army and this was done very efficiently. This time as well, it is essential to have this work coordinated between local government, the local civilian administration and the army.

3. Put in deep tube well to get clean drinking water. If they can put in 500 of them in the entire coastal belt, the scarcity issue of drinking water will greatly be resolved.

4. Take emergency measures to restore the communication system. If needed, the engineering division of the army can be utilized for this purpose. It is very unfortunate that after so many days, all of the ferries in the area have not been restarted.

5. Restore various utility services like electricity and telephone.

6. Reach the areas which are unknown and where it is impossible for average citizens to reach

7. Send a medical team to every single affected union.

8. Create coordination cell in every district headquarter and upajila sadars. These cells will help (not supervise) with information those who will do relief work from the non government sector

What to do for the long term?

[the long term list has been truncated for focus and brevity ]

I criticized the fashionable do gooders and feeble attempts for relief fund raising in the beginning. But it is truly the time to stand up for humanity now. If you can, please rush to a remote char area TODAY. If you can not, after a few days, please by a family a cow or a boat or a fishing net. Even if one life is helped by that, wouldn't it make our life and existence more meaningful?

[First published in Prothom Alo on Nov 24th]

November 24, 2007

Know your enemy

It has been more than one week since cyclone Sidr devastated Bangladesh's Southern coastal region. The official death toll is still at 3199 but the unofficial death toll crossed 6000. Millions of families are displaced and are homeless now. Economists predict US$ 65 billion will be the loss of the nation.

The UN said in a report:
Cyclone Sidr has affected about 4.7 million people in worst-hit districts and a further 2.6 million people, most of them the "poorest of the poor", are in need of immediate help,. (BDNews24)
These people have to be fed up to three months and many still haven't been reached to hand over the aids available. There have been overwhelming response from the local and international community in monetary aid.

However the call of this hour is to reach these aid to the people in remote areas. The armed forces of Bangladesh are so far doing the best they can with their limited resources like helicopters and boats. As I mentioned earlier, Bangladesh needs more helicopters, water purifiers, volunteers, medical helps. I hope the international community keeps these in mind too. One country (name withheld) pledged 5000 Euro for the victims. I don't want to undermine anyone's good wish but really they would do better if they could send a medical teal or lend some helicopters that would be something effective for the aid of the victims.

Two US ships USS Essex and USS Kearsarge are in Bangladesh waters to help in the relief efforts. The US embassy in Dhaka said that each of the ships are carrying 23 helicopters and six small planes which will be used for medical evacuations and surveying the affected areas by approx 1500 US marines. They are also equipped with water purifiers and purified water is of urgent need of many survivors.

While this is happening we see that Hizbut Tahrir Bangladesh, a Branch of Hizbut Tahrir is protesting the arrival of US navy ships in Bangladesh. Hizbut Tahrir is an international, Sunni, pan-Islamist vanguard political party whose goal is to unite all Muslim countries in a unitary Islamic state or caliphate, ruled by Islamic law and headed by an elected head of state.

While the Bangladeshis in the country and abroad are doing their best to help these victims from own resources with innovative ideas like sms aid campaigns and pledging to the international community for more donations you can check the Hizbut Tahrir site that they are silent about the issue. Their priority is to build a caliphate at the expense of all these victims and they don't like the US marine to help save lives. It can be lauded that the police forces have taken action against its spokesman. But it will be befitting to expose their intentions to the common public.

I guess even a dumb person can recognize who is the enemy of the people. Down with political Islam. Hizbut Tahrir should read Abdul Kargbo's post "Compassion Does Not Recognize State Boundaries" for a change:
"At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that people—regardless of who they are or where they’re from—are capable of feeling compassion for others, even if they are geographically distant. That’s something to celebrate, not question."
Kathy has more updates on the post cyclone relief.

November 19, 2007


I will be traveling for the rest of the week and will have limited internet connections. So updates on Bangladesh cyclone will be almost non-existent.

[BDNEWS24.com] The confirmed death toll from the cyclone reached 3,113 by Monday, while 3,322 are injured and 1,063 missing. Two C-130 aircraft of the U.S. Marine Corp arrived in Dhaka on Sunday night with medical supplies. The King of Saudi Arabia has announced a $100 million grant for the victims. Riyadh would also airlift 300 tonnes of food and relief materials.

Check the Daily Star's update on Monday. The statistics of the destruction of Sidr are horrifying:
The total number of affected families stands at 1.05 million, representing more than 4.08 million individuals.

Crops on 29,374 acres of land have been completely destroyed and on 8,55,525 acres have been damaged partially, according to the government assessment.

The number of completely destroyed houses stood at 300,511 yesterday and the number of partially damaged houses was 626,000. Besides, 384,000 trees have been damaged.

Some 792 educational institutions have been completely destroyed and 4,393 were partly damaged. Embankments of about 57 kilometres (km) of length have been damaged, and 58km of road has been destroyed completely while 87,948km of road has been partly damaged.
The main challenge in helping the Bangladesh cyclone victims is to reach to the remotest of areas in Southern Bangladesh. There are hundreds of small floodplain sediment island or chars for which the government has no records. These people may not have been existed in any book to be included in the early warning efforts. Thats why the death toll is rising after 4 days.

This report will shed a light to the needs of these people:

So efforts should be made to dispatch the aids to these remote areas. Bangladesh has only a few civilian helicopters. The military and Air Force helicopters are being used in most of the relief works. I have not yet seen any country providing means of transport in the relief work.

Also read TIME magazine's "How Bangladesh survived the Cyclone"

Via Bangladesh from our view we see how the slum dwellers in capital Dhaka are coping with the damages that the category 3 cyclone brought them.

ACT NOW: How you can help Bangladesh cyclone victims.

November 18, 2007

The forgotten Operation Sea Angel

From Mash's Blog:

Let me tell you a story of a disaster that you have probably never heard of and the overwhelming American response that you should know about.

In late spring of 1991 a US Navy Amphibious Task Force (ATF) returning from the Persian Gulf war was diverted, on order of President George H.W. Bush, to the Bay of Bengal.

A Bangladeshi citizen, rumor has it, on seeing the ATF approach from the sea, called them "Angels from the Sea." Thus began Operation Sea Angel, one of the largest military relief operations ever undertaken.

Less than two weeks ago, on the evening of April 29 1991, Cyclone Marian, a storm with top sustained winds of 160 mph (Category 5), made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm (155 mph) along the coastline of Bangladesh. The resulting 20 foot high tidal wave killed over 138,000 people and left over 5 million people homeless. Marian was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record.

The new democratically elected government in Bangladesh, overwhelmed by the massive scale of the devastation, requested urgent assistance from foreign countries. While relief goods had been stockpiled before the cyclone, most of Bangladesh’s lift capability and almost all of the infrastructure had been wiped out by the force of nature’s onslaught.

The United States responded on May 10 1991 by launching Operation Sea Angel, a relief operation that involved over 7000 US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The man leading the effort, Lt. General Henry Stackpole, declared, "We went to Kuwait in the name of liberty, and we’ve come to Bangladesh in the name of humanity."

Operation Sea Angel was massive in scale and massively successful:


The relief efforts of U.S. troops are credited with having saved as many as 200,000 lives.

The US effort not only saved lives, but it also won hearts and minds. A Bangladeshi human rights blogger, Rumi Ahmed, who lived through the events recollects in a post commemorating the events:

The first American I have ever met was a soldier, probably a member of US marine corps. I saw him in Bangladesh. He was dispatched to Chittagong, Bangladesh after the deadly storm of April 29 1991. I was hustling across [t]he crowded lobby of Chittagong medical college hospital when I spotted an area where the crowd is a little denser than the rest of the lobby. A well built Caucasian man in battle gear, sun burnt skin, walking across carrying a Bangladeshi toddler on his shoulder. The toddler, clearly a victim of the recent cyclone, was vomiting all over the marine’s body.

The soldier was in Chittagong as a part of operation sea angel.

In response to Rumi’s post, it is heartening to see comments from some of the American servicemen and women who took part in Operation Sea Angel. Sixteen years after they first won hearts and minds, they continue to do so.

In just over one month the United States military executed what would become a blueprint for successful relief operations. The success of Operation Sea Angel contributed to the establishment of military doctrine on relief operations and on inter-agency coordination during joint operations, both of which provided ample lessons learned that could have been applied to Katrina and Iraq.

Operation Sea Angel demonstrated the tremendous soft power of the United States. It also demonstrated the lighter side of force projection. It showed the capability of the United States government to respond to natural disasters anywhere in the world when there is will within the executive branch to commit the resources necessary to recover from a humanitarian crisis. The United States military overcame significant barriers of lack of infrastructure, broken communications lines, challenges due to massive flooding and collapse of levees, lack of coordination between local and central governments, and the demands of a large population on the brink of starvation and in need of immediate relief.

Two US Navy ships are on the way to Bangladesh to assist in the relief operation of the cyclone Sidr Victims. Will many lives be saved by the angels again?


A member of the Operation Sea Angel blogs.