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

October 30, 2007

New Bangla GNU/Linux Distro Released

The 2nd installable Bangla distro based on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) [0] has been released by Ankur. The codename of this release is Hoimonti (হৈমন্তী). The first one, Sraboni (শ্রাবণী), was based on Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) [1].

For features and downloads click here.

Bangladesh Boat Diary: Social Networking used in Media

According to BBC:
BBC World Service is traveling along the rivers of Bangladesh as part of a major project to track and debate climate change.

Officially entitled Nodi Pothe Bangladesh - Bangladesh By The River - this is one of the most ambitious projects the BBC World Service has undertaken.

Over the course of the month, staff from 17 different World Service language services will visit the MV Aboshor, and each Friday and Saturday a total of 48 people will cram onto the small boat.

The launch began with a press conference on board the boat. "Why are you coming and scaremongering?" a journalist asked. "Why do you want to present Bangladesh in a negative light?"

Does he have a point? Perhaps in the next four weeks you can judge for yourself.
Here is the website for this project. The interesting thing is that you can follow the project via Twitter, a growing social networking site that allows updating your status via sms (mobile) and web (IM) and you can also informed about your peers status via web (IM) or sms to your mobile. Check the 'Bangladesh Boat' updates via twitter.

Its interesting to see how the media uses these social networking sites. Earlier Greenpeace's 'Project Thin Ice" used Google Earth Technology to report the progress of the expedition to north pole. But twitter is appropriate in Bangladesh's context where there is a great deal of progress in telecommunication which has a sound network even in the remote areas of the country and they offer even fast internet connection (Edge & GPRS) via mobile. Check Mezba's post for details on this pehonomenon.

(Graphics credit BBC)

Update: Nokia and Reuters announced a collaboration to bring a new mobile journalism application that will enable reporters to file and publish articles, audio, photo and video content directly from handheld devices.

Today's Links

* Bangladesh: RAB and BTRC compile list of Internet subscribers

* The Levi-Prodi law and the end of the Internet in Italy.

* Bangladesh 'cheapest place' for investment in Asia

* Bangladeshis in Britain - from Brick Lane to the fast lane

* Rahela Akhter Lima's third death anniversary and court hearing: will this brave young woman receive justice in October 2007?

* Terrorism is no '-ism' of any Religion | Tehelka and Gujrat Violence

* The wikipedia gap.

* On slave mentality.

October 29, 2007

Bangladesh finds a new cricket coach

BCB announced yesterday that the new Bangladesh cricket coach replacing Australian Dav Whatmore is his countryman Jamie Siddons. Bangladesh has opted for the "Thunder Down Under".

He was appointed as senior coach at the Centre of Excellence in 2005 and then became an assistant coach with the Australian national team.

Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh described Siddons as the “best Australian batsman not to have played Test cricket". He made 11,587 first-class runs at 44.91, playing for Victoria and South Australia between 1984-85 and 1999-2000, and played a solitary ODI in Lahore in 1988. (source Cricinfo)

Siddons was shortlisted in the middle of 2007 by the Bangladesh Cricket Board as a possible candidate. But last month it was reported that Siddons was ruled out because of non-agreement of terms and conditions.

(Image credit: The Daily Star)

October 28, 2007

War Criminals of 1971

After the recent controversial statement that “Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and there are no war criminals in the country,” we hear a new low in political rhetorics.

Former Islami Bank chairman and Jamaat-e-Islam think-tank Shah Abdul Hannan has described the Liberation War of 1971 as a “civil war.” He denied that genocide took place in the country at that time and that war criminals exist here. Speaking on a talk show, Ekushey Shomoy, on private satellite television channel Ekushey Television Friday, Hannan also expressed doubts that three million people died in the war and supported a Pakistani report according to which only 26,000 people or less died during the Liberation War. The Daily Star has a transcript of his comments.

Dr Hasan, convenor of War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, a group investigating war crimes by Pakistani army and their local collaborators in 1971 tells that Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed’s statement is a blatant lie:
“We have strong evidence and documents against the people who were involved in war crimes during the Liberation War and what is needed now to bring the culprits to justice is an initiative. Ali Ahsan Mojaheed as president of Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971 was in a leading position of Dhaka city Al Badr Bahini, one of the groups involved in killing Bangladeshi intellectuals at the fag end of the war. Al Badr played the key role in killing innocent intellectuals, professionals and also common people in 1971.

Local collaborators of the Pakistani army were involved in at least 53 types of crimes. The committee traced at least 920 mass graves where Bengalis were dumped by the Pakistani army and their collaborators. The killings were clearly genocide as Bengalis were eliminated because they were Bengalis and the Hindus were killed because they were Hindus.

An investigation by the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee found at least 191 people as Pakistani war criminals who have been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and mass killing."
Meanwhile details are being emerging that Local collaborators of Pakistani occupation forces or war criminals charged with specific allegations of committing atrocities during the Liberation War have never been pardoned although propaganda campaigns are on claiming that they were granted general amnesty by Bangabandhu-led post-war government:
On November 30, 1973, the government announced general amnesty for those among the arrestees under collaborators order not charged with specific allegations of war atrocities.

The press note on general amnesty categorically said, “Those who were punished for or accused of rape, murder, attempt to murder or arson will not come under general amnesty.”

Out of 37,000 sent to jail on charges of collaboration, some 26,000 were freed after announcement of the general amnesty.

Around 11,000 were still in prison when the government of Justice Sayem and General Ziaur Rahman repealed the collaboration order on December 31, 1975. Following this, those behind bars for war atrocities appealed and eventually got released.
More details here.

And last but not the least a Pakistani major's account reveals Jamaat's role in 1971. Siddiq Salik, who was serving the Pakistan army as a major in Bangladesh in 1971, in his book ‘Witness to Surrender’ he observed that:

Jamaat leaders collaborated with them [Pakistan army] not only to advance their ideals of Pakistan as an Islamic state, but also to wreak vengeance on people they were at enmity with.

Referring to the drives against Bangalee freedom fighters, he wrote, “These operations were only a partial success because the West Pakistani troops neither knew the faces of the suspects nor could they read the lane numbers (in Bengali).

They had to depend on the cooperation of the local people.

(On the collaboration groups) these patriotic elements were organised into two groups. The elderly and prominent among them formed Peace Committees, while the young and able-bodied were recruited as Razakars (volunteers). The committees were formed in Dacca as well as in the rural areas and they served as a useful link between the Army and the local people.

Razakars were raised to augment the strength of the West Pakistani troops and to give a sense of participation to the local population. Their manpower rose to nearly 50,000 as against a target of 100,000.

Some of them were genuinely interested in the integrity of Pakistan and they risked their own lives to cooperate with the Army, but a few of them also used their links with the Army to settle old score with pro-AL people.

To stress the point once again that the Bangladeshi collaborators had purposes other than pursuing the ideology of an Islamic state, Salik recollects, “In the evening I met the officer who carried out the attack. What he said was enough to chill my blood. He confided. ‘There were no rebels, and no weapons. Only poor country-folk, mostly women and old men got roasted in the barrage of fire. It is a pity that the operation was launched without proper intelligence. I will carry this burden on my conscience for the rest of my life’.”
As Sada Kalo Blog said "I will NOT forget. I will not let YOU forget."

October 27, 2007

Homeless people in Germany

The Bangladeshi photographer GMB Akash, a 'World Press Photo Award’ winner is currently residing in Hamburg, Germany on a Hamburg Foundation/GEO Magazine scholarship for a year.

Akash was shocked to find homeless people in Germany and asked "why are there homeless in one of the richest countries of the world?" Then he started documenting what he saw. In his own account:
Once, when I took a picture of a homeless in Hamburg, I was asked by the police why I was photographing the homeless. They wanted to know why I show the bad sides of Germany. This was like a déjà-vu for me.
You can watch the series of photos on homeless people in Germany from his gallery:
I don’t know a lot about the circumstances of poverty and homelessness in Germany. But whatever stands behind it: The begging child I met with his father affected me a lot. I believe that here, with a lot of money in the background, a job, care and support could be given to many people. Someone who sells a paper like Hinz & Kunzt, for example, doesn’t have to beg. Someone who has to beg cannot build up self-confidence and has no perspective for the future.
For this image in particular and his series of photographs homosexual and prostitutes in Narayanganj brothels he received death threat from Fundamentalists back in Bangladesh.

Akash explains:
In my homeland, friends, relatives, and other photographers often asked me: “Why do you only show the bad sides of Bangladesh? “But this was never my intention. Having a son that is delinquent, you have to be hard and strict towards him to keep him from the bad. You do this because you love him. This is the same I feel for Bangladesh: I love my country and I show things that should be change(d) positively.
One of his photos has recently won the prestigious Gordon Parks Photography Competition 2007.

(All photos copyright GMB Akash)

The denial will rewrite history soon

Now it is being said that no war criminal exists in the country. Maybe after some time it would be said that the Liberation War never took place. All this will mean we will be deprived of the real history.” - Former chief justice and chairman of the Law Commission Mostafa Kamal
Bangladeshis were outraged by the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami's leader Ali Ahsan Muzahid's statement that "Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War in 1971 and there are no war criminals in the country."

Before we go dissecting the above statement this contradicts with the Jamaat leaders statement during the liberation war in 1971, in which they sided with Pakistan and aided Pakistani army to kill and rape Bangladeshis which resulted in one of the worst genocides of the world. A few excerpts:
Addressing a gathering of Razakars in Jessore, Nizami said, "Every single one of us must identify ourselves as soldiers of Islam and we have to use all our forces to destroy the people who are involved in an armed conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam," (The Daily) Sangram reported on September 15.

The next day Nizami urged his followers to "confront and reveal the true identity of the so-called Bengali-lovers".

While visiting an Al-Badr camp on September 22, Nizami said, "Only the patriotic youths of East Pakistan can effectively annihilate the Indian infiltrators and their local agents."

Golam Azam (the then Jamaat Ameer)at the party council of Kushtia district unit in the second week of August 1971 described the freedom fighters as criminals and directed the party workers to resist them. He also directed formation of Shanti Bahini (peace committee) in every village of the country. He told the meeting that very soon the Razakars, Mojaheed and police would be able to resist the "criminals", said document No. 549 (159)-PL.S(I) signed by the then home secretary MM Kazim on September 14.
Here is the background of Ali Ahsan Muzahid.

So it is a call of the time to try the proven war criminals and bring proceedings against them. This is what war heroes are demanding.

This is required because Jamaat leaders are vowing that no case have been brought against the alleged war criminals so why should people call them criminals. In 1974 a general amnesty was declared for the war criminals as people were taking law in their own hand in those times of political turmoil. Later on Jamaat as a party was rehabilitated, which still contains some of the war criminals and they are even made partners of the government.

Dr. Zia Uddin Ahmed wrote a brilliant piece in 1997 where he said about Amnesty:
Post-genocide traumatized society often has to make a dichotomous choice between two perilous options, should the perpetrators be prosecuted or should they be amnestied in the interests of national reconciliation. (Amnesty) is discriminatory application of criminal law, privileging certain defendants, which bread cynicism toward the rule of law.

States have the duty to prosecute violations of international law like genocide. Such crimes cannot be unilaterally forgiven; even a victim society cannot forgive crimes against humanity.
Zia Uddin describes in his article about ways to deal with the past and how to systematically bring the war criminals to trial.

There is another theory that Jamaat is wanting that charges are being brought against the war criminal. Because of the complicated and corrupted Judiciary and lack of evidence (after 36 years) they can get easily acquitted. So the court order will give them more power to deny the truth.

So it is imperative that the cases should be brought in international tribunals. We need our Simon Wiesenthal who hunted for the Nazis all his life.

The above video shows the student wing of Jamaat, the Islami chatro Shibir is participating in a rally posing as Muktijoddhas (freedom fighters).This is how they are changing colors.

Even some persons in Government are apologists towards them. Jamaat's Islamic militancy connection is widely known but neglected by the Government.

Some documents in public domains allege that the military intelligence in Bangladesh is subverting political process to breed a new political landscape. (Read the Washington Post's article A New Hub for Terrorism: to see the documented linkage between Jamaat and the current DGFI). "What makes future prospects in Bangladesh especially alarming is that the Jamaat and its allies appear to be penetrating the higher ranks of the armed forces. Among many examples, informed journalists in Dhaka attribute Jamaat sympathies to Maj. Gen. Mohammed Aminul Karim, recently appointed as military secretary to President Iajuddin Ahmed, and to Brig. Gen. A.T.M. Amin, director of the Armed Forces Intelligence anti-terrorism bureau".)

These are worrying signs but let me remind you the people cannot be fooled always. Well aware Bangladeshis will not let it happen that easily. The reactions I am seeing on the web is enormous. Statements like this from Jamaat will create a commotion among the public. And if people rise then the consequences will not be limited to war of words only.

Reminding you about the liberation war with this song of Joan Baez sang by a Bangladeshi:

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

October 25, 2007

Free Arifur Rahman: An update

Background: Free Cartoonist Arifur Rahman

Drishtipat blog posts an appeal to all:
It is more than a month since Arifur Rahman’s arrest.

In the past month, we have debated Arif’s culpability many times. The purpose of this post is not to re-visit that old debate. Even if we think of this man as guilty, we should ask ourselves: is his incarceration what the Prophet (SW) would have prescribed given his sense of generosity, forgiveness and - most importantly - justice?

We understand that Arif is being held at Dhaka Central Jail. We sincerely urge all of his well-wishers to write to him expressing solidarity at the address given below.

Mohammad Arifur Rahman,
Son of Mohammad Matiur Rahman,
re CR Case No. 2298/07,
Dhaka Central Jail,
Nazimuddin Road,

We also urge those offended by the cartoon to write to him, for compassion towards one’s adversaries is a fast-vanishing Islamic value in today’s world.
From Dhaka Shohor:
Arif has spent the better part of Ramadan in prison and has spent Eid away from his family. Even his exact whereabouts are open to question.

Let me take a moment here to note the absolute silence about him in the mainstream media. A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E.

Ask yourself: is this what the Prophet (SW) would have prescribed? Given the stories of his sense of generosity, forgiveness and JUSTICE we all grow up with, the answer would have to be a resounding "no"! But of course, this will fall on the deaf ears of the people who use the Prophet's (SW) name explicitly (and that means YOU Hizb-ut-Tahrir!).

Free Arifur Rahman and let him live with security and dignity.
Mridul Chowdhury and Sikder Haseeb Khan writes in the Progressive Bangladesh:
The cartoon by Arifur Rahman is a source of grievance of scores of Islamist activists in Bangladesh who have risen up in arms to see Arif severely punished – some have even felt it their ‘sacred’ duty to declare death sentence on him. Isn’t it ironic that we are defying the very teachings of the Prophet in the name of trying to uphold his respect? Isn’t it a disgrace that we have ignored the peaceful and tolerant teachings of Islam and the Prophet (SM) to the point of making Islam look to the outside world like an intolerant and barbaric religion?

If the government fails to free Arifur Rahman and give him adequate protection for his life, it will only fan the fire of religious bigotry and ignorance in the country. If unchecked, this fire runs the danger of extending to proportions that we see in some other Muslim countries, hampering our international relations and jeopardizing our image as a ‘moderate Muslim nation’ that can serve as an example for others. We hope that this government will be prudent in taking a decision on this matter since it is not just an issue of freedom of expression but one that goes to the very fabric of who we are as a nation.

Raise your voice against domestic violence

Image credit Amnesty International
(Image credit Amnesty International)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month in USA, devoted to connecting battered women’s advocates across the nation to work together to end violence against women and children.

The issue is not country specific. Domestic violence is a menace that is found all over the world. This is a disease prevailing in every social structure, whether its the educated or uneducated, rich or poor. Bangladeshi women experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world.

In this report we will see how Bangladeshi bloggers have started making some waves in fighting domestic violence and bring justice for the victims proving the power of cyber activism once again.

Via Samiha Esha we take a look at the story of Nadine Murhsed, a lecturer of Brac University who was brutally assaulted by her husband Sajid Huq in New York, where he is a student at Columbia University.

Nadine on her wedding day Nadine brutally assaulted

Pictures tell a thousand words. but Nadine's note says more:
I am lucky to be alive, and there must be a reason why the month-long abuse I sustained did not culminate in my death. I had said my ‘innah lillah..’s and was prepared to die, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he raped me with my head draped with a scarf so that he wouldn’t have to look at my disfigured face.
She was rescued by police and Sajid is now in the custody of NY Police. Dr. Kathryn ward at Nari Jibon's Bangladesh from our view has more updates:
Her abusive husband's elite family is threatening her family with false cases. More recently many prominent Bangladeshi women's organizations and leaders have protested the continued harassment of Nadine and her family and called for justice in Bangladesh and USA.

Some have organized on Facebook a group to provide Justice for Nadine! while others are speaking up and writing to challenge the victim-blaming anti-Nadine activities of the abuser's, family, and friends who have posted misinformation on these websites!
Adhunika Blog has some shocking statistics:
Studies show that up to 3 million women are physically abused annually by intimate partners in the United States. However, the numbers seem worse for the South Asian community in the U.S, where approximately 41% of women are physically and/or sexually abused in some way by their current male partners in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the real percentage may be higher as many South Asian women are less likely to categorize various interactions as domestic violence, or are afraid or prevented from reporting such incidents.
The Blog lists some helpful links to different domestic violence groups in USA that provide information about domestic violence and different services to victims.

Now lets go to Bangladesh to learn about more violence against women.

On October 22, 2007 Manobi posted about Rahela, a teenager working class girl who was gang raped lead by her former colleague, her throat was slit and body brutally mutilated by acid three years ago. Before her painful death she could name the devils who did this to her mother. A case is on trial in court and the first hearing will be on October 29, 2007. A leading human rights organization "Ain O Salish Kendra" is fighting for Rahela's justice and is leading the court battle. The accused are hiding from the law and may get acquited due to lack of sufficient evidence. Her husband has remarried after six months and is happy that she could save him and his family from becoming a suspect by naming the culprits. This negligence is another form of violence!

In her post [bn] Manobi urged the bloggers to amplify the news everywhere especially in local media so that Rahela can get justice. This post got enormous response generating 222 comments till-to-date. Jiner Badshah posted another appeal titled "justice must prevail" [bn] to the Bangladeshi blogger community to create petition , send out to all the local media and create awareness in social networking sites.

And it worked like wonder as articles started to appear in local media. This has prompted local journalists like Foisal Noi [bn] to go to Rahela's village and dig out more information on the case. A significant TV coverage of Rahela case on 29th October is planned by the local electronic media. Whether Rahela will get justice only time will tell. But Manobi's one post lead to so much commotion in the society - this is unprecedented.

Manobi says in an email:
Now it feels like, Rahela is not abandoned, she is not forgotten. This ovewhelming response once again proves Humanity is the religion what we all follow.
I urge all the cyber activists of the world to raise your voices against the domestic violences of your communities and create more awareness on this subject. It only takes a power of one to bring a change.

(Cross-posted in the Global Voices Online)

October 24, 2007

Bloggers, the media and the army chief

The political arena of Bangladesh heated up after the Eid holidays. Bloggers cum citizen journalists had a role to play in this.

J Rahman at Mukti has some backgrounds:

Earlier this year, Bangladesh experienced an extra-constitutional change in government. The Economist called it a coup that dares not speak its name. Initially, this de facto coup brought respite from a months-old stalemate between the country’s rival political parties. But soon, the technocratic regime (Caretaker government) that was installed by the army started arresting top politicians on corruption charges.

In many ways it becomes evident who is running the show here. The army chief has been the center of media attention providing all kinds of political statement on behalf of the Caretaker Government. In recent days he has declared that he don't want to become president of the country which attracted much publicity and got cheered from the public. His prominent exposure in the local print media raises eyebrows. Rumi of In The Middle of Nowhere says:

Please see below the screenshots of the main page ( Cover page) of most of the major Bangladeshi newspapers published today… all of them had a common theme… Almost all newspapers gave banner heading treatment with a central front page picture of General Moeen U Ahmed. No, he did not save this planet from immediate annihilation by a meteor. He is visiting USA and spoke in a reception hosted by a hitherto unknown Bangali diaspora organization.

And you still want me to believe that Bangladesh is not under a de facto martial law?

An anonymous commenter first raised the question on the 16th of October. Mash followed up with an investigative report in E-Bangladesh regarding irregularities in General Moeen U Ahmed's personal housing loan from Trust Bank, a commercial bank owned and operated by the Bangladesh Army. He had quoted evidence from an auditor certified prospectus hosted in public domain of the Security Exchange Commission of Bangladesh that Mr. Ahmed crossed his capacity as a director on the board in obtaining a large amount of loan. He also cited the regulation that more than one member of a family cannot be director of a bank but His brother was appointed as the MD of the Bank during his tenure.

Mukti adds:

These violations of the banking regulations were completely avoided by the mainstream media in Bangladesh. While the bloggers were discussing this, what did the daily newspapers in Dhaka report? They reported on the General’s visit to Britain and America.
After it broke in the internet, the General was asked about the issue by reporters from ATN Bangla, a TV channel. Then major newspapers reported the General’s explanations. Here is how the Daily Star chose to report it. Out-of-context? You be the judge.

Adding more to the controversy General Moeen U Ahmed denied the charges and said he had only taken Taka 3.5 million (The audit report says 9.9 million). He also claimed that he is a victim of “internet propaganda.” His brother, the MD was also quick to respond [bn] to the issues without mentioning the audited prospectus.

Shada Kalo Blog reacts:

I would have accepted the explanation that the prospectus contained a typo. But if the MD is not claiming that the prospectus was incorrect, then surely the information was correct.

Tacit points to the significance of this:

This story will not die down any time soon, given that this is the same man who has sent countless people to jail, held them without bail, and tortured them, all in the name of ridding our country of nepotism and corruption. Hopefully, this information will give pause to everyone who would like to take him at his word and believe that he has Bangladesh’s best interests at heart.

And Mukti aptly puts it:

“(These are) questions that should be raised by people far more qualified than the bloggers who have been raising them this week.

I asked the editor of a major Bangla daily earlier this month about press freedom in today’s Bangladesh. He said a lot of things without answering the question. LK Advani said about the Indian media during their Emergency — the media was asked to bend, they chose to crawl. Ours seem to have taken supplication to a new low.

Even if the General is telling the truth, this incidence should make it obvious that unless things change, he is likely to end up not different from the other military rulers that came before him.”

October 19, 2007

S M Sultan, Brick Lane, Female Bloggers and Bangla E-Books

(First published in Global Voices Online)

Sid of Serious Golmal writes a well informative article on the life of S M Sultan, the master painter of Bangladesh commemorating his 13th death anniversary. Sultan was born in Norail (in Kushtia in the southwest of Bangladesh) in 1923. Born to a mason, he was a natural talent and did not complete his study in the Calcutta College of Arts and Crafts. Later on he created a wave in the West when he visited USA and UK under a cultural exchange program and displayed his paintings. From 1953 to 1976 Sultan lived in virtual obscurity, living the life of a Vaishnava Sanyasi.

Sultan's Adam
(The First Tree Planting: Sultan 1976: courtesy Serious Golmal)
"Sultan’s paintings may be sold at Sotheby’s in London today but for the people of rural Norail, the guru entered folk legend more than half a century ago. They tell us that animals were drawn to him, that he could converse with them, that hundreds of his works are scattered all over the world in all manner of places, given away as gifts, that he cared not for fame or material wealth, choosing to travel from village to village, country to country, returning at last to his source.

He lived in three continents but never had a fixed abode, never attached prices to his work, never married. He wore his hair long, chose to live out his days in rural Bengal with his dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and snakes rather than the big international cities that beckoned when recognition of his genius came early in his life."
Kotha Chilo (Stories to tell) blog reviews the movie based on Monica Ali's award winning novel Brick Lane. The filming of Brick Lane caught much media attention because of protests of some members of Bangladeshi communities in UK and the unit had to change location of filming to avoid threats. But Monica Ali maintains that "the 'controversy' was whipped up in the media".
"Monica Ali's 2003 novel Brick Lane was feted for its ability to blend the personal and the political as it recounted the experiences of a young Bangladeshi woman's journey of self-discovery. It was illuminating about the hidden lives of Britain's Bangladeshi community and the growing racism abroad in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The respectable film version heavily compresses the novel into a less complex but still touching, small-scale tale of female empowerment that almost feels like a variation of Shirley Valentine."
Bangla Blogging platform Sachalayatan [bn] boasts of being more of an online writers community rather than collection of some conventional blogs. It has been promoting budding as well as established writers to post their literary works there. And adding more to the task it has already published a few literary E-books in PDF versions and more collaborative projects [bn] at hand. Now users can download their copy of the literature free, print it and read it at ease.

The first publications is a collection of poems of Sunil Saifullah, a notable young poet who prematurely ended his life in 1981. Some of his poems were only once published by the students union of his University (Jahangirnagar University) in 1982. But these few books went into oblivion in course of time and now he is barely known to people of Bangladesh. Bloggers of Sachalayatan first discussed about his works went to the University library to collect a copy of the book and recreate the Book. You can download the book from here [bn].

Some comments on the feat:
সৌরভ: জয় হোক এ উদ্যোগের। এ চেষ্টার মাধ্যমেই জন্ম জন্মান্তরে সজীব থাকুন আমাদের মাঝে কবি সুনীল সাইফুল্লাহ।
Sourav: Bravo to this initiative. With this work let poet Sunil Saifullah live among us for eternity.

সুমন রহমান: বাংলা সাহিত্যে এরকম সারপ্রাইজ আরো কিছু আছে। আমার মনে সচলায়তনের ই-বুক প্রকল্প দিয়ে সেসবের সুরাহা আমরা করতে পারবো।
Suman Rahman: There are more such surprises in the Bangla literature. I think we will able to sort them out with the Sachalayatan E-Book project.

Fele Asha Chelebela
Another recent Bangla E-Book publication “Fele Asha Chelebela” is a 109 page collection of childhood memoirs of twenty one bloggers which portrays the true picture of the lives of Bangladeshi youths, society, their upbringings etc. Its popularity prompted the bloggers to decide to publish it in future as a printed book with more collections of writings. You can download it from here [bn].

You never know some day these collaborative Bangla E-books with the help of New Media will be able to really change the scenario of literature of the country.

And last but not the least please do read the recent writings of the female bloggers of the Nari Joibon project to know about Bangladesh from their view. Nari Jibon is a not-for-profit organization in Bangladesh who is providing education to poor and under-privileged women making them self reliant through different short term education and skill development programs. It has brought these female voices to Blogging with the help of a Rising Voices micro-grant.

October 18, 2007

Today's Links

* The outrage economy

* Bangladesh’s sleeping Frankenstein

* The Chittagong Hill Tracts Of Bangladesh

* Engage, ignore, suppress: How governments respond to Citizen Media.

* Crackdowns on Bloggers increasing, survey finds.

* Bangladesh tightens the Internet noose.

* India-Bangladesh train goes off the rails.

October 17, 2007

India-Australia cricket series

The India Australia one-day cricket series was disappointing as Australia won (4-2) some matches with aggression and with big margins and India was not equal to the task. However they nipped back with two wins, especially the last one. The man of the match Murali Kartik with his six wickets and unbeaten 21 helped India win the match.

However the post match presentation created something to ponder about. Kartik said:
".. by God's grace it worked out well for me ...we had some fun batting out there ... cracking jokes helped us through ... and yes, I did nick one through to the keeper (big smile)!"
Australian captain Ricky Ponting replies:
"... always hard defending that score ... Murali's just admitted he nicked that one but it would've been nice if he'd walked (grins) ... congratulations to India"
India was really desperate for the win. Australia is using sledging as a tactics to unsettle opponents and it backfired in this tour. It seems we are seeing the reformation of cricket ethics where winning matters above all.

Blog Action Day: Bangladesh and Environment

(First published in E-Bangladesh)


Yesterday was the Blog action day, a day when bloggers around the web were unite to emphasize the important issue 'the environment' that people tend to ignore. The campaign asked every blogger around the world to post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own local or international topic.

Why is the Blog day important? Kevin Stirtz writes in the American Chronicle:

Blog Action Day is important because it shows us the power, energy and diversity of many people to voluntarily propose ideas and start conversations about an important topic. It should add great value to the current conversations about how to protect our environment.

Almost 2000 Blogs:

19,974 Blogs have registered to be part of this campaign. You can get the list of the participants from here. Google Blog search lists around 13000 of the blog posts on Blog Action Day.

Here is a list of Environmental Blogs furthering the cause. Global Voices Online, Green Options, and Shouting Match have posted roundups on Blog Action day posts.

Bangladesh and Environment:

Most of the Bangladeshi Blogs were almost silent about this campaign. Probably because people in Bangladesh are battered with lot of issues like poverty, political instability and natural disaster, 'the environment' is one issue that seldom gets priority.

We have seen Bangladesh being subject to many environmental constraints which led to augmentation of natural disasters and diseases in mass scale.

The Farakka Barrage in India and the unilateral withdrawal of Ganges water during dry season by India resulted serious adverse effects on environment, agriculture, industries, fisheries, navigation, river regime, salinity contamination in the surface and ground water in the southwestern and western areas of Bangladesh covering almost 20% of its area.

Clean water source has been a perennial problem of Bangladesh. Starting in the 1970s aid agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had built shallow wells throughout the country to help provide a safe source of drinking water to Bangladesh's population. However in the 1990s it was discovered that many of these wells were contaminated by arsenic, a poison that accumulates naturally in Bangladesh's alluvial soils. According to a World Bank estimate 25 percent of the country's 4 million wells may be contaminated by arsenic. Without a way to filter the water from arsenic these wells have become a nightmare for Bangladeshi villagers.(Source)

After the great flood of 1988 developments of a damn built around greater Dhaka city is protecting the capital but the rest of the country is still prone to floods which destroy millions of dollars worth infrastructure each year. Many unfortunates have to start again after each flood as their tangible belongings are destroyed.

During late Eighties and early Nineties we have seen many cyclone shelters were built up with the help of Saudi Arabian grants. But many of them are in shabby conditions today. We rarely see development budgets being used to repairs and maintenance of these shelters.

Bangladesh is located on a tectonically active plate and the potential for magnitude 8 or greater earthquakes on the nearby Himalayan front is very high. An earthquake in excess of 6.5 (Richter scale) will cause a disaster in the densely populated Dhaka city.

There is a widespread theory that:

If the sea rises by a metre — as some scientists say it will by 2100 — a quarter of Bangladesh will be submerged, forcing 30 to 40 million people from their homes.

I think Bangladesh is also lacking behind in planning a protection measure against this threat of Global Warming. This just shows that how relevant the issue is for Bangladesh. If the Netherlands can reclaim massive land from below sea level Bangladesh should also be able to take measures well in advance. However the Netherlands has also reasons to bother about it. Watch what Dr. Patrick Dixon has to say about it.

Bangladesh has also some achievements in protecting the environment. Its rural economy is still driven by agriculture. It has plenty of natural gas reserve which have been put to good use as fuels (CNG) for automobiles, cooking, electricity generating, industrial use etc. Use of polythene bags are banned in the country.

Although our main target is to reduce poverty and achieve a sustainable growth and development still there are lots of environmental issue we need to address.

Today starts another relevant campaign called stand up and speak out against poverty. I hope you will do your part as a responsible world citizen.

October 16, 2007

Cartoon of the Day: How to become a famous blogger

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

The advent of Internet theater

After podcasts and video casts internet theater is finally here. Jesse Thorn of "The Sound of Young America" has produced a podcast of dramatic reading of George Saunders’ short story “Ask Mr. Optimist” including the performance of many Internet celebrities including Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing. The video & puppetry by Brian Hogg of Hoggworks added new dimension to this piece.

Watch the 15 minute long production "Ask Mr. Optimist" here:

For list of casts, interviews, reviews and other details please visit the main site.

October 12, 2007

Today's Links

* Hizb ut-Tahrir: A danger to the West? Part 1, 2, 3, 4

* ‘Secularism has become another religion’ – Etienne Balibar

* Muslims in Burma

* Empire State Building to go green for Muslim holiday

* Textiles and the future

* Bangladeshi shows caring ways for Congo kids.

Don't loath scraps

(Picture Courtesy Reuters/Rafiqur Rahman)

iRobo is a Bangladeshi scrapbot developed by Feroz Ahmed Siddiky of the International Islamic University in Chittagong. People will be able to buy it for less than $1,000 someday the developer hopes. Reuters reports:
"IRobo" responds to voice commands, has spatial intelligence and is cheap because it's made from scrap materials he's collected from electronic shops and car mechanics.

He said he is currently discussing commercial production of the robot with an Australian software firm.
This report was picked up by Engadget, one of the most popular Tech blogs. The comment section started an interesting discussion where people discussed the mundane choices of stroies of Engadget and why should a graduate from an Islamic University create a Robot without developing a bomb to blow up somewhere. A commenter presumable a Bangladeshi has an excellent rebuttal:
"I mean, people, get a life! This guy made this robot without any help from any other high tech company. He made it from the scraps. But when he would have the support from the australian company do you think they will still use the motorbike scraps? They are buying the idea and his genius. I hope he succeds. You are just jelous cause even though you have so much resources here in north america, you can't notice by creating something like this kid in a third world country like Bangladesh."

October 11, 2007

Eid delights

The Eid Festival is just around the corner. Missing the special publications on Eid and the Eid supplements of Bangladeshi Newspapers. Hoping at least some of the supplements will be available online.

Banking with mobile phone

The world's second money transfer system with mobile phone (after Philippines) was introduced in Kenya in March 2007. Kenya's biggest mobile operator Safaricom lets subscribers send M-Pesa, or mobile money convertible into cash to other phone users by SMS. The customers of the Safaricom network can keep up to 50,000 shillings (£370) in a "virtual account" on their handsets and use it for payment. Kenya's population is 35 million and 8 million of them own mobile phone.

Originally targeted for the urban people's demand to send money to their families in rural areas this has revolutionized rural trade in Kenya. Now goat traders can sell goats and come home carrying virtual money or M-Pesa. One Goat seller recalls that he was robbed off his mobile but did not lose any money. All he did was to replace his sim card and carried on again. They transfer money to other mobiles by sending a text message with a pin code. The recipient collects cash from625 local agents, who are based in Safaricom outlets, petrol stations and supermarkets by showing the code, identification and answering a security question. Safaricom profits by charging customers about 5 per cent of the value of their transfers.

In Bangladesh, mobile phone networks are extensive, the operators penetration in rural areas are high and it is one of the fastest growing Telecom sector in South Asia. The rural people of Bangladeshi can use such mobile money. Any takers?

October 10, 2007

Bangladesh: Bloggers protest internet user profiling

(First published in the Global Voices Online)

It all started when an exclusive report from E-Bangladesh exposed a memo of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) which instructed 72 Internet Service Providers (ISP) of Bangladesh to submit their individual client details and their usage details. E-Bangladesh also revealed that raids have been carried out in innocent individual users' houses, as a part of the ongoing illegal VOIP operators busting assignment.

Free Internet

Check the Global Voices Advocacy report for details.

VOIP(Voice over Internet Protocol) is a low cost technology based on internet which makes cheap calls via methods like calling cards possible. There are a growing number of Bangladeshi Diaspora in the world who have created a huge demand of international telecommunication. In absence of proper Government control and awareness thousands of small scale VOIP operators have sprung up in Bangladesh in the last 3 to 4 years to cater as the backbones of the International calling card markets. These entrepreneurs are especially young techies who found a small scale investor to set up a profitable business for them basically using a fast internet connection, some mobile phone connections for call termination and some switches.

This has hurt the state run Telecommunication organization BTTB much. Its revenue came down to alarming level and it had to cut down prices of international calls. However without embracing for this new technology themselves they are trying to stop usage of this technology banning it. Since January this year the BTRC has started to bust the existing VOIP operators declaring them illegal and without considering rehabilitation of the existing operators. The government has recently declared that they will provide license to four operators of VOIP. So many opine that the said memo is a measure to protect these upcoming four operators' business.

However BBC reports confirmed quoting the General Secretary of Bangladesh ISP that the whole point of the memo is to establish a control mechanism in Internet Service provided to individuals. The Government will also prepare a database of the internet users with that information.

Bloggers have become outraged by this. Rajkoomaree writes in Unheard Voices: Drishtipat Blog:

Now BTRC orders ISPs to reveal admin password, user data , usage pattern, IP address and so many other things (i even don’t know we need so many things to use the net) of each and every individual to track, monitor and record their activities…..

But can they do it? No. as far as you can remember, the constitution is not yet suspended or scrapped in Bangladesh. And that is supposed to be the supreme law of the country. According to Article 43 every citizen shall have the right to be secured in his home against entry, search and seizure, and to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication.

Blogger Arup created a banner (displayed above) to protest Internet monitoring and requested all users [bn] of the Bangla blogging platform Sachalayaton to use it as their profile picture.

However another blog Shada Kalo differs on this:

Internet monitoring and control may be very real in Bangladesh. After all, there is a brand-new, 175 person agency being set up to monitor phone conversations.

But this letter, and the current BTRC search and seizures have nothing to do with curtailing free speech (but VOIP).

This blogger says [bn]:

In todays era of Globalization people will choose the technology which is cheap and easy to use. Nobody can stop the technology.

When Fax technology was introduced in Bangladesh BTTB did not legalize it for two years stating that it will hamper its Telegraph and Telex business.

Mash at Or How I learned to Stop Worrying discusses about the recent crisis of Bangladesh media which is muzzled through threats, intimidation, and censorship. He discusses some background:

With the Bangladesh media silenced, Bangladeshi bloggers, both inside and outside the country, have filled the void. Via SMS and the Internet Bangladeshi bloggers have been both reporting on events within the country and protesting the military government’s suppression of human rights.
After mass protests broke out last August, the Bangladesh military government shut down cell phone networks and the Internet as it began its crackdown. It then embarked on a campaign of intimidation against bloggers and protesters outside the country. Now the military government has taken its battle against the Internet one step further.
The irony in this report is that none of the newspapers in Bangladesh have reported on this action against Internet use. The only reports have come from Bangladeshi blogs, which obtained a leaked copy of the government order, and the BBC.

You can join the Facebook Group “FREEDOM OF INTERNET USERS IN BANGLADESH” to get updates.

Quote of the day

"The ground reality, as is admitted by the nation’s central bank itself, is grim: the economy has slowed down and would miss the seven per cent growth target set for this financial year; and jailing of businessmen is being touted as a contributory factor. This, clearly, is just one among the many wrong signals coming out of Bangladesh these days.

The fact is that the military cannot mastermind political or economic reforms. It has its own agenda, both long-term and short-term. Those who sided with the military are neither doing a service to themselves nor to the nation. Expedite the election process, hold it in a fair manner, and leave governance to the people’s leaders."

- From an editorial in the Khaleez Times, UAE

October 08, 2007

The myth of VOIP being illegal

There was a thread in Drishtipat last January which elaborately describes about VOIP.

VOIP reduces cost of telecommunication drastically. It is now used all over the world in means of calling cards or other means like Gtalk. Most Bangladeshi diaspora uses this form of communications and also their relatives in Bangladesh.

In Germany we use a 5 digit number which has to be dialed before the Bangladeshi number and voila- teh bill is aggregated in our monthly bill). A VOIP call from Germany to Bangladesh was about 4 cent before Jan 2007 now its about 8 cents but my cell phone operator charges 1.51 Euro for a minute (even for a few seconds).

Now we should look at why the BTTB declared Jihad on the VOIP operators in Bangladesh. BTTB revenues were down and it did not take any measure to earn revenue from thousands of operators springing in every corner of major cities in Bangladesh. Even BTTB could embrace this technology and utilize its underutilized capacity.

Its very easy to setup a VOIP call terminating operation, you don’t need to be a big solution provider. Basically you just need a fast internet connection, some mobile telephone lines (did you notice in the caller ID of your phone that the calls to Bangladesh from abroad are channeled through a local mobile number?). Yes the accomplishes are very much the mobile phone operators and the ISPs. I think by paying the penalty GrameenPhone has reached some sort of settlement with the Government so that they remain untouched. Its a matter of commerce.

But why this crusade against the alleged illegal VOIP operators?. How illegal are they? The evolved as the Bangladesh backbone of the international VOIP market which is legal in most of the countries in the world (even in neighboring India)and they do it by paying tax to the govt. In Bangladesh the operators are small time entrepreneurs (most of them are some young techie who could find a small investor) emerged not to do anything illegal but to earn some money.

But without considering the rehabilitation for these smalltime entrepreneurs BTTB decided to declare them illegal and used Jihad against them confiscating their capital, the machinery and harassing them with RAB.

BTTB’s revenue rose significantly since then, that means Bangladeshis were calling more with normal Telephone channels of BTTB. If the scenario would remain this way it could be an arguable point.

But the reality is the Government is soon opening VOIP to 4 operators. One is BTTB and there is a huge fight for 3 others (possible contender Sena Kallyan Sangshtha and huge speed money is flowing in the air). The truth is BTTB will lose revenue again to these four operators. Instead of creating a legal market full of a thousand smalltime operators BTRC has chosen to confine it to 4 oligopolies who will dominate market. And for their market domination the drive against small time VOIP operators are required.

And then probably came this sinister plan of profiling each and every user, so that these four empires are not leaked off their business. And probably some authorities saw this as a opportunity to gag the internet users at a later time.

The problem is BTRC is not clearly telling why they require each and every internet users data instead of high profile bandwidth users/VOIP operators data (bloggers don’t take much bandwidth). If they say, doing voice chat is related to VOIP and illegal then you are busted. If your default Fedora/Linux distribution installs Ekiga soft phone, they can arrest you as a VOIP operator.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Act 2001 promises rights and privacy of the users in line with the section 43 of Bangladesh constitution which is not suspended by the emergency act. In its 2006 amendment power has been given to the security forces to wiretap/demand information on specific charges.

But with this letter BTRC is crossing the line in demanding information from every user (without some specific suspects). The ISP association’s general Secretary has told BBC that it is matter of establishing control and security and threats of emails.

So there is much to worry because there are conflicting news within BTRC and the letter itself. Nobody is really sure what they are upto, how and by whom these information would be used? So it is every citizens right to be concerned if their rights are being violated for some sinister reasons. Are we getting proper communications from the authorities to dispel the climate of fear?

October 06, 2007

Media in Bangladesh under crisis

The Bangla blogging platforms "Somewhere in BBA" and "Sachalayatan" are growing popular day by day with thousands of bloggers/readers filling the void the Bangladeshi local media are creating. We are seeing in traditional media a sense of self censorship and lack of professionalism. These have sometimes become propaganda machine for the authorities or some political quarters. People are generally weary of media reports.

I bring to your notice to a worrying report from the Blogger Bahurupi at Somewhere in. Here is the translation (shortened version: read the original in Bengali for full version):
Bangladeshi media are in a grave crisis. There seems to be no way out of this. After the Jute industry most people have lost their jobs in media industry and many will soon join them.

'Ajker Kagoj' has been closed because of financial crisis. It had financial crisis since long. But it was sort of a business card of the editor Kazi Shahed. The paper catered many of his business propaganda. In present circumstances there is no opportunity to exploit these. So it was closed. If such an opportunity comes again it will reopen, you can be sure of it.

There are many bloggers in Somewhere in who work in 'Jai Jai Din'. They will better tell whether they are getting their salaries in time. Will Shafiq Rehman be there? Will Golam Sarwar join as the editor? if such questions are not answered soon it will close down.

'Dinkal's' bank transactions have been freezed by authorities. The paper cannot pay salaries to its employees. If there is no alternative source of funding will Dinkal be published again?

How many months 'Amar Desh' do not pay salary to its employees? Is it four months?

How many months Daily Janakantha will be able to continue? Its crippling with fund crisis, salaries remain unpaid. They sold some land to pay salaries. What next?

The daily Ittefaq sacked 72 people. (Its reeling with management disputes) The advertisement income has plunged.

There is strong rumor that the Daily Jugantar will curtail employees.

The name of the owner of the Daily Star and the Daily Prothom Alo are on the list (of corrupts published recently by the Corruption Prevention Commission).

Somokal's owner is also on the list. The monthly loss of Samokal is 2 million Taka.

CSB TV has been closed. NTV's bank account is freezed. The employees salaries are withheld.

RTV had not paid its employees last month. Channel one's state is similar. The Government is angry with Channel one.

So what is happening in local media industry? The current Government also do not want that a powerful media exists. These pressures will close the media one by one. The media are in deep crisis.

Updates on internet monitoring in bangladesh

Previous post: Internet user profiling and monitoring in Bangladesh

Related: Internet user profiling and surveillance process initiated in Bangladesh

As I reported in my last post that BBC picked up the story. In todays morning session of BBC Bangla they digged the story deep with reactions from two experts.

One is an International law expert, law professor of Brussels University Ahmed Ziauddin Ahmed. Listen to him:

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Rush excerpts:
On Bangladesh Telecommunication regulatory commission's (BTRC) measures to regulate the Internet usage by ordering the ISPs to provide user names, addresses, internet usage information and login details.

He says the issue is alarming because:

- BTRC is not clearly saying what they will do with this information.
- BTRC is not doing it for targeted group of people or for the ones under suspicion so we remain totally in the dark.

Section 43 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides the privacy of citizens correspondence and other means of communication. It appears that BTRC’s actions are violating this provision.

If the Government has any plan for the monitoring then it has to pass an act in accordance with the constitution and international law.

In international arena other governments may impose these kinds of monitoring on their citizens built on specific charges with sufficient proof, within legal boundary and constitution.

This is where our problem lies. We don’t know why the authorities are requiring information from mass population, every user of internet. If they have some specific suspects then they can monitor them with the permission of court, this is acceptable as per the provision of Bangladesh Telecommunication act 2001. But without any specific reason the authorities have no right to gather information of internet ID, password or internet usage of all ISPs and individual users and it clearly violates the constitution.

In 2006 amendment of the BTRC act it is stated that under state of emergency power can be given to specific intelligence agencies for a specific time to monitor/record telecommunication of specific limits of users. It’s a pretty sweeping power but whether this is violating the main law, the provisions of Section 43 of the constitutions that needs to be put into perspective.

E-Bangladesh has confirmed that Section 43 of the Bangladesh constitution, that ensures “privacy of his [citizen’s] correspondence and other means of communication,” has not been suspended under the currently enforced state of emergency.

The other is the ex adviser to the Government and human rights activist Sultana Kamal:

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In today’s world of free information everybody is taking about rights of free speech, free flow of information. We are part of the Globalization but are not harnessing the good things of Globalization rather than always being subject to the negative aspects – these needs to be questioned.

Telecommunication consists of peoples’ personal conversations, spaces. In a democratic outset privacy is required to discuss on debate on issues and create viewpoints, public opinions and augment these to national and international levels but if control is put on these then it will hinder democracy.

If this is done to prevent war on terror or other illegal works as the authorities suggest then they should try to bring people into trust, try to avoid jingoistic attitudes and adopt peaceful democratic ways to deal with this. But if steps are taken always to provide security to government’s chosen specific quarters or forces putting the security of the general people in jeopardy it will only pollute the democratic environment. We have seen in the past that these measures do not achieve anything let alone prevent terrorism.

We need to discuss these issues and I think in this of civilization everybody should be aware of their individual rights, social rights, family rights.

Our rights are being violated already without us knowing. There are many wiretapping, monitoring, surveillance etc. by the Government agencies but they do it discretely because otherwise it would deem undemocratic. But with these efforts of BTRC these undemocratic means are being legalized.

The problems with these wiretapped information are that there is no way to judge whether these information are true and authentic, what are their bases etc. If any action is taken on the basis of personal judgments of the authorities the chances of flaws in that decision are greater.

Well I am surprised that after all this the Bangladeshi media are yet to pick up the story. Many mainstream bloggers are also silent. Wondering whats keeping them!

Update: BTRC canceled CSB news channel's frequency allocation. It faces certain closure.

October 04, 2007

Why cartoon published in Bangladesh leads to death of Christians in Nigeria?

Good question. Because quarters like Hizbut Tahrir tries to keep this issue alive with protests in London apparently to amplify their demands like estabishing SHaria rule and Khilafat. They are even extending their outrage against the newspaper Prothom Alo by arranging prevention committees in every locality.

Meanwhile in Nigeria in a recent incident in a racial skirmish between Muslims and Christians nine Christians have been killed and many churches attacked (reports All Africa.com).
The Christian Association of Nigeria's national secretary, Mr. Samuel Salifu said that an internet cartoon emanating from a 20-year-old Muslim boy from Bangladesh had apparently sparked off the crisis.

Salifu said, "Information available to me is that almost all the churches within that local government area have been razed down and shops belonging to Christians have been razed down and in houses where they dwelled in, we have been told that they have been ejected and their property brought out and burnt."
This commentary is a bit harsh against Muslims. But we will see more of those coming because of these opportunists who are destroying the image of Islam.


- Bangladesh: yet another Muhammad cartoon controversy

- Attack against freedom of speech: Bangladesh cartoon controversy update

- Free Cartoonist Arifur Rahman

In solidarity with the protests in Burma

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YouTube video of the day

One of the most popular French bloggers, entrepreneur Loïc Le Meur is opening a business in San Fransisco. He introduces his new company.

October 03, 2007

Internet user profiling and surveillance in Bangladesh

Some disturbing news from Bangladesh.

E-Bangladesh reports:
RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) members assisted by BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) officials are conducting house-to-house searches in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet pinpointing each and every internet user with a fast connection. In an unprecedented move that clearly violates privacy rights and threatens freedom of speech and communication, a special cell comprising RAB and BTRC officials are now collecting user details — name, address, login and usage statistics — from all the ISPs (Internet Service Provider) in order to profile more than 450,000 internet subscribers in the country.

(Photo credit: E-Bangladesh)

In a memo no. BTRC/E&O/ISP-Gen.(302)/2007-1697, issued on September 26 BTRC is asking from 72 ISPs of Bangladesh the followings:

- To provide BTRC with details of bandwidth lease and usage.
- To provide details of “corporate/dedicated/shared” clients: Name, address, IP.
- To provide copies of technical agreements with connectivity providers.
- To reveal individual client MRTG URL (which monitors internet usage) with user id and password.
- Full subscription forms of users.
- ISPS must have complete information regarding the exact location of the client (No mention of what will happen with the scratch card dialup users with internet based simple registration).

Failure to comply with BTRC demands within 15 days of the letter date may result in closure of the ISP, the memo warned.

A System Administrator of one of the ISPs told E-Bangladesh:
If this continues then using internet in Bangladesh will become a crime sometime soon. We have to shut down our business. These people [RAB] enter our server rooms without permission and ask stupid questions and misbehaved. I was informed by my sources inside BTRC that these house-to-house searches will intensify from next Thursday. If they go to people’s houses like this they will stop using internet out of fear. If I have to reveal my admin password, user logins and passwords, what kind of service am I going to provide? Where in world they have found this formula?
So I think you have guessed what is going to happen. The authorities are collecting these sensitive info under duress from ISPs probably to avoid repurcussions. Every users internet usage then can be monitored and they will be within reach because they have to provide address. What will happen following the piracy of personal information to third parties and how these will effect one's personal and business lives is another worry.

It is clearly a huge blow against human rights. In many countries like USA and Germany internet surveillance and privacy of information is something which is long debated in the parliaments. If anything like this is deemed necessary for the state security then it has to be approved by a democratic parliament.

So under whose authority BTRC is doing this is a question, which every Bangladeshi should ask.

Update: BDNews reports(free registration required) The optical fiber link of the BTTB that connects the country with its online submarine cable system was snapped again 10pm Wednesday on Chittagong-Cox's Bazar highway, some 96km south of Chittagong. A BTTB official alleged that some miscreants damaged the cable on a bridge while apparently trying to steal the galvanized iron pipe that covers the fiber. The link to submarine cable was sabotaged twice in August, keeping the country isolated from the rest of the world for 29 hours.

I guess the BTRC and BTTB should concentrate on the security of its resources rather than trying to peep into internet user's private data.

Update II: BTTB has called all the ISPs for a meeting. Awaiting the outcomes.

Update III: BBC Picked up the story in its daily Parikrama of its evening show on October 4, 2007. Listen to it yourself.

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Transcripts for non-Bangla speaking readers:

Headline: Authorities in Bangladesh have taken measures to strengthen control on internet services provided.

Bangladesh Telecommunication regulatory commission (BTRC) has taken some measures to regulate the Internet usage after a meeting with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) Association of Bangladesh. BTRC has decided to create a database profile of the internet users of Bangladesh.

Its general secretary Russel T Mahmood tells BBC Bangla: “The most important thing is security. You know that people are threatening with emails, using email for various things. If these are not controlled from a central point you cannot trace them. The whole thing is to establish a control mechanism. We ISPs have corporate clients as well as individual clients. They have expected the details of these clients from us. How much bandwidth they uses, what are their IPs, what are their usage patterns these are basically the requirement from us. What we can fathom is that this is to monitor and prevent people from doing anything outside the legal boundary with bandwidth purchased from ISPs.”