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International experts and intellectuals hold Pakistan accountable for the war crimes of 1971 in Bangladesh on the eve of Genocide Remembrance Day. A webinar titled ‘Recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide’ was organised by the Bangladesh History Olympiad and Mukto Ashor, a prominent non-governmental organisation from Bangladesh on Sunday.

The event was attended by educators, researchers, social activists, and authors who extensively discussed the atrocities and brutalities faced by the people of East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh.

On March 25, 1971, 53 years ago, the West Pakistani army, along with local collaborators, perpetrated horrific atrocities in Bangladesh. The event participants paid tributes and respects to those who fell that day. The targets were civilians, including students, women, and children.

It is estimated that as many as 3,000,000 Bengalis from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were killed during the nine-month war of liberation in 1971

During the event, Priyajit Debsarkar, an author from London and the event’s host, stated, “On March 26th, 1971, about 53 years ago, the West Pakistani army, along with local collaborators, perpetrated horrific atrocities in Bangladesh. Their targets were civilians, including students, women, and children, who eagerly anticipated the restoration of democracy after the General Election of 1970. This marked the beginning of the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.”

Debsarkar added, “The impact of these actions in 1971 continues to resonate deeply, shaping the world today. Gary Bass, an American Diplomat stationed in Dhaka and author of ‘Blood Telegram,’ labelled it a ‘Forgotten Genocide,’ yet a new generation is rising, demanding justice.”

While elaborating on the works done by the organisers, Debsarkar said that “they have undertaken several activities like collecting genocide data at the 64 district levels, gathering information about slaughterhouses, interviewing genocide victim family members, publishing Genocide Magazine, and organizing several discussions and international webinars to raise awareness about the brutalities that Pakistan inflicted during 1971 in Bangladesh.”

The keynote speaker at the event, Syed Muntasir Mamun, the Chief Innovation Officer and Director-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka, elaborated on his personal experience of the 1971 genocide. He stated, “I grew up in a situation where discussing the Holocaust or the genocide in Bangladesh was met with systemic denial. Discussing these events was not welcomed by the system.”

He further added, “We as a country seek and demand justice. The killing fields are scattered all over Bangladesh. We invite other countries to come and carry out their investigations to establish the horrors of the genocide. We are grateful to India for the support and shelter in 1971. We remain grateful to the Indian people. We are fully open to any inquiry, and any international agencies are welcome to come to a secular Bangladesh.”

“You can make your own search. Just go to any village, anywhere in this country, not even the village, in the city itself. Where I’m sitting right now in this office, across the street is Dhaka University, where it all started in March at midnight. Operation Searchlight started from here. The deaths started from here. Then it spread all over,” he added.

Another speaker, Stephane Michot, the President of IDEAL International Foundation in Paris and a renowned international lawyer, emphasized that “1971 was an event that not only shaped the destiny of Bangladesh but also left indelible marks on the conscience of humanity. It is our shared duty to honor the memory of those who suffered, to acknowledge the resilience of the survivors, and to recommit ourselves to the principles of justice and human rights for all.”

Michot further added, “The Bangladesh Genocide is a mark on humanity and is not yet recognized. The people of Bangladesh fought against oppression in 1971. Today’s webinar is proof that collective action has no borders and lets us unite in our actions. And promote reconciliation and inclusion of Bangladesh’s narrative globally. As we stand in solidarity to respect human rights.”

The stand of Michot was seconded by Biro Diwara, the Secretary-General of Interfaith International in Geneva, a United Nations-accredited NGO as a defender of human rights. He mentioned that “This day of genocide in Bangladesh is a black page in the history of the world. Geneva is a temple of Human rights, and we can move a resolution in the September 2024 assembly in person. Genocide has happened in Rwanda also, and therefore it is very critical to recognize the genocide of Bangladesh. It’s vital to recognize the genocide and convict the perpetrators. Interfaith International is committed to becoming your voice inside the United Nations. We cannot forget the victims of 1971.”

Furthermore, Christopher Blackburn, an associate of the Bangladesh Europe Foundation from London, through a video submission stated, “we continuously strive to recognize the genocide of Bangladesh. It is crucial to acknowledge the role of India who stood in the dark times. The liberation war of 1971 was carried out by Pakistan and its associates. They have escaped justice for too long. Today, Bangladesh is a global contributor to global peace. The United Nations must act as its silence speaks volumes. Bangladesh has become the real Asian tiger. Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary-General, has recognised the 1971 atrocities. Hence to recognize the genocide. A new generation is demanding justice, it’s not forgotten, and silence is not an option.”

In the video, he further said, “The United Nations, born from the ashes of a world scarred by the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, stands as a testament to humanity’s resilience. They were born with a solemn vow of never again. Yet as we convene here today, we are reminded of the stark reality that this pledge remains unfulfilled in the face of the genocide perpetrated during the Liberation War of 1971. Pakistan and its radical Islamist auxiliaries escaped justice by the global community. I commend the people of Bangladesh for trying the perpetrators in Bangladesh at the International Crimes Tribunals, which were set up by the government of Sheikh Hasina in 2009. Now it is incumbent upon us to pay homage to the unsung heroes of South Asia who transcended national boundaries and historical grievances to don the blue helmets of the United Nations.”

Bob Lancia, a former American legislator, and an educator in Rhode Island, US, stated, “At the end of the day, we are talking about humans, living beings who want to live in peace. The genocide of 1971 was an unmitigated disaster.”

“The US resolution calls for the punishment of war crimes committed by Pakistan and its collaborators and to persecute any person living, who is a criminal. It is just about politics over people. The resolution by the US Congress will help this cause. We need to name all those who were killed. We will fight for justice for those who have been marginalized. The time is now, and it’s running out,” Lancia added.

Additionally, another expert and Presidium member of BD History Olympiad National Committee, Dhaka, AKM Shahnawaz said, “The brutal genocide of East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh, is a dark chapter. In the aftermath of the liberation war, there have been countless killing fields. There are numerous examples of torture and rape by the Pakistan army and the collaborators. It is incumbent upon us as champions of freedom to honor the victims. Let us stand in solidarity.”Finally, the thank-you note was delivered by Abu Sayed, the General Secretary of Bangladesh History Olympiad, who thanked all the participants for their solidarity and support in making Pakistan accountable for its actions and brutalities of 1971.