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A call to recognise the genocide in Bangladesh on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

In 2021, under President Joe Biden’s administration, the United States government took the significant step of formally recognising the Armenian Genocide

Apr 24 is the Rememberance Day of the Armenian Genocide. Let us honour and remember the lives lost in the unfathomable tragedy of the Armenian genocide, ensuring that their memory endures through our commitment to truth and justice. In 2021, under President Joe Biden’s administration, the United States government took the significant step of formally recognising the Armenian genocide.

This recognition goes beyond being a mere historical notation; it is a crucial validation of the extensive suffering endured by the Armenian people during the Ottoman Empire.

An additional abhorrent chapter was written in 1971 when the genocide occurred in the region presently referred to as Bangladesh, which was previously East Pakistan. The Pakistani Occupation Force, along with groups like Al Badr, Al Shams, and Razakar, unleashed unimaginable brutality against the Bengali community, who were seeking liberation from oppressive rule. Mar 25, 1971 marked the official start of the atrocity. The international media, including reputable outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and The Times of London, covered the unfolding tragedy extensively. Yet, decisive action to stop the bloodshed remained elusive.

During the 1971 crisis in Dhaka, amidst the Bangladesh Liberation War, US Consul General Archer Blood and other American companions personally witnessed the atrocities being committed. They were deeply disturbed by the violence inflicted upon the Bengali population by the Pakistani military. Blood, demonstrating exceptional moral courage, meticulously documented these events in a series of diplomatic cables known as the “Blood Telegrams”. In these cables, he unambiguously condemned the crackdown and called for more assertive intervention by the United States to stop the violence. His dispatches explicitly opposed the Nixon administration's policy of tacit support for Pakistan, revealing a profound concern for human rights and democratic principles. Blood’s stance gained notable support from a group within the US State Department known as the “dissent channel”. This mechanism was established to allow diplomats to directly express dissenting views to senior officials. The existence of this group serves as a testament to the values of democratic governance and moral responsibility.

At the same time, during this dark period, voices of conscience echoed around the world, calling for an end to the carnage. Figures like US Senator Edward Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and French writer André Malraux, among others, raised their voices in solidarity with the victims and called for international intervention. However, despite these passionate pleas, the world’s response remained muted, allowing the atrocities to continue unpunished.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Archer Blood and all those who courageously opposed their government’s policy. They advocated for justice and shed light on grave human rights abuses. Their integrity and bravery remain exemplary and continue to inspire those in positions of power to uphold the principles of humanity and justice.

The brutality inflicted upon the Bengali population during the genocide is almost incomprehensible.

Widespread massacres, organised sexual violence, deliberate extermination, torture, and coerced displacement were prevalent, resulting in extensive devastation. The Bengali guerrillas, who courageously resisted the Pakistani forces, faced overwhelming odds but refused to give up their fight for freedom. Their resilience in the face of adversity is a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity.

Amidst the horrors in East Pakistan, the roles of India and the Soviet Union became crucial in shaping the course of events. India, faced with a humanitarian crisis on its doorstep, provided vital support to the Bengali liberation movement, ultimately leading to the birth of Bangladesh. The Soviet Union also played a pivotal role by diplomatically supporting India’s efforts to end the genocide and secure international recognition for Bangladesh's independence. Despite the passage of decades, the wounds inflicted by the Bangladesh genocide continue to worsen, requiring acknowledgement and redress. 

In recent years, the recognition of the genocide in Bangladesh has received support from various institutions. In April 2023, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) officially classified this tragic event as genocide, following the necessary protocols, in response to my formal proposal. This acknowledgment was the result of the collective efforts of several genocide specialists and scholars who supported me throughout the entire process. Prior to this, between December 2021 and March 2022, three other US organisations - the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, Genocide Watch, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience - also formally recognised these events as genocide. Fortunately, I was able to play a significant role in obtaining recognition from Genocide Watch and the Lemkin Institute.

However, recognition alone is not sufficient. Concurrently, the US government needs to own up to its role in the genocide in Bangladesh and issue a formal resolution denouncing the crimes of Pakistan and its allies. On Oct 15, 2022, US Congressmen Steve Chabot and Ro Khanna, who are of Indian American descent, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives urging the US Ppresident to acknowledge the genocide against ethnic Bengalis and Hindu community by the Pakistani armed forces in 1971. Also it calls on Pakistan to apologise for its role in the genocide of Bangladesh. The resolution mentioned the recognition awarded by the Genocide Watch and the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention. Unfortunately, this draft resolution has remained undiscussed and undecided after 1.5 years. It’s time to take action and bring this matter to a close.  

Additionally, the United Nations must apologise for its failure to prevent the genocide and formally recognise it as such; incorporating the lessons learned into its genocide prevention efforts.

Furthermore, there must be ongoing international pressure applied to Pakistan to acknowledge its role in the genocide and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Justice delayed is justice denied, and the victims of the Bangladesh genocide deserve full accountability for the atrocities committed against them.

In conclusion, the recognition of the genocide in Bangladesh surpasses a mere retrospective analysis of historical events; it carries profound moral implications. It emphasises our steadfast commitment to the principle of "never again" and showcases the remarkable resilience of humanity in confronting unimaginable acts of violence. The active involvement of the US government and the United Nations holds significant importance in this endeavour. By acknowledging and addressing past atrocities, actually we honour the memory of the victims and reassert our collective determination to build a future where such atrocities are consigned to the past.


BDNnews24, 2024


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