An ally of the Awami League government in Bangladesh wrote an article smearing human rights activists Shipan Kumer Basu, Aslam Chowdhury, Mendi Safadi and Rachel Avraham in an article in the Weekly Blitz after JerusalemOnline published an article titled “The hypocrisy of the United Nations.”
In 2016, Aslam Chowdhury, who served as a governor and as the Joint General Secretary of the BNP, was arrested merely due to his political activism. He was arrested under the pretext that he met with Mendi Safadi, an Israeli Druze citizen who formerly served as an advisor to Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara and who presently heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.
The meeting, which took place in India, was focused on promoting human rights for Hindus and other minorities within Bangladesh, a cause which is very important both for Safadi and for Aslam Chowdhury. Nevertheless, the Bangladeshi government accused Aslam Chowdhury of engaging in a conspiracy to topple the Bangladeshi government with the assistance of the Israeli Mossad.
To this day, Chowdhury sits in jail under the pretext that he met with an Israeli, who never worked with the Mossad and who presently does not serve in the Israeli government. The meeting was held in order to discuss the human rights situation in Bangladesh, where members of the Hindu minority are systematically massacred, raped, abducted, robbed and are slowly being ethnically cleansed from the country.
To a Muslim government bent on spreading conspiracy theories, any casual meeting with an Israeli in order to discuss human rights instantly turns into a Mossad plot to topple the government. To add insult to injury, Chowdhury’s very own BNP Party did not support him meeting with Safadi.
According to the Gatestone Institute, one of the BNP’s standing committee members stated the following about the Chowdhury-Safadi meeting: “This is a very serious issue that a BNP leader has held a meeting with an Israeli leader. It goes against our national values as well as our party policy, as Bangladesh does not have any relations with Israel. This type of meeting will send a wrong signal to our friendly Muslim countries and it may also damage BNP’s image at home and abroad.”
Chowdhury, who is a vocal political opponent of the ruling Awami League government, was not the only Bangladeshi who faced persecution under the pretext that he had a connection with Israel. Bangladeshi editor of the Weekly Blitz Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury also served 7 years in prison merely for trying to travel to Israel in order to discuss the rise of radical Islam in his country and how the Muslim madrassas in the country are being exploited in order to encourage the rise of extremism.
According to the Gatestone Institute, during every Friday sermon in Bangladesh, the locals are taught about how the Jewish people are infidels. Bangladeshi government officials not only claim that there is a Mossad plot to topple their regime but also teach their population that Israel is an enemy state whose government murders women and children in Palestine.
There are no diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Israel.
Bangladeshi citizens are barred from traveling to Israel and Israelis cannot travel to Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is against the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and her country until the so-called occupation of Palestine ends, even though Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladeshi independence.
Given that both Aslam Chowdhury and Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury are victims of a regime who resented their positive attitude towards Israel, one would think that the Weekly Blitz would only have positive things to say about a dissident and human rights activist that is presently sitting in jail under the pretext that he had a meeting with an Israeli.
However, after Rachel Avraham published an article in JerusalemOnline titled “The Hypocrisy of the United Nations,” which raised awareness about the plight of Aslam Chowdhury, Vijaya Laxmi Tripura, a contributor for the Weekly Blitz, published an article that not only smeared Aslam Chowdhury but also a number of his supporters including Mendi Safadi, Shipan Kumer Basu, a human rights activist who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee and Rachel Avraham, an Israel-based journalist that has covered the plight of Hindus and other minorities in Bangladesh in depth.
There were a number of factual mistakes in this article. For starters, Rachel Avraham is presently not working for the Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research. The fact that JPOST did not update her bio yet is immaterial. Presently, Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights, a human rights organization that is in the process of being formed.
In addition, she is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights and a writing fellow at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. In the framework of her work, she is publishing in numerous media outlets both in Israel and the US.
However, just because Avraham is promoting human rights for minorities in Bangladesh in her articles does not mean that she is engaging in a “dangerous conspiracy in the global media against Sheikh Hasina and her government.” And every piece that she publishes is backed up by numerous sources and is well-researched.
Avraham already built up her name as an expert on the persecution of minorities in the Muslim world. Aside from working on the Bangladesh issue, she also has done much to expose human rights abuses in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, etc.
According to the Weekly Blitz article, Aslam Chowdhury is not a human rights activist but rather is the leader of an “anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and violently pro-Palestine party named BNP.” Such assertions do not take into consideration the price that Mr. Chowdhury has paid for discussing the human rights situation encountered by Bangladesh’s minorities with Mendi Safadi. While the BNP is definitely not a pro-Israel and pro-Jewish party, neither is Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League.
In fact, Basu claims that while he acknowledges that other political parties in Bangladesh have also been horrible for the country’s minorities, he emphasizes that the oppression of minorities presently under the Awami League government is worse than it has been any time in the past including under BNP governments.
Just recently, an old Hindu lady from Barishal was murdered after she was beaten in the head with a tree. According to Basu, the murder of the 70-year-old Hindu woman occurred in the background of a land dispute and these types of incidents happen all of the time under the Awami League government. Furthermore, one must note that despite his connections to the BNP, Aslam Chowdhury has paid a high price for engaging in a dialogue on human rights within Bangladesh with Israeli Mendi Safadi, just as Salah Auddin Shoaib Chowdhury has greatly suffered due to his support for Israel even though he is a supporter of the Sheikh Hasina government.
“Only someone seeking to engage in smear campaign would not recognize this reality,” Basu proclaimed. “Shohel Chowdhury, the younger brother of Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury, has good relations with Israeli Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni. They are trying to remove Netanyahu and Donald Trump. Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowhdury studied for 8 years in the Soviet Union. Then, he got the opportunity to work for the Soviet News Agency TAS. While working there, he sent the money to Sheikh Hasina through the Embassy of the Soviet Union.”
“In 2008, Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury worked for Sheikh Hasina,” he noted. “An uncle of Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury is a big leader in the Bangladeshi Awami League and Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury has a personal relationship with the Sheikh Hasina family. He is the brother-in-law of Sheikh Selim, who is a cousin of Sheikh Hasina.
Not only Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury works for the Weekly Blitz but also his younger brother Shohel Chowdhury works there. Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury was recently released from prison after serving 7 years in jail. He once said, ‘Two tigers cannot live in one forest.’ For this reason, the Weekly Blitz did propaganda against me.”
“I am only connected with Mendi Safadi and Aslam Chowdhury because they are my friends who support Hindu human rights in Bangladesh and my only incentive to do what I am doing is to spread the truth in every possible venue,” Basu proclaimed, adding that he is not presently associated with Kazi Azizul Huq, whom the Weekly Blitz claimed is one of his top aides. The Weekly Blitz used the positions held by Huq and the theory of guilt by association in order to smear Shipan Kumer Basu, Aslam Chowdhury, Mendi Safadi and Rachel Avraham. However, is such a tactic fair?
Basu claimed that he first met Huq inside the office of Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury, who introduced him as an Aljazeera correspondent and the head of the Islamic Khalifat Movement. He claimed that in 2012, he joined a group called “In Search of Roots,” where he was a member together with Sohel Chowdhury, who was the media adviser for that organization.
While he was part of this group, Basu claimed that he focused on promoting the rights of Hindus and other minorities within Bangladesh while Sohel Chowdhury focused upon Sunni-Shia reconciliation. He claimed that Sohel Chowdhury was not particularly pleased with his focus. But now, Basu noted that one year ago, he established the World Hindu Struggle Committee and he is not active in that group anymore. Kazi Azizul Huq was never part of the World Hindu Struggle Committee.
Safadi believes that the false information published in the Weekly Blitz was not a coincidence: “The oppressive Sheikh Hasina regime leads to various forms of repression against Bangladeshi citizens and the spreading of false reports against those who seek to raise awareness about the oppression of Hindus outside of Bangladesh.
Firstly, they arrested and eliminated political opposition and human rights activists within the country. Today, we see that another mouthpiece for the Bangladeshi government is trying to slander a journalist and researcher who covers human rights abuses and the ethnic cleansing of minorities within Bangladesh.”
“The attempts by the radical Sheikh Hasina government to slander my name and that of journalists and activists who are raising awareness about the plight of minorities in Bangladesh is not frightening us but encouraging us to continue to intensify our activities every day,” Safadi concluded.
“Our reports are being circulated in world parliaments, at the United Nations and in the international community. A lawsuit is being filed against Sheikh Hasina at the International Criminal Court personally and against the radical elements of her government who have a hand in murdering, raping and abducting minorities. Justice always prevails at the end of the day.”