Massive protests were organised in Sydney on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 April 2018 against the visiting Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed drawing attention to her primary role in continuing with human rights violations perpetrated in the country.
She has been holding power for the last 10 years without fair elections combined with the extra-judicial killing of opposition leaders and activists, arresting and torturing them, enforced disappearances, political prosecution, widespread corruption, institutional extortion and shutting down of all channels of freedom of speech.
The atrocities committed by her authoritarian regime for the last decade has been well documented in various reports of international organizations such as UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others.
Ironically, Sheikh Hasina was given the Leadership Award at the 2018 Global Summit of Women, organised annually by the Washington based NGO of the same name, held in Sydney from 26-28 April and attended by more than 1200 participants from 65 countries.
The demonstration on Friday 27 April was held in front of the summit venue, ICC at Darling Harbour where the protesters held placards of photos of those killed or have disappeared accusing Sheikh Hasina of direct involvement in order to suppress any opposition and cling to power.
The protests on Saturday were held at Chifley Square in front of the Sofitel Hotel where Sheikh Hasina was attending a meeting and had to leave from the back door in order to avoid any confrontation with the demonstrators.
The protesters with banners demanded freedom for the opposition leader and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia, 76 who was sentenced to prison in February this year in a fabricated and politically motivated case. Political observers view it as deplorable action by Sheikh Hasina to keep Khaleda Zia out of the upcoming election contest.
“We do not believe Sheikh Hasina is really a worthy guest in this noble event for women empowerment. She has blood on her hand and she has violated the dignity of thousands of her country-people, men and women alike,” said one of the protesters.
Another protester added, “Sheikh Hasina is a fascist dictator and is not welcome in Australia, land of democracy, human rights and multiculturalism.”
A number of opposition leaders especially those belonging to Jamaat Islami, Bangladesh have been tried by the special Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal set up by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government for alleged crimes against humanity back in 1971.
The government has been criticised for using the tribunal to persecute opposition leaders and a number of human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have issued statements against the tribunal for its failure to adhere to due process of the law.
The defence has called it a politically motivated witch hunt.
The veteran Islamic leader Professor Ghulam Azam who fought for the restoration of Bengali as a state language and jointly formed Pakistan Democratic Alliance against Pakistani military dictatorships together with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned by Sheikh Hasina’s government and died in prison at the age of 91 in 2014.
A number of other leaders have been tried and hanged by Sheikh Hasina’s regime while others have either been imprisoned or succumbed to forced disappearances.