Parts of Bangladesh, including the capital Dhaka, turned into a battlefield when members of the Jamaat Shibir, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, clashed with the police after the Friday afternoon prayers. Hundreds have been injured with four people killed in the violence that erupted across the country.
The main target of the planned protest marches by 12 Islamic organisations who have accused the government and the media of targeting the Jamaat, were mediapersons.
In Dhaka, police and television camera personnel were attacked with bricks and stones by people inside the capital’s main Baitul Mukarram mosque, a mob proceeding to torch vehicles outside. Members of the Jamaat Shibir vandalised Dhaka University and various Martyrs’ Day memorial structures in cities across Bangladesh. Martyrs’ Day was celebrated on February 21 commemorating the start of the independence movement from Pakistan in 1952.
A Dhaka Police spokesperson stated that 166 people were arrested across the city. At the Shahbagh Police station just across the square where anti-Jamaat demonstrations had been raging from February 5 till it was called off on February 21, Mahbul Kurram had come to plead the innocence of his brother who had been shot in the leg by the police today and was now in hospital under arrest. “Rezaul has nothing to do with the Jamaat. He just came out of the mosque after Friday prayers,” said Kurram.
Members of the Jamaat Shibir accused of the murder of anti-Jamaat blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in Dhaka on February 15, were identified by the police as setting off Friday’s outbreaks of violence.
Shahbagh Square, the venue of the rallies which had borne a normal look in the morning since the demonstrations had been called off the evening before, saw large crowds return. One of the main organisers of the Shahbagh rally, Imran Sarkar, said, “People should not get perturbed by the violence by the Islamist parties.”
In the aftermath of Friday’s violence, anti-Jamaat protestors at Shahbagh called for demonstration rallies and gave the government an ‘ultimatum’ to arrest the acting editor of the daily Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rehman, within 24 hours. Rehman had published the transcript of a Skype conversation between Nizamul Haq, the former chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal judging accused 1971 war criminals most of whom are Jamaat members, and Ahmed Ziauddin a Brussels-based war crimes law expert. In the transcript, Haq had stated that a fellow tribunal judge was “corrupt”, leading anti-Jamaat protestors to dub him as being biased in favour of war criminals.