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Govt crackdown on opposition continued ahead of Jan elections, protests by garment workers turned deadly and Rohingya refugees fled country amid dire conditions and rampant insecurity.
Govt continued pressure on opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). After security forces broke up BNP’s “grand rally” in capital Dhaka on 28 Oct, opposition claimed authorities subsequently arrested at least 13,200 activists and leaders. In response to crackdown, BNP organised series of “blockades” and “hartals” throughout Nov aimed at inflicting economic damage to pressure govt to give way to neutral govt ahead of vote, leading to confrontations between police and opposition supporters that killed paramilitary officer and several civilians. Ruling Awami League dispatched stick-wielding supporters to keep roads opens and employed harsh rhetoric: PM Sheikh Hasina 4 Nov instructed supporters “burn the hands of those who are out to set vehicles on fire”. U.S. ambassador Peter Haas 13 Nov sought political dialogue between main parties but govt rejected offer, claiming “the ship has sailed”. With BNP certain to boycott poll, Awami League is trying to entice or pressure wavering parties to participate and enhance election’s credibility.
Garment workers staged protests, leading to deadly clashes. Tens of thousands of garment workers starting late Oct demanded higher wages to meet rising living costs, forcing hundreds of factories to close; garment sector accounts for 80% of exports. Near-daily clashes between police and protestors killed four before protests 14 Nov ended amid police crackdowns, threats from employers and govt pressure.
Prospects of Rohingya refugee repatriation appeared dim. Resumption of heavy fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine state mid-Nov dashed govt’s hopes for repatriation (see Myanmar). Rohingya continued to flee dire conditions in camps and pay people smugglers to flee across Bay of Bengal: five vessels carrying 866 people 14-19 Nov landed on Indonesia’s Aceh province after two months at sea. UN estimated over 3,500 refugees took the perilous journey in 2022, up from 700 year before.
Dialogue resumed in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Militant group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) and govt’s Peace Establishment Committee 5 Nov held first face-to-face meeting and first dialogue since July ceasefire; KNF reiterated demands for greater autonomy ahead of further talks in Dec.
Govt intensified repression ahead of Jan 2024 elections as opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held large rally in capital Dhaka, leading to clashes that killed several civilians and police officer.
BNP held large-scale rally in defiance of govt crackdown. As party sought to mobilise supporters ahead of Jan 2024 elections, BNP 28 Oct held “grand rally” in Dhaka to build momentum for demanding caretaker govt ahead of Jan 2024 polls, with estimated 200,000 BNP supporters in attendance despite efforts to stop them gathering. Sporadic clashes, mainly between BNP supporters and police, prompted police to break up rally, firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Street fighting subsequently erupted across city, leaving one police officer and one civilian dead, and hundreds more injured. Violence was also reported in other major cities, with several civilians killed and scores injured. Awami League govt 29 Oct arrested de facto BNP leader and around 100 others, including senior officials, charging them with police officer’s murder; BNP claimed nearly 3,000 party officials were arrested 21-29 Oct. BNP and other opposition forces announced nationwide “hartal”, shutting down streets across Dhaka on 29 Oct, and three-day shutdown 31 Oct-2 Nov, making further clashes likely.
Financial strains persisted. Media 18 Oct reported Central Bank’s net foreign exchange reserves fell to below $17bn, equivalent to around three months of imports, and are declining by as much as $1bn per month. Govt 19 Oct reached staff-level agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) to proceed with disbursement of additional $681mn (still subject to IMF board approval).
Violence continued in Rohingya refugee camps. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 2 Oct detained “financial coordinator and personal assistant” of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) chief. Gunfight with armed group 4 Oct killed member of ARSA. Suspected member of rival Rohingya Solidarity Organisation 9 Oct killed two ARSA members. Paramilitary forces 5 Oct arrested local council member in Cox’s Bazar for allegedly trafficking drugs from Myanmar and 15 Oct arrested alleged ARSA member for suspected murder of Rohingya leader in Sept 2021. Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees 17 Oct requested more funding for Rohingya response to avert looming disaster.
Opposition continued campaign to force PM’s resignation, govt’s human rights record fuelled international criticism and insecurity persisted in Rohingya refugee camps.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) mobilised against ruling Awami League. Ahead of elections in Jan 2024, BNP continued to organise mainly peaceful rallies, marches and sit-ins to demand PM Sheikh Hasina’s resignation, albeit at slower pace and with no sign of demonstrations reaching tipping point to bring country to standstill and dislodge govt; worsening economic crisis, resurgence of Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami or death of detained BNP leader Khaleda Zia, however, could escalate tensions, or BNP could resort to violent tactics in coming months. Notably, rival supporters and police 1 Sept clashed in at least four districts, injuring more than 120, while attacks by Awami League supporters in Natore district 19 Sept injured 30 BNP members. Court 26 Sept ordered arrest of senior BNP member Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu and his wife.
Concerns persisted over govt’s human rights record. Govt 8 Sept fired Deputy Attorney General Imran Ahmed Bhuiyan after he told reporters that Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus – who faces almost 200 charges in case widely seen as govt retribution – is subject to judicial harassment. Court 14 Sept sentenced two members of human rights group Odhikar to two years imprisonment for report published ten years ago on alleged police massacre of members of Islamic organisation Hefazat-e-Islam; European Parliament same day expressed concern over deterioration of human rights, referencing sentencing.
Violence in Rohingya camps continued as govt sought repatriation. Gunmen 11 Sept shot dead man in camp 2. Clashes between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation in camp 7 killed two on 14 Sept. Armed Police Battalion 17 Sept engaged in gunfight with criminal gang. Meanwhile, govt 4 Sept sent delegation to Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw for talks with regime on “technical issues” related to Rohingya repatriation; while both sides agreed to start repatriation by Dec, few are expected to return absent guarantees for citizenship. UK 12 Sept announced £3mn in aid for refugee response, while U.S. 21 Sept announced $116mn in aid to support Rohingya in Myanmar, Bangladesh and region.
Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) continued campaign to force govt’s resignation ahead of polls, while police abuses against Rohingyas came to light.
Opposition rallied countrywide, leading to clashes with police. BNP held near-daily rallies, sit-ins and protests in capital Dhaka and elsewhere to force PM Sheikh Hasina’s resignation in order to hold elections – set for late Dec or Jan 2024 – under non-partisan caretaker govt. Ruling Awami League, however, rejected demand and ruled out dialogue, continuing its crackdown on opposition. Notably, BNP protested in capital after court 2 Aug sentenced exiled BNP acting leader Tarique Rahman to nine years in prison for corruption, and his wife to three years, making it impossible for her to contest next election. BNP and allies 17 Aug commenced three-day countrywide activities including mass processions; though mostly peaceful, police 19 Aug opened fire with rubber bullets in Habiganj in north east, injuring up to 300 people. Amid police attempts to disrupt Jamaat-e-Islami organisation, senior party officials 4 Aug held rally in Dhaka and 6 Aug organised processions countrywide, telling govt to “dissolve the parliament, resign immediately.” Member of Awami League’s Youth Wing 15 Aug shot dead Jamaat member in Cox’s Bazar. Police and Jamaat members same day clashed in Dhaka. Thousands of opposition supporters 30 Aug protested in Dhaka to demand information about hundreds of people allegedly disappeared under govt’s rule.
Plight of Rohingya continued amid reports of abuse by security forces. NGO Fortify Rights 10 Aug published report alleging Armed Police Battalion “arbitrarily detained and tortured Rohingya refugees while systematically demanding corrupt payments”. Bipartisan U.S. delegation 14 Aug visited Rohingya camps, urging international community to step up aid amid funding shortfall. Thousands of Rohingya 25 Aug rallied in camps demanding safe return to Myanmar to mark sixth anniversary of Myanmar military campaign against them. Insecurity concerns remained acute: according to local police, 85 of 186 murders in camps since 2017 have occurred in past 12 months.
Authorities arrested suspected militants. Police 12 Aug raided “militant hideout” in north-eastern region Moulvibazar, arresting 10 suspects whom authorities claimed were members of new jihadist group, and recovering explosives and jihadist books.
Anti-govt rallies ahead of 2024 elections turned violent, deadly power struggle persisted in Rohingya camps, and ethnic militant group agreed to ceasefire in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Tensions between govt and opposition turned violent. Ahead of polls slated for Jan 2024, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) 12 July gathered approximately 50,000 supporters in capital Dhaka, demanding govt’s resignation and caretaker govt to oversee elections. Ruling Awami League same day held rally in Dhaka, reiterating PM Sheikh Hasina would oversee polls. BNP and Awami League 18-19 July held rallies in Dhaka and other cities, resulting in clashes that killed one BNP supporter and injured hundreds in Lakshmipur city; police claimed BNP supporters attacked officers and filed charges against 8,000 countrywide. Opposition accused police of arresting more than 500 supporters before “grand rally” in Dhaka on 28 July. Police 29 July violently clashed in Dhaka with BNP supporters. During Dhaka by-election, Awami League supporters 17 July allegedly attacked independent candidate as police stood by, fuelling opposition claims that free elections under govt are impossible. Twelve Western countries 19 July condemned violence against candidate; Dhaka 26 July summoned their ambassadors in protest. Police 20 July denied Jamaat-e-Islami permission to hold rally in Sylhet, citing threat of violence; police 28 July detained 21 Jamaat supporters in Chattogram.
Deadly feuding between armed groups continued in Rohingya camps. Clashes between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation spiked. Ahead of visit by International Criminal Court prosecutor 6 July, ARSA allegedly killed sub-mahji facilitating meetings; Rohingya Solidarity Organisation next morning allegedly killed at least five ARSA members in retaliation. Camp violence has killed at least 48 Rohingya refugees in 2023, up from 40 in 2022. After UN coordinator 18 July raised security concerns, home affairs minister said govt was considering sending army to camps. Despite recent increases in U.S., EU, UK and Australian funding, Joint Response Plan remained chronically under-funded; health NGOs have warned of scabies outbreak.
Local authorities in Chittagong Hill Tracts struck truce with militants. Ethnic insurgent group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) 19 July agreed to ceasefire after negotiations with Bandarban District Council, with further talks likely; KNF emerged in mid-2022 and has killed at least five soldiers in recent months.
Tensions persisted between ruling Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), while violence and insecurity continued in Rohingya camps and Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Tensions remained elevated between govt and opposition ahead of 2024 election. BNP 6 June announced sit-ins at electricity offices across country to protest recent power outages. Awami League supporters 8 June attacked BNP members in Pabna city, injuring ten. BNP plans to step up demonstrations in July following Islamic Eid holiday. PM Sheikh Hasina 13 June cautioned her party members that “development and the country will be destroyed” if Awami League loses power. Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami 10 June held large rally in Dhaka – its first political gathering in decade – echoing BNP’s call for caretaker government to oversee election. BNP sec gen 19 June asserted that there would be no elections without caretaker govt; law minister 21 June stated that constitution did not include provisions for caretaker govt. Ahead of city polls in Rajshahi on 21 June that Awami League candidate won by large margin, clashes between rival supporters 18-19 June injured over 30.
Rohingya refugees demanded repatriation as violence in camps persisted. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees 8 June attended rally, which may have been backed or instigated by Bangladeshi authorities, in favour of repatriation to Myanmar. UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrew 8 June blamed authorities for using “deceptive and coercive measures” to convince refugees to return. In Cox’s Bazar camps, security forces 11 June arrested member of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) accused of six murders. Security forces 17 June accused ARSA of killing Rohingya leader. Police 19 June stated Rohingya man died following gunfight between ARSA and rival Rohingya Solidarity Organisation.
Chittagong Hill Tracts remained restive. Military 1 June raided Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) camp in Bandarban’s Ruma Upazila, killing soldier, while improvised explosive that army blamed on KNF 16 June killed soldier in Ruma; six soldiers have been killed in region in last six months. Following recent spike in violence, ethnic minority leaders 6 June held rally in Mymensingh to mark 25-year anniversary of peace treaty and to demand its full implementation.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) vowed to step up protests to unseat govt, violence and cyclone struck Rohingya refugee camps, and armed attacks continued in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Tensions remained elevated between govt and opposition. After opposition BNP late April announced it would step up protests with aim of creating mass movement by Islamic holiday Eid-ul-Adha in late June/early July, BNP activists 17 May held march in capital Dhaka at which senior member declared “popular uprising to remove this government”; police arrested hundreds of BNP members following marches in major cities 23-28 May. Govt pressed ahead with 11 charges against BNP leader Khaleda Zia. Ahead of general election in Jan 2024, head of the Election Commission 15 May warned it would be difficult to hold “impartial election” if govt “lacks political will”. U.S. 24 May announced new policy to impose visa restrictions on individuals and family members “if they are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh”.
Violence continued in Rohingya refugee camps, where cyclone made landfall. In Ukhiya camps, gunfight between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and rival group 8 May injured three; armed assailant 11 May shot dead man; security forces 15 May shot dead Rohingya man during raid on “criminals”. Delegation of around 20 Rohingya and officials 5 May visited Myanmar’s Rakhine State aimed at facilitating voluntary repatriation; Myanmar delegation 25 May visited Cox’s Bazar to discuss repatriation with refugees. World Food Programme late month revealed plans to cut rations for second time this year, from $10 to $8 per day; govt said it would cause malnutrition and could force Rohingya into criminality to survive. Meanwhile, Cyclone Mocha 14 May made landfall in Cox’s Bazar, damaging or destroying estimated 10,000 Rohingya shelters as well as community facilities (see Myanmar).
Insecurity persisted in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Authorities 8 May found three members of Bawm minority group dead in Bandarban district, following reports of gunfire. Authorities 14 May found member of armed group United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) shot dead in Rangamati. Militant ambush 16 May killed two army soldiers on boundary of Bandarban and Bilaichari districts near Myanmar border; security forces blamed Kuki-Chin National Army.
Violent clashes continued between govt and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters, while insecurity persisted in Rohingya refugee camps and Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Violence continued as BNP continued countrywide anti-govt campaign. BNP Sec-Gen 8 April urged Awami League govt to resign if it “wants to avoid conflicts”; in response, FM AK Abdul Momen ruled out dialogue ahead of Jan 2024 election. BNP continued anti-govt protests during month, notably staging sit-ins in 13 cities and around 650 other locations on 8 April to highlight ten-point demands, which include govt resignation and parliament’s dissolution; police and Awami League supporters same day clashed with protesters in Natore district, injuring scores. Suspected Awami League student supporters 7 April ransacked BNP office south of capital Dhaka. Assailants 13 April hacked to death BNP official in Chapainawabganj district in northwest. Dhaka court 13 April finalised corruption charges against BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman and his wife. Following series of fires in Dhaka markets, PM Sheikh Hasina 15 April requested authorities investigate potential BNP involvement in attempt to “cripple the economy”.
Insecurity and food aid concerns persisted in Rohingya refugee camps. Security forces 11 and 14 April killed two Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) local commanders in Ukhiya camps. Residents blamed ARSA for 15 April killing of camp leader in Ukhiya. Border Guards 25 April announced record 22kg seizure of crystal methamphetamine in Cox’s Bazar area from Myanmar. Myanmar authorities 3 April said only 56,000 of 87,000 Rohingya who Bangladesh had proposed for repatriation had previously lived in Myanmar, heightening concerns Naypyitaw is unwilling to take back significant proportion of estimated 1.2mn Rohingya in Bangladesh. Washington 11 April announced $23.8mn in urgent aid to Rohingya refugees, amid World Food Programme’s funding shortfall.
Deadly clashes erupted between armed groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Authorities 7 April found bodies of eight members of Bawm ethnic minority – a Kuki-Chin subgroup – in Rawangchhari area; Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) claimed seven were its members and blamed rival group for deaths, as police believed victims were killed in gunfight previous day that forced 250 people to flee. KNF and United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) 25 April reportedly clashed in Bandarban district.
Govt and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters clashed as Islamist groups attacked minority Ahmadiyas, while arson and violence ravaged Rohingya refugee camps.
Govt and opposition supporters clashed amid sectarian attacks. Violence 11 March broke out between student wings of ruling Awami League and opposition BNP in Moulvibazar district. Forty eminent individuals, including Hilary Clinton and Ban Ki-moon, 8 March urged govt to cease “unfair” attacks against Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus amid investigations by authorities into his businesses. Meanwhile, approximately 7,000-8,000 activists of several Islamist groups, including Islamic Movement, 3-4 March attacked some 8,000 members of minority Muslim Ahmadiya community and their properties during annual three-day gathering in Panchagar district, killing two and injuring at least 50; many ultra-Orthodox groups consider Ahmadiyas non-Muslims.
Arson destroyed thousands of shelters in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. Fire 5 March broke out in Ukhiya Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, destroying 2,664 shelters, damaging 90 facilities related to health and education, and leaving almost 16,000 refugees without shelter. After several Rohingya leaders alleged that fire was result of sabotage amid feuding between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation over control of camps, authorities 12 March concluded fire was indeed intentional. Meanwhile, attacks continued in Ukhiya camp: shootings killed camp leader 7 March and volunteer 15 March, and young man was hacked to death 16 March. Myanmar’s regime took small step toward possibly repatriating 1,000 Rohingya refugees (see Myanmar); Human Rights Watch 31 March warned conditions are not “conducive to voluntary, safe, or dignified returns”.
Militant attacks and counter-terror operations continued in Bandarband district. Kuku-Chin National Front (KNF) separatists 11 March shot and injured construction workers in Bandarband. KNF militants next day shot army officer dead and injured two others in Rowangchhari sub-district. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 13 March arrested nine militants of Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in Bandarband. In Chittagong district, police 9 March arrested militant of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh armed group on the run for 17 years in Feni city.
Ruling Awami League continued clampdown on opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), while violence persisted in Rohingya refugee camps.
BNP held anti-govt rallies countrywide, leading to violent clashes. Calling for govt to step down and next election to be held under caretaker administration, BNP and allies 11 Feb held rallies in Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Natore, Bogra, Jamalpur, Ghazipur, Barguna and Narsingdi districts, which led to clashes with Awami League supporters that left over 100 BNP leaders and supporters injured; police arrested scores of BNP and opposition Jamaat-e-Islami supporters. Election commissioner 14 Feb announced general election to be held between late Dec and early Jan. BNP sec gen 17 Feb reiterated demands and accused police of torturing and killing opposition activists; earlier, NGO Human Rights Watch 3 Feb had called on authorities to investigate allegations of forced disappearances. Court 20 Feb upheld govt’s late Dec order shutting down BNP newspaper.
Violence in Rohingya camps continued. Assailant 16 Feb shot and injured Rohingya camp leader and armed Rohingya women same day reportedly shot dead woman; shooters 22 Feb targeted another camp leader who died next day. Govt report 15 Feb revealed ten militant and criminal groups active in Rohingya camps and said violent clashes between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – dominant group in most camps – and rival Nabi Hossen Dakat Dal often resulted in casualties. As envoys from France, Japan, China and UN agencies visited Bhasan Char camps to monitor living conditions, World Food Programme 17 Feb said it would reduce food assistance to Rohingya refugees from $12 to $10 per person, citing funding shortfall, and warned of “immense and long-lasting” food insecurity repercussions.
Authorities arrested suspected militants. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 7 Feb arrested five militants of Christian-dominated tribal group Kuki-Chin National Front, which is fighting for separate state in some Chittagong Hill Tracts regions, amid reported gunfight in Bandarband district. RAB director next day said 14 members of group, and 43 militants from aligned outfit Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, had been arrested in operation under way since Oct 2022. Authorities 21 Feb arrested Jama’atul Ansar chief in Dhaka.
Govt continued clampdown on opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) as it held anti-govt rallies, while deadly attacks continued in Rohingya refugee camps.
Govt continued crackdown on BNP amid nationwide protests. New opposition alliance comprising 15 parties 7 Jan joined BNP’s ten-point movement calling for govt resignation and new elections, bringing total parties in support to over 30. As BNP and its allies 11 Jan held mass anti-govt sit-ins in capital Dhaka and countrywide, ruling Awami League supporters reportedly attacked BNP leaders and activists in Faridpur district, injuring several; police next day filed cases against 114 BNP leaders and supporters, arresting 13. BNP leaders and activists 16 Jan clashed with police in Chittagong city; BNP claimed police fired on peaceful protesters, injuring 20, while police filed anti-terrorism charges against at least 500 for attacking police and using explosives. BNP sec gen 18 Jan claimed govt had filed 1,209 cases under controversial Digital Security Act in four years against dissidents, journalists and opposition leaders.
Violence in Rohingya camps persisted. In Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp, Rohingya leader was stabbed to death 8 Jan and another was shot dead next day; police attributed attacks to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Human Rights Watch 17 Jan accused Armed Police Battalion, elite police unit overseeing security camps, of extortion, arbitrary arrests and harassment of refugees. UN refugee agency same day deplored “alarming rise” in numbers of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh in 2022, reporting 360% increase and “growing sense of desperation”. In first clash between two groups, Rohingya Solidarity Organisation militants 18 Jan attacked ARSA outpost in Bangladesh-Myanmar border area known as “no man’s land”, where around 4,000 people shelter, killing one RSO militant; Bangladeshi authorities began processing those sheltering there to enter country.
Authorities arrested suspected militants. Counter-terrorism police 1 Jan arrested six suspected al-Qaeda-inspired militants in Dhaka, Chittagong and Teknaf cities; counter-terrorism police 8 Jan arrested three suspected members of new militant outfit, Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, in Bandarband’s Naikhongchari sub-district; police 23 Jan arrested two suspected members of same group following reported gunfight in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camp.
Violence and instability escalated as police and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) clashed, with further unrest possible.
Violence rose amid large-scale anti-govt rallies and police crackdown. Police arrested two, including BNP local leader, in connection with two homemade bomb explosions near ruling Awami League rally in Pirojpur district 6 Dec, which injured four. BNP activists 7 Dec clashed with police raiding central office in capital, killing student leader and injuring at least 50 others. Police 8 Dec arrested hundreds of BNP leaders and supporters. Police 9 Dec filed charges against 200 BNP leaders and activists allegedly linked to five homemade bomb explosions in Barisal district’s Babuganj sub-district previous day; police claimed they were attacked with Molotov cocktails as information minister 9 Dec claimed police recovered 15 bombs at BNP headquarters. At massive anti-govt rally in capital Dhaka, BNP 10 Dec disclosed ten-point agenda that included resignation of govt and early polls; all seven BNP members of parliament next day resigned, with by-elections scheduled for 1 Feb. BNP and police clashes 24 Dec killed one party leader and injured 50 in Panchagarh district. BNP 30 Dec announced another rally in Dhaka for 11 Jan, raising risks of more political violence.
Proscribed Islamist group voiced support for BNP and clashed with police. Days after Jamaat-i-Islami – country’s largest and banned Islamist party – declared its support for BNP’s anti-govt movement, police 13 Dec arrested its top leader in Dhaka under Anti-Terrorism Act. Protests by Jamaat supporters against leader’s detention 23-24 Dec led to clashes with police and scores of arrests in Dinajur town, Chittagong city and Lakshmipur district. Further arrests 30 Dec led to clashes with protesters that injured ten police officers in Dhaka.
Insecurity continued in Rohingya refugee camps. Gunfight between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and rival armed group over drug trafficking in Cox’s Bazar Ukhiya camp 9 Dec killed two. In Ukhiya camp, assailants 22 Dec shot dead four Rohingyas and 26 Dec Rohginya leader. First group of 24 Rohingya refugees to be resettled in U.S. 8 Dec left Bangladesh, part of anticipated annual intake of 300-800; Dhaka previously resisted third-country resettlement.
Opposition held countrywide protest rallies, fuelling tensions with govt, while deadly attacks in Rohingya refugee camps continued.
Amid economic crisis, tensions persisted between govt and opposition. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held protest rallies at divisional headquarters countrywide against rising fuel, power and commodity prices, aimed at culminating in mass rally in capital Dhaka on 10 Dec. PM Sheikh Hasina 2 Nov told parliament BNP was attempting to destabilise politics amid economic crisis, warning govt would take action against those engaged in anti-govt activities. BNP sec gen same day said “our present goal is to intensify the movement” to force elections; Hasina next day warned against BNP “excesses”, threatening party’s chairperson could be sent back to jail. Notably, BNP 12 Nov held large-scale rally in Faridabad suburb, Dhaka division. Police same day arrested 32 BNP leaders and activists in Dhaka city on charges of “hatching an anti-government conspiracy”. Police 16 Nov fired rubber bullets at BNP party activists in Habiganj district, Sylhet division, who were planning rally, injuring 60, including ten police officers. Govt and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 9 Nov provisionally signed $4.5bn support program, which finance minister same day said would help prevent economic instability from escalating into crisis.
Security operations against militant groups continued. Security operations against suspected militants and separatists continued in Bandarband district. By 9 Nov, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had arrested 29 suspected members of militant group Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya from Bandarband, Comilla and Narayanjanj districts. Two Ansar-al-Islam militants – sentenced to death for killing of secular publisher in 2015 – 19 Nov escaped from court; police 22 Nov arrested one accomplice.
Violence persisted in Rohingya refugee camps. After police late Oct launched operation in Cox’s Bazar camps to arrest at least 56 Rohingyas, including 24 suspected of murdering seven community leaders in recent months, police attributed 8 Nov killing of Rohingya man in Cox’s Bazar Teknaf sub-district to clash between rival Rohingya factions. Rohingya militants 14 Nov fired on RAB officials in Bandarband’s Konapara camp, killing woman and injuring security forces member.
Govt and opposition supporters violently clashed, insecurity gripped Myanmar border areas, and targeted attacks continued in Rohingya refugee camps.
Clashes between rival camps fed political tensions. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters held protests at divisional headquarters countrywide against rise in fuel and commodity prices, aimed at culminating in mass protest in capital Dhaka on 10 Dec and galvanising support ahead of general elections late 2023-early 2024. Notably, parallel BNP and ruling Awami League demonstrations in Mymensingh city 15 Oct led to clashes; police filed charges against 300-400 BNP members, who accused police of disrupting demonstrations. Dhaka court 10 Oct sentenced seven BNP leaders and activists to death, and three to life imprisonment, for 2020 murder of leader of ruling party’s volunteer wing. Police 10, 22 Oct arrested dozens of members of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh– proscribed Islamist party – for allegedly plotting against state.
Insecurity along Myanmar border continued, as police targeted militant groups. Security forces mid-Oct launched operation against Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), Myanmar-based separatist group, in two sub-districts of Chittagong Hill Tract’s Bandarband district; home minister 16 Oct accused group of creating unrest in border areas and asserted Bangladeshi militant groups “were stationed next to KNF camp”. Tensions also continued between govt and Myanmar as firing from latter’s side 3 Oct resumed; FM Abdul Momen next day claimed country would not fall prey to Myanmar’s “provocations”. Meanwhile, police arrested scores of suspected members of new militant organisation, Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, in several cities countrywide, including 12 persons 6-10 Oct; 26 Oct arrested 5 in Chittagong Hill Tracts, claiming some 70-80 persons had joined group.
Attacks targeted Rohingya camp-based community leaders and volunteers. In Cox’s Bazar Ukhiya camp, attacks on volunteer’s home 4 Oct killed child and 15 Oct killed two community leaders; two refugees were shot dead 27 Oct. Two Rohingya community leaders were hacked to death 15 Oct. Armed police 28 Oct launched operation in Cox’s Bazar’s camps, arresting 56 Rohingyas, including 24 persons suspected of murdering seven community leaders, attributing most killings to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and “ongoing conflict in Myanmar”.
Political tensions remained elevated in lead-up to parliamentary elections due in 2023 as security forces clashed with opposition protesters; Myanmar’s conflict spread to border regions.Political tensions ran high ahead of 2023 elections. Sporadic clashes 1 Sept took place in several districts when police attempted to prevent Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from holding public rallies to celebrate party’s 44th anniversary; notably, police fired on rally in Naraynganj district, killing one and injuring five. PM Sheikh Hasina same day said police had right to protect themselves against violent protesters. BNP also held countrywide rallies against rising fuel, power and commodity during month; clashes injured several protesters and police officers in Rangpur district on 6 Sept, in capital Dhaka on 15 Sept, and in Munshganj district on 21 Sept. Awami League activists 17 Sept attacked and injured BNP local leader in Dhaka and party’s VP in Comilla district. Delivering statement at 51st session of Human Rights Council on 12 Sept, UN acting rights chief Nada al-Nashif called on govt to ensure freedoms of expression and to bar security forces from using “excessive force” against protests in “polarising environment” ahead of general elections, due in 2023. EU mission in Dhaka 15 Sept “raised concerns about escalating protest-related violence and need to ensure participatory and peaceful conditions” in lead-up to elections.Govt protested cross-border fire from Myanmar. Govt called in Myanmar ambassador four times in late Aug-Sept to protest Myanmar’s strikes along border and intrusions into Bangladeshi airspace (see Myanmar). Notably, Myanmar military helicopters and fighter jets 3 Sept fired shells and gunshots in Bandarban’s Gumdham border area, and approached to within 300-400 yards of Bangladesh’s airspace; 10-12 mortar shells reportedly landed inside Bangladeshi territory 16-19 Sept. FM Abdul Momen 20 Sept said Myanmar mistakenly shelled territory due to “crisscrossed” border.PM Hasina visited India, securing defence agreement. State visit to India 5-8 Sept saw signing of first defence contract under India’s $500mn line of credit associated with 2019 deal between two countries. Hasina and Indian PM Modi agreed to end deaths from “incidents along the border”, reference to Bangladeshis killed during past Indian border security operations.
Ruling Awami League (AL) adopted austerity measures amid energy crisis, triggering violent protests and deepening tensions with opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Govt 5 Aug increased fuelled prices by as much as 52%, citing global energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (see Ukraine). In response, student organisations and BNP held rallies across country, including in capital Dhaka on 5 Aug, accusing govt of mismanagement of power and energy sectors. Activist 3 Aug died of his injuries after police 31 July fired during demonstration in Bhola district; five people, including police officer, 7 Aug were injured during BNP demonstration in Chapainawabganj district; clashes between BNP supporters and AL’s student wing 12 Aug injured at least 20 people in Pirojpur district; police same day intervened in clash between demonstrators from BNP’s student wings and AL supporters in Feni city, injuring at least 20. Hindu temples were vandalised in Pirojpur, Bagerhat and Kurigram districts on 1, 6 and 9 Aug, respectively. In first ever visit by UN human rights chief to country, Michelle Bachelet 14-18 Aug visited Dhaka and Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar; Bachelet 17 Aug called for more dialogue between political parties, urged govt to amend controversial laws like Digital Security Act to ensure “compliance with international human rights laws”, and asked govt to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings; Bachelet also expressed concern over rising anti-Rohingya rhetoric. In Ukhiya camp in Cox’s Bazar, shootout between two rival groups 1 Aug killed Rohingya man. Unknown assailants 10 Aug shot dead two Rohingya community leaders in Ukhiya camp; locals held insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army responsible. Thousands of Rohingya refugees 25 Aug gathered in camp to mark fifth anniversary of Myanmar military’s crackdown. Marking occasion, UK and Germany 25 Aug confirmed they would formally join The Gambia’s case against Myanmar at International Court of Justice, while the U.S. announced plans to “significantly increase” resettlement of Rohingya, including refugees in Bangladesh. UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Noeleen Hezyer 22-25 Aug met govt officials, including PM Hasina, and visited Rohingya camps; Hezyer called for increased aid for Rohingya response.
Upcoming polls remained point of contention between ruling Awami League party and opposition, while inter-religious tensions continued. After opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) vice chairperson late June warned that it “won’t be possible for [ruling Awami League] to hang on to power by rigging votes again”, upcoming general elections due to be held by Dec 2023 dominated political scene during month. Heads of missions representing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries 3 July met with Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal in preparation for election; Habibul Awal said some political parties had reported they would not take part in polls but he hoped they would reach consensus on remaining issues. FM Masud Bin Momen 4 July emphasised country was on track for “free, fair and participatory” national elections and noted there was “no issue of interference of foreign countries”. BNP Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 12-13 July held closed-door meetings with UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis and EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley; Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud 13 July accused BNP of frequently raising domestic issues with foreigners instead of “countrymen”, while Awami League sec gen 18 July rejected BNP’s demand for neutral govt to oversee polls and accused opposition of wanting to capture state power through foreign conspiracies. BNP late month announced nationwide rallies against power shortages. Meanwhile, in suburb of Dhaka, hundreds of locals 1 July attacked home of prominent Professor Ratan Siddiqui, physically assaulting and calling him and his family atheists and Hindus. Chittagong court 4 July sentenced Hindu teacher to eight years in prison for “anti-Islam” remarks in case filed five years ago. In Narial district, local villagers 15 July accused local Hindu boy of blasphemous Facebook post, attacked and burnt Hindu homes and shops, and vandalised Hindu temple, causing many Hindu families to flee village. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 3 July arrested convict in Dhaka, who had been sentenced to death in 2018 by controversial International Crimes Tribunal on charges of war crimes during 1971 war of liberation.
Protests in multiple districts erupted over senior Indian officials’ anti-Islamic remarks, while govt continued crackdown on critics. Protests erupted after members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 6 June made anti-Islam remarks (see India). In Dhaka capital, thousands of protesters led by coalition of around dozen Islamist organisations 10 June demanded govt boycott Indian products and issue formal condemnation; protests organised by Islami Andolan Bangladesh, one of country’s largest Islamist parties, 16 June continued in Dhaka. In Bagerhat district, Muslim mob 12 June attacked Hindu house following altercation between Hindu man and local Muslims over BJP remarks. In Naranganj district, protesters 13 June attacked police station, prompting authorities to arrest 31 for assaulting police officers. Separately, opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) 12 June held protest rallies demanding BNP leader Khaleda Zia be granted medical treatment abroad after suffering heart attack day before; home minister 11 June called Zia “convict” and said court approval needed for overseas treatment. Court in Satkhira district 16 June indicted 49 BNP members for August 2002 attack on then-opposition leader Sheikh Hasina’s convoy. Authorities continued clampdown on dissent. Govt 7 June deregistered country’s leading human rights group, Odhikar, claiming it published “misleading information” and tarnished country’s global image; UN Human Rights Council 10 June urged govt to “immediately reconsider” decision, noting “intimidation and reprisals appear to have intensified”. Police in Rangamati district 7 June arrested prominent journalist Fazel Elahi for violating controversial Digital Security Act; following protests, he was released on bail next day. In Cox’s Bazar Ukhiya refugee camp, armed police 10 and 13 June arrested four persons, including Rohingya cleric, for murder of leader of Rohingya boatmen on 9 June. Police same day pressed charges against 29 Rohingyas for killing of Rohingya community activist Mobin Ullah in Sept 2021. Clashes between groups in Ukhiya camp 16 June killed one member of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. In talks with Myanmar authorities, FM Masud Bin Momen 14 June called for early repatriation of Rohingyas; he said list of 830,000 individuals containing biometric data had been handed to Myanmar.
Tensions between ruling Awami League party and opposition persisted, authorities arrested dozens of suspected jihadist militants, and more Rohingyas refugees entered country. Political tensions between opposition and ruling party continued ahead of elections due by Dec 2023. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 8 May said “There’s no question of holding an election if the Awami League [AL] regime does not resign and power is handed over to a completely neutral government”. Ruling AL Gen Sec Obaidul Quader same day warned BNP they might cease to exist if they do not participate in election. Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal 10 May said making elections inclusive was not his institution’s job, main responsibility is “to conduct a fair and impartial election”. Authorities continued to arrest suspected jihadist militants. Notably, police 17 May detained 49 suspected members of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir in Chittagong city. Information Minister Hasan Mahmud 5 May accused NGO Reporters Without Borders of “continuously publishing reports against Bangladesh with malicious intent” after NGO 3 May published new World Press Freedom Index 2022 report ranking Bangladesh 162nd , lowest ranking among any South Asian country. Rohingya refugees continue to flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar amid concerns about Rohingya children’s rights. Police 11 May arrested 29 Rohingyas in Moulvibazar and Cox’s Bazar districts, who had entered Bangladesh from India through Kulaura border. FM Momen 17 May expressed concern about influx of Rohingyas across border with India and said “We have to engage more security forces to stop them”; Dhaka 21 May sent note verbale to New Delhi to halt entry of Rohingyas to Bangladesh. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 11 May reported authorities were restricting Rohingyas freedom to move, work and study, said authorities 4-5 May temporarily detained 656 Rohingyas who had been celebrating Eid holidays outside Kutupalong camp. UN children agency UNICEF 1 May announced milestone of reaching first 10,000 children accessing learning centres across multiple Cox’s Bazar refugee camps; UNICEF is eventually due to support about 300,000 Rohingya refugee children.
Tensions between ruling Awami League Party and opposition persisted, authorities continued arrests of suspected jihadist militants, and fires again affected Rohingya refugee camp. Police 6 April arrested opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Ishraque Hossain while he was protesting price hikes in capital Dhaka, for alleged role in Nov 2020 arson attack in Dhaka; BNP Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 9 April called Hossain’s arrest part of ruling Awami League (AL) Party’s “new game” of “arresting opposition leaders and activists in false cases” ahead of general elections due to take place in Dec 2023. BNP 14 April said U.S state dept’s 2021 report on govt’s human rights practices published 12 April had exposed Awami League govt’s “deadly misrule”, including sentencing and imprisoning BNP chief Khaleda Zia on political grounds, subverting judicial independence and involving security forces in “killings, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings”; FM Abdul Momen previous day rejected report’s findings, stating it was based on “misinformation” from “anti-government propaganda” machines. Meanwhile, authorities 22 April arrested Jamaat-e-Islami leader in Rajshahi district, accused of terrorist activities and conspiring against state; authorities previous day arrested three other Jamaat leaders in Barguna district for allegedly “planning sabotage”. Dhaka court 13 April sentenced four Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants to death for 2014 attack of liberal Dhaka University professor. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 14 April arrested Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami fugitive in Kishoreganj district, who had been sentenced to death in 2014 for attack on Hindu festival in 2001 and 2004 grenade attack that threatened PM Hasina. RAB 25 April arrested suspected Ansar Al-Islam militant in Narail district. FM Abdul Momen 4 April met with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in Washington DC and called on U.S. to encourage BNP to take part in election process; Momen same day told reporters removal of U.S. sanctions on RAB would take time because U.S. administration process requires clearances from “23 committees” before sanctions can be lifted. In third such incident in four months, fire 4 April broke out in Cox’s Bazar’s Camp 17, which is part of conglomeration of camps hosting over 600,000 Rohingya refugees, destroying school.
Protests against rising prices prompted clashes across country, violence within ruling party persisted, and deadly violence continued in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters and others 2-13 March rallied against rising commodity prices, prompting clashes with Awami League (AL) ruling party’s activists; reports revealed dozens of protesters injured across country, including in Patuakhali, Narayanganj and Lalmonirhat districts and in Chattogram city. BNP supporters 9 March clashed with police and AL supporters, leaving around 50 people injured. AL’s student organisation 21 March also accused of attacking Left Democratic Alliance’s protest against price increases in Chattogram city. Dhaka court 2 March ordered arrest of BNP joint sec gen, for charges filed in late 2012 under “Special Powers Act” and “Explosive Substances Act”. Controversial International Crimes Tribunal 24 March sentenced former Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh legislator to death for 1971 war crimes. Fighting within ruling party persisted, leaving 15 injured during 1 March post-poll violence in Golpalganj district, and ten injured in 9 March clashes between party factions in Bogura district. Violence between rival militant groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts also continued. Unknown attackers 5 March killed former activist of Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) political faction in Chittagong Hill Tracts’ Bandarban district; locals 6 March found four bodies near Bandarban’s Sangu river, reportedly shot dead during clashes between rival armed groups previous day. Militant group United People’s Democratic Front accused PCJSS of killing one of their members on 15 March in Bandarban’s Sadar sub-district. Gunfight between rival militant groups 22 March killed three near Rangamati-Bandarband border Meanwhile, paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 11, 19 March respectively arrested suspected Ansar al-Islam member in capital Dhaka and ten alleged Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants in Khulna city. At U.S.-Bangladesh “Partnership Dialogue”, govt 20 March urged withdrawal of sanctions on RAB; U.S. rejected request. Earlier in month, police 6 March detained suspected head of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army-linked Ulema Council Moulvi Zakaria for allegedly ordering Sept killing of Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah. Fire 8 March erupted in Cox’s Bazar’s Kutupalong refugee camp, killing child and burning around 300 homes.
Low-level electoral violence persisted, ruling party pressed for selection of new Election Commission, and clashes erupted in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Despite an enhanced security presence, infighting within ruling Awami League party continued to fuel low-level violence during local elections, with clashes leaving one killed in Bogra district 1 Feb and two killed in Chittagong district 7 Feb. President Hamid 5 Feb formed new six-member search committee tasked with proposing ten nominees for Election Commission on 24 Feb; President 24 Feb received (as yet undisclosed) ten names by search committee for next five-member election commission. Committee 14 Feb disclosed it had received 322 names from 24 political parties, six professional organisations and civil society groups; main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) however continued to refuse to participate in process. BNP Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 16 Feb called activities of search committee “meaningless” and reiterated party’s opposition to any election held under Awami League’s auspices. Month saw clashes between army and tribal militant groups Chittagong Hill Tracts. Clashes 2 Feb left one soldier and three suspected members of Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti dead in Chittagong Hill Tracts’s Bandarban district. Referring to recent attacks on army, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan 5 Feb referred to “conspiracies” at work aimed at destabilising region; army same day claimed to have destroyed base and training centre of another tribal militant group, United Peoples Democratic Front, in Chittagong Hill Tract’s Khagrachhari district. Meanwhile relocation of Rohingya refugees to flood-prone Bhasan Char island continued; another 1,655 refugees 17 Feb relocated from Cox’s Bazar camps to island, bringing total refugee population on island to more than 22,000.
Electoral violence continued, killing dozens, and authorities arrested scores of opposition supporters. Election related clashes continued; notably, violence on poll day killed at least 11 persons and injured five policemen and 50 others across country 5 Jan. Clashes 6-7 Jan killed four and injured at least 26 persons in Satkhira and Bogra districts. Rivals 6 Jan also beat to death defeated candidate in Shariatpur district; 6 Jan seriously injured elected female member in Manikganj district; 20 Jan shot dead elected member in Jessore district. Govt clamped down on Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) opposition as protesters advocated for BNP leader Khaleda Zia to be granted medical treatment abroad. Police 1 Jan arrested four local BNP members following 30 Dec confrontation with ruling party Awami League (AL) supporters in Sirajgani district which had left 100 injured; next day imprisoned 31 BNP activists for 22 Nov clash with police during rally in Natore district; 5 Jan filed charges against 75 BNP leaders and activists for assaulting police officers and destroying public property during protest in Chittagong city previous day. Dhaka court 10 Jan sentenced ten BNP activists to five-year imprisonment in case filed in 2013 for violations of Explosive Substances Act. Senior BNP leader 11 Jan accused govt of filing “false and politically motivated cases” to hold on to power during general elections due in Dec 2023 or early 2024; accused judiciary of working on govt’s behest. Cabinet minister 12 Jan said govt was preparing list of those “involved in anti-state activities and making anti-state statements abroad”. Fires 2 and 9 Jan destroyed over 1,000 refugee shelters, including medical facilities and learning centres in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp. Authorities 4 Jan admitted that they had demolished more than 3,000 Rohingya-run shops in Cox’s Bazar in past weeks. In raid in Bandarban subdistrict, Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 7 Jan detained four Rohingya men and seized firearms. Police 16 Jan detained Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army chief’s brother in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp. Govt 28 Jan said it held repatriation talks with Myanmar junta officials.
Violent clashes between ruling party factions persisted with fourth phase of local elections, authorities continued to stifle dissent, and U.S. imposed sanctions on security forces. Election-related clashes between rival ruling Awami League (AL) candidates continued in run-up to fourth phase of local election held on 26 Dec: poll violence 7 Dec injured ten in Bogra district; 8 Dec killed one and injured at least 14 in Comilla district; 17 Dec killed candidate and his aide in Brahmanbaria district; 18 Dec killed AL supporter of “rebel” candidate in Pabna district; 26 Dec left 11 wounded in Feni city. Violent clashes over election results on night of 26 Dec saw one person killed in police firing on two rival groups in Thakurgaon district, and one person killed and 50 injured in police firing on similar clashes in Sylhet district. Meanwhile, authorities continued to stifle dissent. Notably, paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 1 Dec arrested AL Mayor of Rajshahi city Abbas Ali for violating Digital Security Act after audio recording surfaced in which he opposed mural of Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman on Islamic grounds; 9 Dec arrested five persons for allegedly spreading anti-state propaganda and instigating vandalism in capital Dhaka after suspects 25-30 Nov reportedly sent information about law enforcement agencies to foreign media during student protests about road safety. Washington 10 Dec imposed human rights-related sanctions on six former and current RAB officials; FM Momen next day questioned authenticity of U.S. findings, which reported around 600 people killed at hands of security forces in past ten years. BNP’s Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir same day said sanctions were “inevitable consequence” for those responsible of extrajudicial killings and torture. In supposed attempt to pressure Rohingyas to move to flood-prone Bhasan Char island refugee camp, authorities 10 Dec demolished around 1,000 shops of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar’s camps. In eighth phase of refugee relocations, 555 Rohingyas were moved 18 Dec to island, bringing total number of Rohingyas living in Bhasan Char to around 19,000.
Clashes between ruling party factions around local elections killed over 45 and injured more than 100. In run-up to second phase of elections held for lowest tier of local govt 11 Nov, clashes broke out between rival ruling Awami League (AL) factions, killing scores; opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted polls. Notably, clash 4 Nov killed three and injured ten in Narsingdi district; 5 Nov killed one in Cox’s Bazar district; 8 Nov killed two and injured 35 in Pabna and Meherpur districts. On election day, at least seven people were killed in clashes in Narsindi, Comilla, Cox’s Baaar, and Chittagong districts; more than 100 were injured in election-related violence throughout country. In run-up to third phase of local polls, Awami League clashes 25-28 Nov left three dead in Brahmanbaria, Bhola and Tangail districts. On polling day, violence left multiple dead and injured in Tangail, Lakshmipur, Narsingdi, Khulna, Jessore, Thakurgaon and Munshiganj districts. Fourth phase of polls due on 26 Dec and fifth phase on 5 Jan 2022. Arrests of alleged militants continued throughout month. Authorities detained alleged Jamaatul Mujahideen member in capital Dhaka and 24 Nov detained suspected Ansar al-Islam member in Dinajpur district. Ruling Awami League govt continued to use controversial Digital Security Act to silence criticism. Under law, authorities 2 Nov issued arrest warrants against two prominent journalists, 8 Nov indicted photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol in three cases. BNP 24 Nov began eight-day protest calling on govt to allow critically ill leader and former PM Khaleda Zia to seek treatment abroad. Police 3 Nov found dead alleged leader of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Whykong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar; police said mob likely lynched him. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 8 Nov claimed to have found illegal arms factory in Ukhiya camp in Cox’s Bazar, detaining three Rohingya men. Meanwhile, UN 1 and 8 Nov conducted second visit to flood-prone Bhasan Char island refugee camp to assess needs; seventh phase of relocation of refugees to Bhasan Char began 25 Nov after six month gap, with 1,500 more Rohingyas transferred to island.
Deadly inter-religious violence during Hindu festival killed seven and escalated tensions between ruling Awami League party and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). As Hindu community observed holiest festival, violent anti-Hindu violence 13-18 Oct erupted across country following circulation of video on social media that allegedly showed desecration of Quran at Hindu temple in Comilla town, sparking clashes with law enforcement and attacks on Hindu temples, businesses and homes; violence killed at least seven, including two Hindus, and injured dozens. Govt deployed paramilitary to 22 of country’s 64 districts, arrested over 450 people, and filed hundreds of cases against protesters, including three BNP leaders and one Jamaat-e-Islami leader. Awami League and BNP blamed each other for violence. Police 21 Oct arrested two Muslim men, one on 21 Oct for allegedly planting Quran in Comilla temple, and one on 14 Oct for allegedly posting first social media video. Attacks on temples continued, including 23 Oct in Chittagong city. Meanwhile, with mandate of Election Commission due to expire 15 Feb 2022, and next general elections due at end of 2023, PM Hasina 4 Oct said new Election Commission would be created through search committee formed by president, adding opposition BNP leader Khaleda Zia and son Tarique Rahman could not participate in polls due to their convictions; BNP Sec 5 Oct said party would not participate in polls under Awami League govt. Violence in run-up to local elections 15 Oct killed four persons in Magura district, including one in Faridpur district 23 Oct, and two in Rangamati district on 16 and 26 Oct. Police 10 Oct detained 16 suspected Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army members in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukiya camps, for role in Sept killing of prominent Rohingya Muslim leader Mohib Ullah in Cox’s Bazar. Attack on madrassa in Ukiya camp in Cox’s Bazar 22 Oct killed six people and wounded at least 20; police arrested 14 Rohingyas suspected of involvement in killing. UN Refugee Agency 11 Oct signed deal to start delivering aid to flood-prone Bhasan Char island; govt said 81,000 refugees would move there in next three months.
Authorities targeted members of opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, and arrested dozens of Rohingyas fleeing refugee camp on flood-prone island. Rohingya refugees continued to seek to escape refugee camp on flood-prone Bhasan Char island; notably, police 8-9 Sept arrested 28 Rohingyas who had fled in Chittagong’s Sitakunda sub-district and Mirsarai area. Addressing virtual meeting on Rohingya crisis held under Bangladesh’s auspices and co-sponsored among others by EU and Organisation of Islamic Conference that called for “urgent” global efforts to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh, PM Sheikh Hasina 23 Sept warned that failure to repatriate would “jeopardise our collective security” since alienated refugees are “easy prey to extremist ideologies”. Unknown assailants 29 Sept killed prominent Rohingya Muslim leader Mohib Ullah. Authorities arrested dozens of members of Jamaat-e-Islami, police 6 Sept detained around 12 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders on charges of conspiring to commit sedition in capital Dhaka; 10 Sept arrested ten female Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists in Satkhira district; 12 Sept detained three members of group’s student wing in Rajshahi district. Court 12 Sept accepted charges lodged by paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) against cartoonist and six others for anti-govt activities on social media. Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit same day opened investigations into bank accounts of 11 senior journalists; journalist union 17 Sept called investigations “unprecedented and ill-motivated”. Authorities continued to arrest suspected militants: notably, RAB 4 Sept arrested four suspected Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants in Mymensingh district; 9 Sept arrested alleged JMB leader in Dhaka. Counter-terrorism police 16 Sept detained two suspected Ansar al-Islam militants in Mymensingh district; and next day claimed to have arrested two Ansar al-Islam members in Mymensingh district. Police 10 Sept arrested around 45 members of Tablighi Jamaat, Sunni Islamic missionary movement, from mosques in Dinajpur district, accusing them of planning to carry out sabotage; denying charge, mosque leaders said that Tablighi Jamaat members had come from Dhaka for religious assembly.
Amid ongoing security concerns, authorities rejected U.S. plea to host Afghan refugees, and reiterated 1.1mn Rohingya refugees granted temporary shelter only. Security officials 16 Aug expressed concern that Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan could galvanise homegrown militants; FM Momen next day said Bangladeshi terrorists, trained in Afghanistan, were “identified and uprooted” but govt would remain alert. Counter-terrorism police 11 Aug arrested three alleged New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militants in capital Dhaka; two alleged Ansar al-Islam militants 23 Aug in Khulna city; and one suspected Ansar al-Islam militant 25 Aug in Moulvibazar district. Meanwhile, FM Momen 2 Aug said Dhaka does not consider Rohingyas “refugees”, but “forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens”, will continue to prioritise repatriation. Rohingya refugees continued to flee Bhasan Char camp situated on flood-prone island; notably, after boat carrying around 40 Rohingyas capsized off Chittagong’s coast, authorities recovered 18 dead bodies, and local residents rescued 14 others who were then brought back to Bhasan Char. Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar camps 25 Aug defied ban on outdoor protests to mark four years of asylum. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 16 Aug highlighted credible evidence of routine enforced disappearances at hands of security forces over past decade, including about 86 people still missing. Police 18 Aug lodged cases against 155 Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders and activists after security agencies prevented them from visiting party founder Ziaur Rahman’s grave in Dhaka previous day. Awami League (AL) activists 13 Aug allegedly killed opposition BNP leader and wounded two others in Noakhali district. Clash between paramilitary force responsible for internal security and AL leaders and activists 18 Aug left seven dead in Barisal district. Govt 11 Aug ended late-July COVID-19 lockdown despite rising COVID-19 infections and deaths; Health Minister Zahid Maleque next day warned that overcrowded hospitals could no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients.
Govt arrested thousands for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions amid surge in infections nationwide and inside Rohingya refugee camps. Govt 1 July extended nationwide lockdown as numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths spiked, deploying police, border forces and army to patrol streets, leading to some 5,800 people arrested throughout month for breaching restrictions. Coronavirus cases surged inside congested Cox’s Bazar Rohingya refugee camps, with over 2,350 cases and at least 27 deaths during month. Floods and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain in camps 25-27 July also killed at least 11 Rohingya refugees, and left more than 12,000 homeless. Authorities continued to detain Rohingya refugees fleeing Bhasan Char camp situated on flood-prone island throughout month; notably, police 11 and 17 July arrested 38 Rohingyas in Chittagong City’s Mirsarai sub-district. Police 17 July also detained 21 Rohingyas refugees near Moulvibazar district, who had reportedly entered country from India. Authorities 28 July detained nine refugees in Kurigram district for allegedly flouting COVID-19 rules. Forty-seventh session of UN Human Rights Council 11 July adopted resolution calling on Myanmar to ensure safe return of Rohingya refugees to country; Bangladesh’s envoy Mustafizur Rahman at session blamed lack of repatriation on “continued non-cooperation and reluctance of Myanmar”. Concerns over authorities stifling dissent persisted. UK 8 July reported that political and media freedoms remained restricted throughout 2020 and highlighted govt’s use of Digital Security Act to suppress criticism; Bangladesh foreign ministry 11 July summoned UK’s envoy to express its “disappointment” with report. Meanwhile, clashes between armed groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts’ Rangamati district 8 July killed one person, and counter-terrorism operations continued. Authorities 11 July arrested suspected New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militant in Narayanganj district; 26 July arrested 19 Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh leaders in Chittagong, accused of planning attack on govt installations. Internal Awami League clashes 26-27 July left two activists dead in Khulna and Bogra cities in lead-up to local govt polls.
Govt continued crackdown on critics under Digital Security Act, while concerns over relocation of Rohingya refugees to flood prone Bashan Char island persisted. Authorities continued to stifle dissent under Digital Security Act (DSA). Notably, counter-terrorism police 13 June pressed DSA charges against seven people alleging involvement in anti-govt activities; cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who had been released on bail in March, among those charged. NGO Transparency International 8 June reported that DSA used against at least 85 journalists since start of COVID-19 pandemic. Day before local elections, Awami League factions 20 June clashed in Ghazipur district, injuring ten people; clashes on election day also left two killed and two injured in Barisal district. In Chittagong city, counter-terrorism police 11 June arrested alleged member of banned Ansar al-Islam who recently returned from Syria where he had joined Islamic State in 2017. After four-day visit to Bangladesh, UN Refugee Agency senior representatives 2 June said Bashan Char had “some potential, though the human and protection elements of refugees living there must be fully considered”. Human Rights Watch report 7 June said Rohingya refugees had been moved to Bashan Char “without full informed consent”, urging donors to support refugees right to return to mainland; FM Momen same day responded: “If they have so much sympathy, let them take them back to their country”. In Noakhali District, police 10 June detained 12 Rohingya refugees, including four children, who had escaped Bashan Char. Human Rights Watch 15 June claimed UN refugee agency had shared refugees’ personal data with authorities, asserting practices were “contrary to the agency’s own policies and exposed refugees to further risk”. During meeting with senior UN officials in New York, FM Momen 17 June stressed importance of UN operations in Bashan Char; Bangladesh 18 June abstained from UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar crisis as it did not recommend repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Police 12-14 June recovered bodies of six Rohingyas, including four children, who drowned in Naf River when boats overturned as they attempted to enter Bangladesh from Myanmar.
Political tensions continued in aftermath of anti-India unrest, and authorities revealed rise in number of Rohingyas attempting to enter Bangladesh since 1 Feb coup in Myanmar. Protesters in capital Dhaka 3 May called for release of student leaders arrested for protesting March visit of Indian PM Modi; delegation of six Hefazat-e-Islam leaders next day met with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to request release of activists detained following anti-India protests, also asked for ongoing arrests to stop. Police 15 May arrested Jamaat-e-Islami leader and former member of parliament on charges of instigating Hefazat-sponsored violence during anti-Modi protests in Chittagong city. Following charges filed by health ministry, senior journalist Rozina Islam 17 May arrested for violating Official Secrets Act; Islam, who had been reporting on institutional corruption and COVID-19, released on bail 22 May; local and international rights organisations called for all charges to be dropped. Nationalist Party (BNP) opposition leader and former PM Khaleda Zia 3 May hospitalised for post-COVID-19 health complications; law minister 9 May rejected Zia’s demand to seek medical treatment abroad. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 2 May arrested four alleged members of banned Ansar al-Islam in Khulna district. Counter-terrorism police 4 May arrested two alleged members of banned New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh; also in Dhaka, authorities 2, 5 and 20 May detained at least six alleged Ansar al-Islam members, and 19 May arrested alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir member in Cox’s Bazar district. High profile Islamist preacher 26 May arrested for inciting militancy. Border security officials 2 May said number of Rohingyas refugees trying to enter country more than tripled since 1 Feb military coup in Myanmar, revealed they had pushed back some 133 Rohingyas to Myanmar this year, including over 100 in March-April. State minister for foreign affairs 17 May stated around 20,000 Rohingyas so far relocated to Bhasan Char, low-lying flood-prone island in Bay of Bengal; during UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials’ inspection of island, several thousand Rohingyas 31 May staged protest against dire living conditions.
Tensions continued to run high following anti-India unrest in March, as authorities arrested dozens of protest leaders and activists; election-related violence persisted. Following last month’s deadly protests by Islamist groups and student activists against Indian PM Modi’s visit, PM Hasina 4 April said Hefazat-e-Islam is disgrace to name of Islam and blamed oppositionBangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami for inciting violence. Further clashes between police and Hefazat-e-Islam supporters 2 April left at least 20 injured, including several police officers. Since last month’s protests, authorities arrested over 100 Hefazat leaders and activists, including Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque on 17 April in capital Dhaka. Hefazat-e-Islam Acting Amir Januyed Babunagri 2 and 19 April asked govt to stop harassing and arresting Hefazat leaders. Violent clashes between Awami League factions over upcoming municipality elections persisted: clashes 1, 8 and 14 April left two killed and at least 24 injured in Pabna, Kustia and Madaripur districts. Meanwhile, govt continued to use Digital Security Act to stifle critics. Teenager 1 April faced court after govt supporter filed charges against him for making video mocking PM Hasina and Modi; ruling Awami League leader 18 April lodged case against civil society activist. Counter-terrorism police in Dhaka 10 April arrested Rezaul Haque, acting amir of banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. International concerns over relocation of Rohingya refugees continued. Fire at market near Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district 2 April killed three and destroyed at least 20 shops. Diplomats from EU, U.S., UK and others 3 April visited Bhasan Char, low-lying flood-prone island in Bay of Bengal, to assess facilities for Rohingya refugees. Following March visit to inspect safety, UN 16 April urged govt to move refugees in “gradual and phased manner”. FM Momen same day told reporters he would demand 10% of funds raised by humanitarian agencies for Rohingyas in Bangladesh if they refused to provide services to refugees in Bhasan Char.