States and state agents have historically used violence to stifle public debate, and silence their critics. In many countries around the world today, states no longer rely heavily upon overtly coercive methods and instead acknowledge the need for authentic debate. But in many others, states and state agents continue to resort primarily to coercive methods.Read the entire narrative here.
In such countries, some persons try to break the silence on matters of importance that threaten repressive systems for social control. These persons we honour with the title, “human rights defender”. Oftentimes, the efforts of these persons seem small, especially to people in countries where authentic debate is taken for granted. Yet, such efforts necessarily begin small, and build up only with years of hard work.
Despite their appearance of smallness, such efforts challenge fundamental principles on which the state’s power is based. For this reason, human rights defenders in these countries inevitably become targets for violence. Sometimes the violence seems arbitrary. Sometimes it seems grossly disproportionate to the small efforts of the person.
People unfamiliar with the milieu in which the human rights defender has been working naturally have trouble seeing how apparently small efforts to change society can provoke savagery. At such moments, those people who work with the human rights defender have a special responsibility to delineate the person sharply from his social and political environment, and in so doing, to set out some features of that environment, so that others can also understand why the person has been made the subject of violence.
For this reason, the Asian Human Rights Commission is issuing this short narrative on the work of a Bangladeshi human rights defender, FMA Razzak.
The story of how members of an army officer’s family barbarically attacked and almost killed Razzak, gouging at his eyes and breaking his limbs, is now internationally known. The AHRC has set up a campaign webpage, which it is updating constantly, providing the latest details on the case and on subsequent events.
The purpose of this narrative is not to iterate all the contents of statements and appeals on the attack against Razzak, but to explain what motivated the attack, and to show how the police, judiciary and National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh are working not to defend this human rights defender but to enable the continuance of violence and impunity in their country. To do this, we must begin with the story of Razzak, the human rights defender. That story, although specifically the story of Razzak, is more generally the story of the human rights defender as Bangladeshi; the story of anyone who sincerely believes and fights for human rights in such a country.