At KSG, General Draws Fire
Bangladeshi military chief accused of crackdown on academic freedom
Published On 10/30/2007 12:38:29 AM
By PARAS D. BHAYANI
Crimson Staff Writer
Source: The Harvard Crimson
The chief of the Bangladeshi military, who took part in a two-day session at the Kennedy School of Government last week, has come under fire from scholars who claim that his armed forces have been responsible for a crackdown on academic freedom at the nation’s universities.
Gen. Moeen U Ahmed, who also participated in a Kennedy School executive education course in 2002, is being criticized for crackdowns at Bangladesh’s Rajshahi University and its flagship institution, the University of Dhaka.
The crackdowns have included the arrests of at least four academics at Dhaka and eight at Rajshahi, with allegations that they have been tortured, according to The Daily Star, the largest English-language newspaper in Bangladesh.
Emran Qureshi, a fellow at the Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, criticized the Kennedy School for closing Moeen’s visit to the public and the press.
“He should be allowed to speak, but it should have been public so that critics of their policy could have aired their thoughts,” Qureshi said in a phone interview yesterday. “It is incredibly ironic that at the very moment he speaks at Harvard University, he is presiding over an unprecedented crackdown on Bangladeshi academic institutions. It boggles the mind.”
The Kennedy School’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, which hosted Ahmed, said in a statement last week that the sessions were closed to the press in order to “allow for frank, free and meaningful discussion.” An institute spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Moeen had meetings on governmental reform and restoring democracy in Bangladesh during his two-day stay here, the statement said.
The arrests at the Bangladesh universities were in response to protests following an August incident in which soldiers attacked a student who was blocking their view of a soccer match.
“The demonstrations taking place in Bangladesh come after eight months of repressive emergency rule, which has restricted the rights to protest and fails to respect basic due process rights,” the watchdog organization Human Rights Watch said in a report.
Bangladesh declared a state of emergency in January 2007, with Moeen deploying the armed forces to end riots in the nation’s major cities. The military-backed provisional government that has ruled Bangladesh since January will leave office in December 2008, Moeen has said.
—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.