KENSINGTON – The Bangladeshi community in Kensington rallied for the young students in Bangladesh who are being attacked for protesting the country’s horrible traffic conditions.
Avenue C Plaza, between McDonald Avenue and Avenue C, was a sight to be seen in the early evening of Wednesday, August 8. Muslim women wearing hijabs of all different colors sat on the Plaza instead of the usual men. They were surrounded by their children and teenagers who were making posters for the rally.
“It’s the power of motherhood,” Mian Quadry, a neighbor, told Bklyner. “Many of these women are immigrants. It could have been their child.”
“Students shouldn’t have to protest and DIE for road safety. It should be a given!”, “We want freedom!”, “Education is a human right!”, some of the posters read.
“I have been honored to be in the presence of strong Muslim women my whole life and was inspired by the strength of the Muslim women who organized yesterday’s rally,” Kashif Hussain, candidate for the 44th Assembly District Leader said. “Their passion and commitment towards the students of Bangladesh is a testament to how, together, we can overcome systemic disparities.”
On July 29, a speeding bus ran over a group of students in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ten young people were injured and 18-year-old Abdul Karim Rajib and 17-year-old Diya Khanam Mim were killed. The incident sparked protests all over the city. Approximately 20,000 people die in road accidents each year in Bangladesh and many drivers don’t have licenses. Following the death of two students, NPR reported that thousands of high schoolers and college students (including children as young as 13) spread out across Dhaka and “station[ed] themselves to direct traffic and make sure vehicles stayed in their lanes.”
The government struck back by attacking the youths. There are reports of police using water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons to disseminate the student protestors. The Daily Star reported that a pro-government student organization, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), was allegedly raping and holding some young women hostage. BCL has denied the allegations.
One of the more well-known incidents involved activist and photographer Shahidul Alam. Alam was arrested after Al-Jazeera published an interview with him about the protests. He was taken into custody for seven days and charged with “Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) Act, a restrictive law regulating online speech that ‘tends to deprave or corrupt,’ or opposes the state’s ideology.”
The violence hit home for the Bangladeshi community in Kensington, bringing dozens of children, women, and community activists to yesterday’s rally.
“Here in Brooklyn, we have one of the largest Bangladeshi communities and they’re coming out here to voice their concerns because it’s all about the protection of children,” Borough President Eric Adams said. “When you have children who are assaulted with machetes, ran over by vehicles, not allowed to voice in a peaceful manner, we must all raise our voices of outrage.”
“We stand with our brothers and sisters from the Bangladeshi community in denouncing the terror that is taking place on the young people in Bangladesh. We hear their cries, we hear their voices,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Brooklyn or Bangladesh…we have an obligation to speak out and stand with all the children of this globe.”
Mansura Tanha, a 16-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh, tells Bklyner she understands her privilege.
“I know the privilege of growing up here and I also know what struggles people have to face in Bangladesh,” she said. “I agree with what the kids are doing because change is much needed. Hearing their stories inspire me.”
“I am here today because I am proud of the students that are taking charge of their future,” she said. “Students in Bangladesh are fighting for change in our broken society….The students have been able to do something the adults could not have done in years.”
Candidate for district leader, Kashif Hussain, held up a poster which said, “Justice For Bangladesh Students” and had a drawing of a fist.
“Today we are all Bangladesh….No child, student or citizen should ever feel unsafe in their streets. In tragedy, there is a lesson for us all,” Hussain said. “We must work together and unite our efforts in creating a safe environment for our children here. We must work to hold our elected officials accountable whether it’s New York, whether it’s Brooklyn, whether it’s Bangladesh.”
“We stand in solidarity with the students of Bangladesh and are advocating for their right to protest. We will work to make sure that this tremendous sacrifice was not made in vain.”