Rahnuma Ahmed’s updates on Moshrefa Mishu

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February 4 2011. 9:06 pm

Dear friends,

Yesterday evening I got an emergency text message from Sharmine who is Moshrefa Mishu’s youngest sister which said Mishu’s face had gone numb, her speech was slurred, she was having difficulty in talking. A junior doctor came in, examined her, said he thought it was caused by stress, and prescribed a suppository for her spinal pain and tranquilisers to induce sleep.

Mishu said afterwards she felt the world was closing in on her, she felt very weak, felt that she had no control over her arms and legs. Today noon, she is feeling slightly better.

Since my last Update (January 27, 2011): her attendants had been helping her to sit up, to try and walk and while it is true that she had been able to put her foot down, and to take a few steps, since yesterday’s setback she has not been able to get up and sit upright in bed despite assistance.

Mishu’s third bail prayer in the Khilkhet case for her “pending remand in police custody for a period of two-days” (which was passed by the CMM court on 19.12.2010, the day she fell ill and collapsed after leaving the courthouse) was rejected by the CMM court on 30 January 2011.

In the meanwhile, a writ petition has been filed in the High Court by Mishu’s sister Jebunnessa Jebu regarding (a) the pending 2-day remand order (in violation of fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 31, 32, and 35(5) of the Constitution and in breach of the Hon’ble Court’s Guidelines in BLAST and others v Bangladesh reported at 55 DLR 363), and (b) the unlawful manner in which she is being held at risk of severe further deterioration to her health and at risk of her torture and ill-treatment if taken into remand for the third time. Mishu is being represented by Barrister Sara Hossain; two hearings have been held (February 1 and 2, 2011); on the second day, advocate Fawzia Karim (member, National Human Rights Commission), and advocates Ainun Nahar Lipi, Hafiz , and Mahjabeen, also represented the petitioner. You’ll find the details here; the next hearing is scheduled for Sunday, February 6, 2011.

In the last week of January, Mishu was visited at DMCH by 2 men claiming to be government officials, they introduced themselves as officials belonging to the government’s `crisis committee.’ After praising her for being a committed activist from her student days they tried to talk her into leaving labour activism, into joining the present government; if she agreed, they said, she’d be rewarded by either being made a minister or by being nominated to (an unelected) woman MP seat. Mishu refused, when they kept insisting, Mishu wanted to know whether it was permissible for them to be applying such pressure on her. Before leaving, they threatened her outright by saying that if she did not follow their advice, she would be persecuted further, that the repression would increase. Their advice, they said, was for her own `good.’

These men were there for a long time, police personnel present did not hinder them in any manner (Mishu, as you know, is under 24-hrs police surveillance); this is in stark contrast to the treatment being meted out to her family members since she was granted bail in two cases in CMM court. Since then, police surveillance has been enforced more stringently: some family members have not been allowed more than 1-2 mts, others, 5-10 mts, whereas police have hovered around to catch every single word uttered.

Similar incidents — of `persuading’ Mishu to join Sheikh Hasina’s government — took place during her in remand at DB headquarters (this was reported in AHRC’s appeal).

PROTEST NEWS:

During prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to Britain (Jan 25-29, 2011), TWIG (The Worker’s Interest Group) organised a demonstration outside Hilton hotel on January 28, 2011 demanding the release of all garment workers and leaders including Moshrefa Mishu, ensuring the enforcement of fire safety regulations at factories so that workers are not burned to death, fixing the minimum wage at Tk 5,000 and ensuring its implementation by factory-owners, an immediate halt to the government’s persecution and repression of garment workers, of acting on behalf of garment owners to further the latter’s interests. When the protestors wanted to hand in a memorandum listing their demands to the prime minister, the police outside the hotel relayed the message that it should be handed over to the Bangladesh High Commission. The protestors re-grouped outside the High Commission, held another protest, and handed in their memorandum. Those present at the demo included Wali Rahman, Mostafa Farook, Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Monjulika Jamali, Shahriar bin Ali, Dibakor Mollik.

Protestors holding placards outside the Bangladesh High Commission in London, "Free garment workers leaders Moshrefa Mishu NOW!" organised by The Workers Interest Group, January 28, 2011. Photographer unknown

Lord Eric Avebury, vice-chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (includes members of both Houses) met the Prime Minister and raised the issue of the treatment of Moshrefa Mishu (along with other issues: the restrictions the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs proposed on future work by the International CHT Commission, improvements in the legislation on the war crimes trials, and extrajudicial killings by Rapid Action Battalion).

Odhikar, one of the leading human rights organisations in the country, notes in its Human Rights Monitoring Report: 1-31 January 2011,

“Garments workers leader Moshrefa Mishu is still behind bars since her arrest on December 13, 2010 for agitating the workers and fueling the protests and violence. Odhikar demands her immediate release.
“During the period of January 2011, 01 worker was killed, 114 workers were injured while protesting and 20 were injured while fire broke out in a factory, and 04 have been arrested.” (p. 14)
“Wages of the readymade garment workers must be paid in due time. The government should monitor the implementation of the tripartite agreement so that the owners of the garment factories regularly pay wages to the workers. Garments workers leader Moshrefa Mishu should be released immediately.” (p. 18)

Agnes Jongerius, president of FNV (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging), the largest trade union confederation in the Netherlands which represents 1.4 million workers has written to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh expressing her concern about Mishu’s arrest and detention, at the government’s failure to ensure a standard pay scale for the RMG workers, and urged him to “initiate a thorough investigation of the allegation of illegal arrest and arbitrary detention of Ms. Moshrefa Mishu and subsequent ill-treatment and denial of adequate medical treatment while under detention at the hands of the law-enforcement agencies. Ms. Mishu should immediately be released from arbitrary detention and afforded adequate compensation for the ill-treatment she was forced to suffer by the State-agents” (January 25, 2011).

The Triangle Fire Coalition is commemorating the Centennial of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire — the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York which took the lives of 146 workers, mostly immigrant women on March 25, 1911 — this year. The Coalition is spearheading commemorative events (activism, education, arts) for the Centennial and the establishment of a permanent memorial. http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/ Saydia Gulrukh (USA) tells me that one of her activist friends who is a member of the Coalition has informed her that the demand for Mishu’s freedom, and support for the garment workers movement in Bangladesh, will be included in the centennial’s programmes.

Twenty-two labour organisation leaders in a joint statement on Tuesday have demanded the immediate release of garment labour leaders including Mushrefa Mishu, Baharane Sultan Bahar and Ali Reza Raju. They have urged that a “congenial environment” should be established in the garment industries, and have pointed out that the government’s harassment and persecution of labour leaders and activists was negatively affecting the sector. The organisations include Bangladesh Garment Sramik Federation, Garment Sramik O Shilpa Rakkha Jatiya Mancha, Textiles Garment Workers Federation, Bangladesh Garment Sramik Karmachari Federation, Garment Sramik Trade Union Centre.

I would like to end today’s Update with the words of Rose Schneiderman, a leading American socialist and union activist who, at a memorial meeting of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire held in April 1911 had said, “every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us. Public officials have only words of warning to us — warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings.”

Her words ring true for Bangladesh’s garment workers and their leaders now, “unbearable conditions” are met with either “warnings” by public officials, or, much worse, as we see in the case of Mishu and other garment leaders, activists and workers.

In solidarity/r

ONLINE PETITIONS
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41542.html#fbbox
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3627/
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41684.html
http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=846

January 27 2011 1:00 PM

Dear friends,

UPDATE: Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), had a second MRI done on January 25, 2011. The examination was conducted at Jatiyo Chokkhu Bigyan Institute Hospital (JCBIH) in Agargaon on the referral of DMCH doctors; she was taken from Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH, where she is hospitalised) to JCBIH on a stretcher, in an ambulance, under police custody.

Despite being unable to sit upright in a wheelchair, let alone stand up unassisted for more than a few seconds (walking is out of the question) because of sharp and severe back pain, only a few medical practitioners at DMCH are sympathetic toward her; most of them treat her coldly, while some are downright harsh; a female doctor has, on several occasions, accused Mishu of `faking’ illness. Generally, doctors continue to threaten to discharge her despite her medical condition, they advise Mishu to `go home,’ to take rest and get better, but when her attendants point out that being discharged will not mean that she is `free’ to go home because of her (illegal) arrest/remand, they say, `Our doors are always open for you.’

In other words, while it is correct that Mishu is in hospital, and is being attended to, the claim that she is receiving `proper medical treatment’ is far from the truth. The threat of discharge hangs over her head, she is constantly reminded of it, it creates tremendous mental pressure on her which obviously, thwarts the healing process. She is also under 24 hr police surveillance.

Ain o Salish Kendra, professor Mesbah Kamal and myself had been co-signatories to a letter (January 13, 2011) urgently appealing to the National Human Rights Commission to intervene re: threat to Mishu’s health and custodial ill-treatment. The NHCR has informed us (letter dated 18.1.2011) that it has contacted the relevant authorities and has requested them to bear Mishu’s health in mind, but it has not taken any pro-active action on her behalf, and this is a matter of grave concern for us. We had expected that Dr Mizan, chairman of the Commission, and/or members of the Commission would take the trouble to visit Mishu in hospital since they have been fully informed about the dynamics of the case — govt’s intervention in the judicial process, pressure on medical personnel — but it hasn’t happened. Despite Mishu’s case being exactly the kind of case that furthers the NHCR’s reason for existence — her arrest/remand is a clear violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution, the charges against her are clearly fabricated, the procedures are full of anomalies (for instance, remand petitions made by the police were not on prescribed forms but on plain paper which is illegal and should not have been accepted by the magistrates; interrogating officers insisted that she sign blank sheets of paper; they threatened to `disappear’ her, see AHRC appeal).

This raises the question, is there government pressure on the NHCR, too?

Bail hearings are expected today (January 27, 2010) in the district court, if it is not successful lawyers for Mishu will move the High Court this coming week. Given the massive support that this campaign has generated both nationally and internationally from labour rights and human rights groups, and also from individuals with a social conscience, given the public apeals, and most importantly, the fact that the government’s case doesn’t have a leg to stand on legally, we are expecting positive outcomes.

Since my last Update (January 17, 2011), a lot has happened in terms of solidarity action and networking:

Professionals, women's rights activists and general citizens form a human chain in front of the National Press Club on Friday January 21, 2011 demanding the immediate release of garment workers' leader Moshrefa Mishu.

1. A human chain was held in front of the National Press Club, Dhaka on Friday January 21, 2011, from 2:00-3:15, and on the road in front of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy from 3:30 to 4:00. It was organised under the rubric of Writers-Teachers-Artists-Workers-and-Citizens (the same group which had organised December 18, 2010 protest rally held at Dhaka University, TSC island). Copies of postcards with Mishu’s photo underwritten by the demand `Free garment workers leader Moshrefa Mishu NOW!’ (see attachment), and leaflets detailing the garment workers movement and government repression were distributed among passersby; signatures to online petitions demanding Mishu’s immediate release were collected on site through a laptop with modem connection.

NEWS REPORT:
Mishu’s Release Demanded
Bangladesh: Moshrefa Mishu’s immediate release sought

PHOTOS:

Prominent rights activist Khushi Kabir and her husband Kamal Uddin signing AHCR's online appeal for labour rights activist Moshrefa Mishu

2. Many letters fom workers’ and human rights groups protesting Mishu’s arrest, and the government’s suppression of the garment workers’ movement have poured in; many of these directly faxed/e-mailed to government leaders and high ranking officials; other bodies too have expressed their concern at the government’s onslaught on garment workers:

– Letter from Dr. Isabel Zorn (Denmark) to the prime minister expressing shock at the Bangladesh government’s treatment of Mishu, urging the PM to support Mishu’s work and to ensure that she gets fair treatment (January 18, 2011)

– Letter from the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) to NHRC Chairman appealing for urgent intervention regarding threat of health and custodial ill treatment of M Mishu (dated Jan 21, 2011)

– Letters from British, Danish, Dutch and Norwegian representatives of the Clean Clothes Campaign (an international network of more than 300 NGOs, trade unions and civil society organisations, which aims to support garment workers’ efforts worldwide to defend their rights) to prime minister Sheikh Hasina; Minister of Foreign Affairs; Minister of Industries; Minister of Home Affairs; Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; the Inspector General of Police; and the Commissioner (Dhaka Metropolitan Police) — expressing serious concern regarding the unjust detention of Moshrefa Mishu (dated Jan 21, 2011)

– A high profile seminar on Bangladesh titled’ Bangladesh at Cross Roads’ was held at the House of Lords on Jan 24, 2011, organised by the International Bangladesh Foundation and chaired by Lord Avebury, the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, it was attended by dozens of MPs, MEPs, Lords, representatives of human rights organisations, academics and members of overseas diplomatic missions based in London. The issue of garment workers, and the recent government crackdown against public protests and organised demands was discussed, according to the IBF’s press release, “While demanding further increases in the monthly minimum wage, many garment workers were arrested, and some were allegedly beaten while in custody.” It also mentions the government’s decision to strip Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), an internationally respected labour rights group, of its nongovernmental organization status, the arrests of its top leaders on unsubstantiated charges of incitement connected to worker disturbances in late July, and the public statement of two BCWS leaders’ that they were tortured while in police custody.

– A press release by Civil Labour groups in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) “strongly” criticising the Bangladesh government for “brutally” suppressing workers protests at Korean-owned Youngone Corporation (located in Chittagong EPZ; Youngone incidentally, is the biggest garment factory in Bangladesh) on 12-13 December 2010, police firing led to the deaths of 4; it expresses special concern at Mishu’s detention and custodial ill treatment since it happened soon after the 12-13 December 2010 protests, at Mishu’s illegal detention, the denial of “proper medical treatment.” It calls on the Bangladesh government, afflicted by “anti-human -rights capital attraction fever,” to make “efforts to improve the severe working conditions of workers” instead of repressing them. According to the press release, the Korean government too, should take “responsibility” for Mishu’s case since Korean companies are “taking advantage of the Bangladesh government’s low wage policy and anti-union policy” and thereby contributing to the “vulnerability” of garment workers in Bangladesh. It urges the Korean government to “sincerely study the causes behind the massive labour demonstration,” to ensure that “Korean companies are not involved in human rights abuses against Bangladesh workers.” It states, “Mishu’s suffering cannot be separated from ours and we will strongly fight for Mishu with solidarity.” (Jan 26, 2011)

The signatories to the statement are: Altogether, Ansan Immigrant Center, Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links Corea, Catholic Guri Namyanju Migrant Center, CHANG: Korea Human Rights Reserch Centre, Committee to support imprisoned workers, Daejeon Association for Foreign Laborers, Daejeon MOYSE (Migrants Center on based Catholic),
Democratic Workers’ Solidarity, Friends of Asia, Gumi Catholic Workers’ Center, Human Rights Welfare Organization for Migrant Workers, Korea Migrant Workers’ Human Rights Center, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Korean House for International Solidarity, Korean Progressive Labor Network, Migrant Labor Center in Gyeongsan,
Migrants’ Trade Union, Network for Glocal Activism, Network for Migrants’ Rights, Osan Laborer`s & Migrant`s Shelter, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, People’s Solidarity for Social progress, Public Interest Lawyers Group ‘Gonggam,’ Pusan Missionary Association for Foreign Labor, Ronel Chakma Nani, Solidarity with Migrants, Window of Asia, Yang San Migrant Worker’s House.

A protest was held outside the Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul on January 26, 2011 demanding Mishu’s release (see attached photo, and press statement).

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is curently in Britain on a 5 day official visit (Jan 25-29, 2011), and I believe demonstrations are to be organised by TWIG (The Worker’s Interest Group) and other groups, outside the Bangladesh Embassy and other venues, against the government’s crackdown on garment workers and their leaders, against Mishu’s illegal arrest, and also, Sheikh Hasina’s reneging on promises made earlier (September 6, 2006), as leader of the opposition, when she had expressed full support and solidarity with the `Phulbari agreement’ (including banning open pit coal mining and ousting Asia Energy/Global Coal Managment), had demanded its full implementation, and had committed to do it if voted to power (For those interested to know more, see People’s Resistance to Global Capital and Government Collaboration is Vindicated).

Some earlier news now of public petitions and statements of support:

– The Worker’s Interest group (TWIG) in UK, in their online petition to the prime minister (Release Moshrefa Mishu, President of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, Dec 30, 2010) have submitted a 3-point proposal for urgent action (i) to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Mushrefa Mishu, withdraw the false accusations and false court cases which the government has instituted against her, and ensure that her personal safety be fully guaranteed (ii) to immediately institute a comprehensive review of safety provisions in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Measures should be taken to ensure life security for the country’s 3,5 million garment workers (iii) to change gear. Instead of allowing the garment owners to dilly-dally with implementation of pay raises, – the government should use all its power to ensure that garment workers henceforth receive a living wage, i.e. minimum 5000.- Taka per month.

– Maquila Solidarity Network (www.maquilasolidarity.org) wrote to the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Canada, expressing “serious concern” at Mishu’s unjust detention, adding that scape-goating those who are “fighting for labour and human rights continues to reflect negatively on the international reputation of your country.” (Dec 23, 2010)

– LabourStart in their campaign “Bangladesh: Free Moshrefa Mishu” have urged the Bangladesh government to intervene and “immediately release” Mishu, to drop the “fabricated charges” against her.
LabourStart, Urgent appeal: Jailed woman trade union leader in Bangladesh
RECENT WRITINGS:
William Gomes, Military Intelligence Behind the Illegal Arrest of Bangladeshi Labor Rights Activist, Sri Lanka Guardian, 17 January, 2011

Rahnuma Ahmed, LIVING WAGES FOR GARMENT WORKERS. Women’s Empowerment and State Repression, New Age, January 24, 2011

ONLINE PETITIONS
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41542.html#fbbox
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3627/
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41684.html
http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=846

The struggle for Mishu’s release is far from over. The struggle for ensuring the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers to living wages and safe and secure working conditions is far from over. We cannot rest until then.

In solidarity/r

—————————————————————

On Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 9:04 PM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Dear friends,

UPDATE: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has put online an appeal to the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Minister of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Attorney General of Bangladesh, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), and the Commissioner Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) protesting against the arbitrary detention fabricated charges against Moshrefa Mishu, labour rights activist.

Please sign it, right now, and circulate it as widely as possible. Instructions on how to sign AHRC’s Appeal are available in this letter (see below), and also on the webpage: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3627/

BANGLADESH: Labour rights activist arbitrarily detained and charged in three fabricated cases

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police illegally arrested a female labour rights activist named Ms. Moshrefa Mishu (46) on 14 December 2010. She has been arbitrarily detained in three fabricated criminal charges since her arrest. Ms. Moshrefa Mishu, is a leftist political activist and President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), a labor rights organization of the readymade garment factories of the country. She has been ill-treated and threatened with death or disappeared while in detention. The police have shown her arrested in three fabricated cases and remanded her for three days on different occasions. Mishu’s health condition has deteriorated as a result of ill-treatment and the subsequent denial of adequate medical treatment by politically-motivated doctors while in detention. Please intervene in this case by insisting the Government of Bangladesh ensure the required treatment and her release from the arbitrary detention.

Please follow the link
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3627/
And you will find a blue button send an appeal letter ,click and follow the process , write your name , email address and country and then click on preview. And then click on send emails – the email will go – Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Chief Justice of Bangladesh,Law Minister of Bangladesh,Home Minister of Bangladesh,Chairman of National Human Rights Commission,Inspector General of Police,Commissioner of DMP.

Asian Human Rights Commission has already written separate letters to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteurs on Independent of Judges and Lawyers and Violence Against Women requesting their prompt interventions in this case.

On Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 12:58 AM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Dear friends,

2011 Ingreji Nobo Borsho greetings to all (for those who don’t know, Bangladeshis celebrate their New Year in mid-April)!!

UPDATE: Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is still hospitalised (DMCH) and is suffering from severe back pain. Her sisters tell me that she was helped out of bed today (December 4, 2011) so that the mattress could be turned over but after she was led to a chair and tried to sit on it, she suffered from shooting back pains, screamed and keeled over. She had to be helped back into bed almost immediately.

Doctors say she is also suffering from acute exaggeration of bronchial asthma and I have learnt from Jebu and Shormi, her sisters, that while in remand at the Detective Branch headquarters, the only space that was made available for Mishu to lie on (when she was not being interrogated which occurred at all times of the day and night) was on the floor, right next to the office desks of low-ranking DB personnel. That there was constant chatter, verbal abuse directed at her, constant walking to and fro which would raise clouds of dust, which she was forced to inhale. Mishu told her sisters that she would hold the end of her sari to her nose to minimise the whiffs of dust but was not very successful, as there were too many feet shuffling past constantly.

Mishu is being given rather heavy medication to lessen her pain so that traction can be started, but as of today, there seem to be few signs of abatement.

The National Committee for the Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in a Press Conference (On U.S. Embassy’s Pressure and its Despicable Actions regarding Bangladesh’s Energy Resources) held at Mukti Bhaban, 30 December 2010, demanded the immediate release of Moshrefa Mishu, illegally arrested and subjected to torture, and also, the release of all other political leaders and workers.

The Ganotantrik Baam Morcha held a press conference today/4th January 2010, demanding Mishu’s immediate release, the withdrawal of remand, and an end to political repression. They expressed their alarm at the escalation of political violence, the government’s crackdown on workers and their leaders, killings, fabricated police cases, sexual violence, acid attacks, and oppression of both religious and ethnic minorities.

In my last update (Wednesday December 29, 2010) I had mentioned campaigns of disinformation that slander those who fight against oppression and injustice. I thank friends for having forwarded me this link to a piece entitled “The US ambassador and a Moshrefa Mishu,” written by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor Blitz (tabloid), December 31, 2010 http://www.weeklyblitz.net/1199/the-us-ambassador-and-a-moshrefa-mishu

It refers to Mishu as “a female hooligan” who is “actively involved in [a] series of notorious activities aimed at sabotaging [the] country’s textile and readymade garment sectors” and castigates professor Anu Muhammad (misspelt Anu Mahmud throughout) for having demanded her release. Anu, for those who don’t know, is member secretary of the National Committee for the Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. It has a photograph of Anu being visited in hospital (yes, he too, had to be hospitalised, after having been the target of police attacks during a peaceful demonstration) by the leader of the opposition, Khaleda Zia, and those interested in further details, will find it mentioned in one of my more recent columns http://www.shahidulnews.com/2010/12/wikileaks-bangladesh-i/
and greater details, in an older one http://www.shahidulnews.com/2009/11/doctoral-complicity-in-state-terror/

Shoaib Choudhury, the author of “…a Moshrefa Mishu” writes, “Interestingly, following the arrest of Moshrefa Mishu, anarchism and vandalism in the textile and readymade garment sectors by unruly workers have totally stopped.” This is not true as garment workers have recently taken to the streets yet again, in their demand for living wages, and safe and secure workplaces.

Those interested to learn more about Shoaib Choudhury, the writer, will find some information here, in my latest column, http://www.shahidulnews.com/2011/01/wikileaks-bangladesh-ii/

The Daily Sun, a new English daily, has done a cover story on workers’ unrest in the Ready Made Garment sector in Unseen, one of its weekly magazines. Mishu’s photograph is on the front cover. There are two stories inside, and here are the details and links,

Khairul Kuader, “Fight for existence,” cover story, Unseen. The Daily Sun, 26 December 2010, p. 8-13. Cover photograph, Mishu in hospital
http://www.daily-sun.com/epaper/?pub_date=2010/12/26&archiev=yes&arch_date=26-12-2010&swf_hgt=550&file_name=tab_1

Omar Gias, Untold Sufferings of RMG Workers, Spotlight, Unseen, The Daily Sun, p. 14-16 http://www.daily-sun.com/epaper/?pub_date=2010/12/26&archiev=yes&arch_date=26-12-2010&swf_hgt=550&file_name=tab_1

Last year’s struggles against oppression and injustice have to be carried forward into this year too, for we cannot rest as long as workers are treated like slaves. As long as those who fight for them, are imprisoned.

In solidarity/r
________________________________

On Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 3:04 AM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Dear friends,

A Medical Board at Dhaka Medical College Hospital where Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is hospitalised, met today (Wed, Dec 29, 2010) to review her health. Mishu was carried to the Board meeting on a stretcher where doctors examined her, and reviewed her MRI report and blood test results. They have advised complete bed rest for 2 weeks, at the end of which they will operate on her, for her spinal injury.

Noted Indian litterateur Mahasveta Devi, in a personal letter (Dec 27, 2010) to Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, appealed that Mishu, who was arrested without a warrant on Dec 14, 2010 should received “justice.” Mahasveta Devi wrote, I am “deeply perturbed” at news of Mishu’s arrest because she is fighting in the “interests of garment workers” and is “severely ill.” I request you to look into the matter personally.

I myself had a long conversation with Jebunnessa (Mishu’s younger sister, with whom Mishu lives) and Shormi (youngest sister) today (Dec 29, 2010). They said, Mishu has told them that after being picked up from her house on Dec 14, 2010 the microbus, in which she and and DB personnel were being transported, drove around the dark streets of Dhaka for more than an hour before turning and driving over to the DB office in Minto road.

Picking up targeted persons and driving around before staging “crossfire” deaths (extra-judicial killings) is the hallmark of RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) which has been termed a “government death squad” by Human Rights Watch (Dec 14, 2006). One of her sister’s alerted print and electronic media right after Mishu was taken away, she also passed on the mobile number of the head of the DB contingent to members of the media, who immediately sprang into action.

Disinformation about Mishu, other garment worker leaders, and also, I take this opportunity to mention, political activists struggling to assert national control and ownership of oil, gas and mineral resources, is rampant. At the first court hearing, the Investigating Officer had informed the court that Mishu’s assets are being investigated because she is known to travel around in a 1 crore taka car, to own 2 flats in Dhaka city (Dhanmondi, Banani). Another planted story, which some dailies are reported to have published is that Mishu, and two other respected garment worker leaders, Shirin Akhter and Montu Ghosh, received 4.5 crore taka from factory owners. Rumana Hashem from London tells me that just before Christmas, some activist groups based abroad were told that Mishu has been “released.” I would like to remind everyone that in the second court hearing, police prayed to the court for further remand on the grounds that Mishu had allegedly been seen in a Jamaat-e-Islami leader’s car, taht it required investigation. Needless to say, all these stories are FALSE, they are part of a vicious campaign by powerful quarters to slander and malign people fighting for just causes against many odds.

Jebunnessa and Shormi request me to THANK YOU for your support and solidarity, they emphasise that your prompt response and continuing assistance, means more than you can ever imagine.

In solidarity/r

http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41542.html#fbbox
ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

_______________________________________________

On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Dear friends,

Bad news. The CMM court rejected the bail petitions of Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, in 2 cases filed for `vandalism’ and `instigating garment workers’ yesterday (Mon 27 Dec 2010). You’ll find more details here (pls scroll down) `Mishu’s bail prayers rejected’ http://www.newagebd.com/2010/dec/28/nat.html

More bad news: Mishu’s health has not improved much since I last wrote, although she no longer has fever, her breathing difficulties have returned, and she is being given nebuliser more frequently. Her heart palpitation is constant, and she is suffering severely from her back pain which was caused by her spinal injury.

Protests: A demonstration demanding her release was held in front of the National Press Club today (Tue 28 Dec 2010). Speakers included CPB president Manjurul Ahsan Khan, professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, writer Syed Moksud Ali, professor Anu Muhammad and others. Photo here http://bdnews24.com/photo.php

I request you to join in the protest, and to keep protesting in whatever way you can, whether by contacting labour rights and human rights organisations, chatting about it to others (family members, friends, colleagues), writing articles or sending letters to newspapers, posting messages on noticeboards etc.

You can also fwd this online petition to others who want to express their solidarity with Mishu and all other leaders and workers fighting for living wages and safe and secure workplaces in the garment industry in Bangladesh:
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41542.html#fbbox
ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

In solidarity/r

PS: More than 2 and 1/2 years ago, on the occasion of 8th March International Women’s Day, I had written about the struggles of women garment workers in Bangladesh, where I had interviewed Mishu. If you are interested, you will find the article at this link:
`She had a dream..’ Published in New Age, 8 March 2008
http://www.shahidulnews.com/2008/03/she-had-a-dream/

___________________________________________

On Sun, Dec 26, 2010 at 6:17 PM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Dear friends,

Hello, I’m sorry for not having sent my regular updates for the last two days, caused by writing deadlines.

Moshrefa Mishu’s health has worsened. Her back pain from a spinal injury has increased. She has constant fever, her heart palpitation has increased and medicine, her youngest sister tells me, is not alleviating her condition.

Police who keep her under close watch have begun behaving very badly with her family members and her organisation’s colleagues. Since Friday afternoon, 24 December 2010, they have begun shouting and using abusive language. Only one attendant is permitted to sit beside her, no one else, not even her sisters are allowed to approach her bed, or to speak with her, whether in person, or over the mobile phone.

We are deeply alarmed, both at her worsened health while in hospital, while receiving medical care and attention, and at the changed behaviour of the police on duty, overtly aggressive and abusive, that too, towards a person who has been hospitalised, that too, in a woman’s ward in a government hospital where there are other patients, most of them severely ill, since hospital authorities generally discharge a patient as s/he improves due to scarce resources and pressure for beds, medical attention and treatment.

Left political alliances held protest rallies on Friday, December 24, 2010 in front of the National Press Club, Dhaka, demanding the immediate release of Moshrefa Mishu, and Bahrane Sultan Bahar, president, Jago Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Federation. Speakers said, arresting labour leaders would not contain labour unrest, acceding to living wages and trade union rights would.

Letters of solidarity have been pouring in from both organisations and groups committed to workers rights, and individuals, both at home and abroad who are aghast and angry at the government’s repression of workers and their leaders, who are struggling hard for a bare minimum.

Please keep passing the message around, and also, pls fwd the online petition as widely as you can.
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41542.html#fbbox
ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

In solidarity/rahnuma

_____________

On Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 3:33 AM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Hello friends,
Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is still in hospital. Her medical condition is largely unchanged, as is the strict and constant police surveillance within which she is confined.

For those who may not know, a clarification: her two-day remand period is suspended while she is in hospital, which means that she will be back in remand as soon as she gets a bit better and is discharged from the hospital. The threat of a quick discharge as a punitive measure hangs over her, and the High Court being in recession until January 2, 2011, delays our attempts of seeking a legal reprieve.

It is in this situation that we are attempting to overcome the odds stacked against her. And overcome, we must, for it is part of the garment workers’ struggle for a betterment of their living conditions, of their lives.

In solidarity/r

——-

On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 4:31 AM, rahnuma ahmed wrote:
Hi!

Another brief Update: Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is in DMCH, her MRI test was not, as expected, carried out today. Her asthma is under control, but her back pain is still unbearably bad. She has also developed fever.

A police contingent of 7-8, went to GWUF office at midday looking for its `leaders.’ They did not find any, and left.

We are extremely worried that Mishu might be released from hospital soon, that further prayers for remand may be made by the police, that they may well be granted. I have already indicated that the government seems to be obstructing the judicial process.

If further remand is granted — besides being absolutely outrageous since her arrest itself is illegal (without a warrant) — it will be particularly disastrous since Mishu’s health is very weak and frail at the moment.

Please do everything you can to bring public pressure on the government to release Mishu, all other leaders and workers immediately, and to take all possible action to ensure that workers are paid decent wages, and work in a safe and secure work-environment.

A petition has gone online today demanding Mishu’s freedom, I am forwarding the link, and also, for those of you interested, links to articles/News releases/Protest statement concerning the ongoing struggles of Bangladesh’s garment workers. It is by no means a comprehensive list, I would be happy if you fwd-ed me any other link/s that you know of so that we can build an online archive of the Bangladeshi garment workers movement for a Living Wage.

“I am because we are.” Ubuntu/African concept

rahnuma ahmed
writer, columnist New Age
rahnumaa@gmail.com

January 14 2011

Dear friends,

I’m terribly sorry for the long delay which was caused by wanting to give more news from this end.

Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum was arrested in the early hours of December 14, 2010, which means it has been one month since.

UPDATE: Mishu is still hospitalised (DMCH), and is nearly as ill as before.

Since my last update, Mishu has been given traction thrice but from what I’ve learnt, it had to be stopped because her pain was too severe for the treatment to continue.

Barrister Sara Hossain went to DMCH several days ago, she told me she was `shocked’ to see Mishu’s condition and at the harrowing details of her remand.

The Medical Board is reportedly reconvening on Monday, January 17, 2011. We are worried that Mishu might be discharged from hospital (DMCH). This would undoubtedly be absurd, and no less horrifying, as she is unable to walk, and if remanded would have to be carried there on a stretcher.

Court hearings *appealing for revoking the 2-day remand which is currently suspended as Mishu lies in hospital under police custody and *seeking bail, will hopefully take place next week (for those who don’t know Friday is the weekly holiday). I promise to keep you posted.

Supreme Court lawyers’ have demanded that Mishu should be released immediately, among 138 signatories are included former Supreme Court judges Syed Amirul Islam, AKM Shafiuddin, senior lawyers Shahdeen Malik, Kazi Abdul Khaleque, Zakir Hossain and Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan. Barrister Sadia Arman was behind the initiative. This has been reported in today’s (January 14, 2011) New Age (Release of Mishu demanded) http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/national/5046.html and also in the Daily Sun (Release of RMG workers’ leader Moshrefa Mishu demanded) but I’m afraid only in it’s print version.

Women leaders including professor Latifa Akand, Hameeda Hossain, Khushi Kabir, Shirin Huq, Salma Ali, Rowshan ara Rusho, Farida Akhter are signatories to a statement demanding Mishu’s immediate release. The statement says that Mishu’s arrest is “deeply insulting to women’s leadership,” that Mishu has been fighting for workers rights for many years, that whoever raises their voice strongly on behalf of workers rights is inevitably subjected to repressive measures, and that despite widespread protests against Mishu’s arrest and remand, if she is to be further remanded it will be a severe violation of human rights. Farida Akhter (UBINIG) was behind this initiative. News of the statement has been reported in today’s (January 14, 2011) New Age http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/national/5046.html Daily Sun (print version only) and Prothom Alo (Sromiknetri Mishur Mukti daabi) http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2011-01-14/news/123460 Re: “women’s leadership” it is particularly pertinent because the present prime minister, Sheikh Hasina boasts of female leadership at the topmost levels (beside herself, the leader of the opposition, deputy leader of the house, home minister, foreign minister, agriculture minister, labour minister, and women and child affairs minister, “are all women”).

Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK), a leading human rights organisation, has sent an urgent letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Thursday January 13, 2011, urging their intervention on grounds of threat to Mishu’s health and custodial ill treatment. The letter says, “…the manner in which Mushrefa Mishu was arrested and placed on remand is wholly unconstitutional and in violation of fundamental rights to be treated in accordance with law, to personal liberty and to freedom from cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment, and in clear breach of the High Court’s guidelines in BLAST and others v Bangladesh reported at 55 DLR 363 regarding the manner of exercise of the powers of arrest without warrant and remand by the police and by Magistrates respectively under section 54 and 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. …We believe that Mishu is at risk of suffering a grave and irreparable danger to her health if she is again taken into police remand at this stage.” Besides ASK, other signatories are professor Mesbah Kamal, department of History, Dhaka University, and myself.

The Chairman of the Commission is Dr Mizanur Rahman, and its noted members are: writer Selina Hossain, PRIP Trust exec director Aroma Dutta, lawyer Fawzia Karim. The NHRC’s role in securing the release of trade union leader advocate Montu Ghosh was commendable and I request you to get in touch with NHRC, to highlight the violation of human rights in Mishu’s case so that she is released immediately and not subjected to further custodial ill-treatment.

Lamppost, a group of social activists had organised a protest rally on Dhaka University campus last week against Mishu’s arrest and remand, but students reportedly belonging to the ruling party prevented them from holding the programme by causing chaos and disruption.

More recently, Taslima Akhter’s article about the injustices faced by garment workers in Bangladesh, “Ulto rajar deshe sromikder mrittu poroana ebong andolonkari sromiknetader greftar ar remand” (A topsy-turvy world where workers die and their leaders are arrested and remanded) was published in Shaptahik Budhbar, January 13, 2011 http://budhbar.com/?p=4041

The struggle for Mishu’s release is far from over. The struggle for ensuring the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers to living wages and safe and secure working conditions is far from over. We cannot rest until then.

In solidarity/r

January 4 2011

Dear friends,

2011 Ingreji Nobo Borsho greetings to all  (for those who don’t know, Bangladeshis celebrate their New Year in mid-April)!!

UPDATE: Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is still hospitalised (DMCH) and is suffering from severe back pain. Her sisters tell me that she was helped out of bed today (December 4, 2011) so that the mattress could be turned over but after she was led to a chair and tried to sit on it, she suffered from shooting back pains, screamed and keeled over. She had to be helped back into bed almost immediately.

Doctors say she is also suffering from acute exaggeration of bronchial asthma and I have learnt from Jebu and Shormi, her sisters, that while in remand at the Detective Branch headquarters, the only space that was made available for Mishu to lie on (when she was not being interrogated which occurred at all times of the day and night) was on the floor, right next to the office desks of low-ranking DB personnel. That there was constant chatter, verbal abuse directed at her, constant walking to and fro which would raise clouds of dust, which she was forced to inhale. Mishu told her sisters that she would hold the end of her sari to her nose to minimise the whiffs of dust but was not very successful, as there were too many feet shuffling past constantly.

Mishu is being given rather heavy medication to lessen her pain so that traction can be started, but as of today, there seem to be few signs of abatement.

The National Committee for the Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in a  Press Conference (On U.S. Embassy’s Pressure and its Despicable Actions regarding Bangladesh’s Energy Resources) held at Mukti Bhaban, 30 December 2010, demanded the immediate release of Moshrefa Mishu, illegally arrested and subjected to torture, and also, the release of all other political leaders and workers.

The Ganotantrik Baam Morcha held a press conference today/4th January 2010, demanding Mishu’s immediate release, the withdrawal of remand, and an end to political repression. They expressed their alarm at the escalation of political violence, the government’s crackdown on workers and their leaders, killings, fabricated police cases, sexual violence, acid attacks, and oppression of both religious and ethnic minorities.

In my last update (Wednesday December 29, 2010) I had mentioned campaigns of disinformation that slander those who fight against oppression and injustice. I thank friends for having forwarded me this link to a piece entitled “The US ambassador and a Moshrefa Mishu,” written by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor Blitz (tabloid), December 31, 2010 http://www.weeklyblitz.net/1199/the-us-ambassador-and-a-moshrefa-mishu

It refers to Mishu as “a female hooligan” who is “actively involved in [a] series of notorious activities aimed at sabotaging [the] country’s textile and readymade garment sectors” and castigates professor Anu Muhammad (misspelt Anu Mahmud throughout) for having demanded her release. Anu, for those who don’t know, is member secretary of the National Committee for the Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. It has a photograph of Anu being visited in hospital (yes, he too, had to be hospitalised, after having been the target of police attacks during a peaceful demonstration) by the leader of the opposition, Khaleda Zia, and those interested in further details, will find it mentioned in one of my more recent columns http://www.shahidulnews.com/2010/12/wikileaks-bangladesh-i/

and greater details, in an older one http://www.shahidulnews.com/2009/11/doctoral-complicity-in-state-terror/

Shoaib Choudhury, the author of “…a Moshrefa Mishu” writes, “Interestingly, following the arrest of Moshrefa Mishu, anarchism and vandalism in the textile and readymade garment sectors by unruly workers have totally stopped.” This is not true as garment workers have recently taken to the streets yet again, in their demand for living wages, and safe and secure workplaces.

Those interested to learn more about Shoaib Choudhury, the writer, will find some information here, in my latest column, http://www.shahidulnews.com/2011/01/wikileaks-bangladesh-ii/

The Daily Sun, a new English daily, has done a cover story on workers’ unrest in the Ready Made Garment sector in Unseen, one of its weekly magazines. Mishu’s photograph is on the front cover. There are two stories inside, and here are the details and links,

Khairul Kuader, “Fight for existence,” cover story, Unseen. The Daily Sun, 26 December 2010, p. 8-13. Cover photograph, Mishu in hospital

http://www.daily-sun.com/epaper/?pub_date=2010/12/26&archiev=yes&arch_date=26-12-2010&swf_hgt=550&file_name=tab_1

Omar Gias, Untold Sufferings of RMG Workers, Spotlight, Unseen, The Daily Sun, p. 14-16 http://www.daily-sun.com/epaper/?pub_date=2010/12/26&archiev=yes&arch_date=26-12-2010&swf_hgt=550&file_name=tab_1

Last year’s struggles against oppression and injustice have to be carried forward into this year too, for we cannot rest as long as workers are treated like slaves. As long as those who fight for them, are imprisoned.

In solidarity/r

December 29, 2010


Dear friends,

A Medical Board at Dhaka Medical College Hospital where Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is hospitalised, met today (Wed, Dec 29, 2010) to review her health. Mishu was carried to the Board meeting on a stretcher where doctors examined her, and reviewed her MRI report and blood test results. They have advised complete bed rest for 2 weeks, at the end of which they will operate on her, for her spinal injury.

Noted Indian litterateur Mahasveta Devi, in a personal letter (Dec 27, 2010) to Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, appealed that Mishu, who was arrested without a warrant on Dec 14, 2010 should received “justice.” Mahasveta Devi wrote, I am “deeply perturbed” at news of Mishu’s arrest because she is fighting in the “interests of garment workers” and is “severely ill.” I request you to look into the matter personally.

I myself had a long conversation with Jebunnessa (Mishu’s younger sister, with whom Mishu lives) and Shormi (youngest sister) today (Dec 29, 2010). They said, Mishu has told them that after being picked up from her house on Dec 14, 2010 the microbus, in which she and and DB personnel were being transported, drove around the dark streets of Dhaka for more than an hour before turning and driving over to the DB office in Minto road.

Picking up targeted persons and driving around before staging “crossfire” deaths (extra-judicial killings) is the hallmark of RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) which has been termed a “government death squad” by Human Rights Watch (Dec 14, 2006). One of her sister’s alerted print and electronic media right after Mishu was taken away, she also passed on the mobile number of the head of the DB contingent to members of the media, who immediately sprang into action.

Disinformation about Mishu, other garment worker leaders, and also, I take this opportunity to mention, political activists struggling to assert national control and ownership of oil, gas and mineral resources, is rampant. At the first court hearing, the Investigating Officer had informed the court that Mishu’s assets are being investigated because she is known to travel around in a 1 crore taka car, to own 2 flats in Dhaka city (Dhanmondi, Banani). Another planted story, which some dailies are reported to have published is that Mishu, and two other respected garment worker leaders, Shirin Akhter and Montu Ghosh, received 4.5 crore taka from factory owners. Rumana Hashem from London tells me that just before Christmas, some activist groups based abroad were told that Mishu has been “released.” I would like to remind everyone that in the second court hearing, police prayed to the court for further remand on the grounds that Mishu had allegedly been seen in a Jamaat-e-Islami leader’s car, taht it required investigation. Needless to say, all these stories are FALSE, they are part of a vicious campaign by powerful quarters to slander and malign people fighting for just causes against many odds.

Jebunnessa and Shormi request me to THANK YOU for your support and solidarity, they emphasise that your prompt response and continuing assistance, means more than you can ever imagine.

In solidarity/r

ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

_______________________________________________

December 28, 2010

Dear friends,

Bad news. The CMM court rejected the bail petitions of Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, in 2 cases filed for `vandalism’ and `instigating garment workers’ yesterday (Mon 27 Dec 2010). You’ll find more details here (pls scroll down) `Mishu’s bail prayers rejected’ http://www.newagebd.com/2010/dec/28/nat.html

More bad news: Mishu’s health has not improved much since I last wrote, although she no longer has fever, her breathing difficulties have returned, and she is being given nebuliser more frequently. Her heart palpitation is constant, and she is suffering severely from her back pain which was caused by her spinal injury.

Protests: A demonstration demanding her release was held in front of the National Press Club today (Tue 28 Dec 2010). Speakers included CPB president Manjurul Ahsan Khan, professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, writer Syed Moksud Ali, professor Anu Muhammad and others. Photo here

I request you to join in the protest, and to keep protesting in whatever way you can, whether by contacting labour rights and human rights organisations, chatting about it to others (family members, friends,  colleagues), writing articles or sending letters to newspapers, posting messages on noticeboards etc.

You can also fwd this online petition to others who want to express their solidarity with Mishu and all other leaders and workers fighting for living wages and safe and secure workplaces in the garment industry in Bangladesh:

ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

In solidarity/r

PS: More than 2 and 1/2 years ago, on the occasion of 8th March International Women’s Day, I had written about the struggles of women garment workers in Bangladesh, where I had interviewed Mishu. If you are interested, you will find the article at this link:

`She had a dream..’ Published in New Age, 8 March 2008

December 26, 2010

Dear friends,

Hello, I’m sorry for not having sent my regular updates for the last two days, caused by writing deadlines.

Moshrefa Mishu’s health has worsened. Her back pain from a spinal injury has increased. She has constant fever, her heart palpitation has increased and medicine, her youngest sister tells me, is not alleviating her condition.

Police who keep her under close watch have begun behaving very badly with her family members and her organisation’s colleagues. Since Friday afternoon, 24 December 2010, they have begun shouting and using abusive language. Only one attendant is permitted to sit beside her, no one else, not even her sisters are allowed to approach her bed, or to speak with her, whether in person, or over the mobile phone.

We are deeply alarmed, both at her worsened health while in hospital, while receiving medical care and attention, and at the changed behaviour of the police on duty, overtly aggressive and abusive, that too, towards a person who has been hospitalised, that too, in a woman’s ward in a government hospital where there are other patients, most of them severely ill, since hospital authorities generally discharge a patient as s/he improves due to scarce resources and pressure for beds, medical attention and treatment.

Left political alliances held protest rallies on Friday, December 24, 2010 in front of the National Press Club, Dhaka, demanding the immediate release of Moshrefa Mishu, and Bahrane Sultan Bahar, president, Jago Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Federation. Speakers said, arresting labour leaders would not contain labour unrest, acceding to living wages and trade union rights would.

Letters of solidarity have been pouring in from both organisations and groups committed to workers rights, and individuals, both at home and abroad who are aghast and angry at the government’s repression of workers and their leaders, who are struggling hard for a bare minimum.

Please keep passing the message around, and also, pls fwd the online petition as widely as you can.

ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

In solidarity/rahnuma

December 23, 2010

Hello friends,

Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is still in hospital. Her medical condition is largely unchanged, as is the strict and constant police surveillance within which she is confined.

For those who may not know, a clarification: her two-day remand period is suspended while she is in hospital, which means that she will be back in remand as soon as she gets a bit better and is discharged from the hospital. The threat of a quick discharge as a punitive measure hangs over her, and the High Court being in recession until January 2, 2011, delays our attempts of seeking a legal reprieve.

It is in this situation that we are attempting to overcome the odds stacked against her. And overcome, we must, for it is part of the garment workers’ struggle for a betterment of their living conditions, of their lives.

In solidarity/r

December 22, 2010

Hi!

Another brief Update: Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is in DMCH, her MRI test was not, as expected, carried out today. Her asthma is under control, but her back pain is still unbearably bad. She has also developed fever.

A police contingent of 7-8, went to GWUF office at midday looking for its `leaders.’ They did not find any, and left.

We are extremely worried that Mishu might be released from hospital soon, that further prayers for remand may be made by the police, that they may well be granted. I have already indicated that the government seems to be obstructing the judicial process.

If further remand is granted — besides being absolutely outrageous since her arrest itself is illegal (without a warrant) — it will be particularly disastrous since Mishu’s health is very weak and frail at the moment.

Please do everything you can to bring public pressure on the government to release Mishu, all other leaders and workers immediately, and to take all possible action to ensure that workers are paid decent wages, and work in a safe and secure work-environment.

A petition has gone online today demanding Mishu’s freedom, I am forwarding the link, and also, for those of you interested, links to articles/News releases/Protest statement concerning the ongoing struggles of Bangladesh’s garment workers. It is by no means a comprehensive list, I would be happy if you fwd-ed me any other link/s that you know of so that we can build an online archive of the Bangladeshi garment workers movement for a Living Wage.

In solidarity/r

ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!

Published by Global Citizens for Human Rights on Dec 22, 2010

Anu Muhammad, Dollarer mojuder nichey chapa-pora manush. Poshak Shilpo. Prothom Alo, 21.12.2010

Farida Akhter, Garment sromikder betoner dabi o Moshrefa Mishur remand nie proshno, bdnews24.com bangla, December 21, 2010

Mubin S Khan, Wage wars, New Age Xtra, December 17-23, 2010

Rahnuma Ahmed, Imprisoned, or dead. Reflections on Victory Day, 2010, New Age

December 20, 2010

Rahnuma Ahmed, Moshrefa Mishu, illegally arrested and remanded. LIVING WAGES FOR GARMENT WORKERS, New Age, December 21, 2010

Moshrefa Mishu Hospitalised

December 21st, 2010

Signatories to the statement protesting the arrest of Moshrefa Mishu, garment workers leader

December 15th, 2010

Breaking News: Moshrefa Mishu taken on remand

December 14th, 2010

URGENT. Release Garment Workers Leader Moshrefa Mishu immediately, arrested on fabricated charges

December 14, 2010

Besides these, at www.wsws.org

W.A. Sunil and John Chan, Factory fire and police killings fuel discontent among Bangladeshi garment workers, 16 December 2010

Wimal Perera, Bangladesh police shoot striking garment workers

15 December 2010

Sarath Kumara, Garment workers in Bangladesh continue protests, 4 August 2010

Sarath Kumara, Bangladesh government cracks down on protesting garment workers

Wimal Perera, Bangladesh: Factory fire kills 21 garment workers, 4 March 2010

at www.socialistreview.org

Threads of resistance

In Perspective column by Yuri Prasad, September 2010

at www.maqwilasolidarity.org

Interview: the struggle of Bangladeshi garment workers

Shahida: The National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF, 1984), February 2, 2009

Links to many pieces posted on this web page. Fair wages and safe workplaces in Bangladesh.

Similarly so, many links are available on www.nosweat.org web page

Gallery. The Raveled Sleeve of Care. Photo by Taslima Akhter, 10.27.10

A project on Bangladesh garment industry and support for its workers initiated by Social Alterations:

In Solidarity // A letter of support for Bangladeshi garment workers

Monday, November 1, 2010

Social Altercations Twitter

Social Alterations Bangladesh Project

nadiralamrad,  Bangladesh// The Details, Thursday, July 29, 2010

Social Altercations Site

Many articles at the Clean Clothes Campaign‘s website, among them,

Action for safe factories in Bangladesh on 5th anniversary of Spectrum disaster

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Labour-Rights Organisations Demand Safety in Bangladesh Garment Industry.

Press Release. Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bangladesh: Stop Harassment and Intimidation of Apparel Worker Leaders

Campaign of Repression Against Effort to Organize Unions, Raise Wages, Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2010

December 21, 2010

Hello everyone,

A very brief Update tonight: Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is in DMCH. Her breathing difficulties, as I reported last night, have eased, she did not need any oxygen support but her back pain has increased, she is also suffering from severe pain in her legs, especially the lower part. An attempt to turn her, to prevent bed sores, has worsened her back pain.

I believe a medical board met today (Dec 21) and decided on further examination and treatment, she will undergo MRI and blood tests tomorrow (Dec 22).

Police surveillance is constant and close, 5-6 police officers, both men and women, are present in the ward, which is a woman’s ward. Plainclothes officers loiter outside the hospital entrance. I have also learnt that one of her cases came up for hearing in court today and the judge is reported to have said, she has every right to a bail but I am afraid I can’t give it.

This confirms our suspicions, which I had mentioned in an earlier Update (20 Dec), that political pressure is being applied to thwart the judicial process.

Many labour and human rights organisations, and also individuals who support workers demands for a living wage and safe and secure working conditions, have contacted us, have spread the word around.

I thank everyone, on behalf of Mishu, her organisation, and her family members. Your support means a LOT to them, to all of us. Most of all, it means that the cause is worth struggling for, despite the times being gloomy. It also means that we need to struggle harder.

In solidarity/r

December 20, 2010

Dear friends,

Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, who was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) last night, is under strict police surveillance at the hospital. Although she is in a woman’s ward, she is being guarded by both police men and women who surround her bed 24 hrs. It is very inconvenient and distressful for both Mishu and other patients in the ward as many are confined to their bed and have to use bedpans.

Her breathing difficulties have largely eased but her back pain is still severe, she is largely immobile; her sister told me that she cannot turn in bed without any assistance. X-ray and ECG tests were conducted today; she was taken to the examination room on a stretcher as she cannot sit upright.

Media reportage last night after news of her illness spread in Dhaka, particularly, news coverage in private TV channels, led to strict restrictions being placed on journalists and reporters today. Since no beds had been vacant when she was admitted last night, a `bed’ was improvised for her on the floor of the women’s ward; however, this afternoon she was upgraded to a `proper’ bed.

After last night’s media reporting, police are understood to have pressurised doctors at DMCH today to not allow anyone to enter the ward or to approach and talk to her. She is reported to be receiving medical care and attention but doctors at DMCH are not answering any queries about the state of her health. If asked, they reply, they cannot say anything without the permission of the hospital’s director. Since Mishu’s falling sick — I learnt today that she had to be rushed to the National Hospital after court proceedings yesterday because she fainted when the police were helping her on to the police van to take her back to the DB headquarters — has received good coverage, it has meant `bad’ publicity for the government and has reportedly aroused the wrath of an Awami League-supporting doctor, who’s also very influential in the doctors’ association. He has threatened Mishu’s family members that she will be discharged tomorrow regardless of the state of her health.

Different labour and human rights organisations have contacted us in the meanwhile, they have expressed deep concerns over Mishu’s safety and security, and promised to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government/ministries.

I request everyone to do the same, to spread the word, and to protest.

Tomorrow brings uncertainties, in addition to the state of her health, since Mishu’s sister is not sure whether she will actually be suddenly discharged from the hospital.

I promise to keep everyone posted.

In solidarity/r

—————-
Updates from Rahnuma Ahmed

December 19, 2010

Dear friends,

Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, is severely ill and has been admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
Mishu was produced in CMM court today (19 December), for the third time, since she was picked up from her house in the early hours of December 14.
Some of us had gone to the courthouse to express solidarity — Gitiara Nasreen (Dhaka University), Anu Mohammad (Jahangirnagar University), Mehedi Hasan (writer) and Barrister Sadia Arman. Giti had left by the time Mishu was brought to the court as she had urgent work — but we were horrified at the state of Mishu’s health which rapidly worsened, and later led to her hospitalisation.
Today the police sought another 10-day remand to further investigate their fabricated allegations: vandalism, links with Jamaat-e-Islami; they were granted 2 days.
Sadia was allowed to enter the courtroom since she’s a lawyer, while the rest of us, including her sister Jebunnessa, were not. Sadia found Mishu seated in a bench at the back of the room, with two policewomen on either side. Mishu was having difficulty in breathing, she was panting and gasping for breath as she spoke. This is what she told Sadia: that short of physically beating her, the DB police had tortured her in every possible manner. That she had returned to Dhaka from Narsingdi on 12th night;
had been feeling exhausted, had wanted to rest a bit, had declined to attend a programme but had promised to participate in a later one, on December 16. That she did not know why she was being detained, that she hadn’t been told, that she did not know anything.
Ten to twelve lawyers were present to defend Mishu alongwith her counsel Zahiruddin Mollah; Sadia too, joined in Mishu’s defence by pointing out that Mishu had not been present in Dhaka, let alone at the spot where she was accused of having participated in acts of vandalism. While the hearing proceeded, Sadia went to Mishu and asked her whether she could stand up so that the magistrate could see the poor state of her health, but Mishu was too ill to do so, not even with the help of two policewoman seated beside her. Sadia requested the magistrate to look at Mishu and judge for himself whether he thought she would be able to withstand another two days remand, but the magistrate had already begun signing the order. Mr Mollah and all other lawyers pleaded that Mishu be allowed medical treatment.
Anu, Mehedi, and myself were unable to approach her because she was closely surrounded by police, we caught fleeting glimpses of her when she left the courtroom, tottering on her legs, and later, being helped down the stairs by two policewomen. We could clearly see that she was unable to walk by herself.
On my way home, I received a phone call from Anu; Mishu had been hospitalised, he said. She was sent to the National Hospital (old Dhaka) where she had to be helped on to a wheelchair, she was given a nebuliser to ease breathing difficulties. In the hospital, she was given oxygen. National Hospital authorities soon referred her to the Post-Graduate hospital (PG/Shahbagh). Her condition had deteriorated further; while she had entered NH sitting in a wheelchair, she left it lying on a stretcher.
Her breathing difficulties worsened, she was given oxygen at PG; her back pain (caused by her spinal injury) became unbearable. Soon PG authorities referred her to DMCH, she is there now, in the emergency section.
From what we can gather, she has fallen severely ill because,
*she was without medicine for more than 24 hours
*despite being an asthma patient, she was forced to lie on the cold floor of DB Headquarters with only a thin blanket to lie on, and a thin quilt as cover
*by the time her sister was allowed to drop her medicine at DB Headquarters, she was already very ill, the nebuliser was unable to provide any relief
*she told Jebu that she would prefer prison because she would have certain hours to herself at night, whereas at the DB HQ she was interrogated at all odd hours, both during the day and at night
We have reason to believe that sections of the media are under pressure to not report against the illegality and injustice of her imprisonment and remand. Media reporting as it stands is prejudiced as is obvious from statements such as these, “She was arrested in the early hours on Tuesday from the city’s Hatirpool area…” http://www.bdnews24.com/details.phpid=181731&cid=2 omitting to mention that she was picked up without an arrest warrant, from her home.
Besides being arrested without a warrant, besides being investigated for incidents where her name is not metioned in the police FIRs (three), we were told by members of her family that members of the DB police at DB HQ had told Jebunnessa today that they would provide Mishu with hot water tomorrow so that she could take a bath, that her family should send home-cooked bhat-daal meals from tomorrow instead of take-away food. What made them so sure that the remand would be extended? Is there government pressure on the judicial process?
What happened today makes it ever more urgent that we act immediately and exert pressure on the government to free Moshrefa Mishu immediately, through spreading the word, contacting human rights and labour organisations, registering protests with Bangladesh government officials, embassies abroad.
Her family members and co-workers are very worried and anxious, as are we.

In solidarity/r

Dec 17, 2010

Hi!
Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum (GWUF) was picked up from her house in the middle of the night, 14 Dec 2010 by a contingent claiming to belong to the Detective Branch of police. They did not have an arrest warrant. She was produced in court after midday (15 December), the court granted DB police a 2-day remand. She had not been allowed to take her medicine with her (for asthma, and a spinal injury from an attack on her life several years ago), the next day her sister Jebunnessa was permitted to meet her, and much later (past midnight), to drop medicines and a blanket for her.
I had sent out a Protest Statement on 14 December but in my haste I had been unable to include many of you. My subsequent updates, I am afraid, were not as systematic as they should have been, often not including those who had been unable to respond immediately. I have now finally had the time to make a comprehensive list of people, both the initial signatories and those who later posted messages of solidarity on Shahidul’s Blog, or got in touch me with through e-mail, I have also included those who I know to be supporters of workers’ movements and would like to be informed about Mishu, her arrest, and government repression of garment workers movement for the implementation of wage increases previously agreed upon. For those who have been newly included I have pasted messages sent out earlier, our Statement of Protest, and daily Updates (below).

TODAY’S UPDATE: Mishu was produced in CMM court today, the DB sought a 5-day remand on allegations that she had been seen in the company of some members of Jamaat-e-Islami (in a car) butwere unable to substantiate it (not suprisingly). The court extended remand for another day, and Anu Mohd tells me that our Statement of Protest which was published in some dailies today, was produced by her defence lawyers, and presumably helped to weaken these bizarre allegations, and to reduce the number of days sought by the government. Thanks Hameeda apa, for making sure that the news got published!
http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=166329 Release of Mashrefa Mishu demanded
http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2010-12-17/news/116398 Moshrefa Mishur greptarer protibad, Mukti dabi
http://www.newagebd.com/2010/dec/17/nat.html Release of RMG leader Mishu demanded
A Protest Rally organised by writers, teachers, artists and cultural activists will be held tomorrow Saturday 18 December at 3.00 pm at TSC island, Dhaka University, we will gather to protest against Moshrefa Mishu’s unlawful arrest and to demand her immediate release, an immediate end to the repression of garment workers, and to all other acts that imperil the garment industry. Shommilito Nari Shomaj has told me that they will join the Rally, with their banner.
A correction from Sara Hossain who has informed me that the writ petition challenging the legality of Mishu’s arrest has not yet been filed, that more time was needed to collect the needed information, that she expects the petition to be filed tomorrow.
Anu also tells me that Mishu’s asthma is much worse, so please come to the Rally tomorrow so that we can collectively raise our voices in protest against the sheer injustice of arresting/remanding Mishu, who is being persecuted by the government for fighting for a decent pay, and for safe and secure working conditions for garment workers.
Please pass around the news of tomorrow’s Protest Rally, urge everyone you know to join it so that there is a big turnout, so that we can all raise our voices together demanding Mishu’s immediate release.

In solidarity/r

Dec 15, 2010

Dear Friends

Many thanks for quickly responding and supporting the statement against Moshrefa Mishu’s unlawful arrest. The statement has been sent off by Anu Mohd, to both Bangla and English dailies, in our name. It was translated to Bangla by Faruk Wasif.
The full list — which includes names forwarded by Moshrefa Mishu’s organisation, Garments Workers Unity Forum — has been posted on Shahidul’s blog and I request everyone to forward the link to friends, co-workers and comrades so that new names keep getting added, more messages of support pour in for Mishu, and for the people and ideals that she’s fighting for.
http://www.shahidulnews.com/2010/12/signatories-to-the-statement-protesting-the-arrest-ofmoshrefa-mishu-garment-workers-leader/

UPDATE: Mishu’s younger sister Jebu was granted permission to meet her today and reports that Mishu is mentally as strong as ever, but health-wise, a bit worse. In the meanwhile, a writ petition was filed today, Jebu and several academics are the petitioners, they challenge the illegality of her arrest; I have also learnt that the CMM court is open even on Victory Day (December 16), so let’s see what tomorrow (when the 2-day remand is supposed to expire) brings. Amnesty International, I hear, has expressed its concern about Mishu’s arrest to the Bangladesh government.
If anyone would like to be struck off this list, please let me know, because I have added new names (from the Signatories list) to the list of people whom I mail my weekly columns and writings that I think will be of interest to many (such as Nayanika Mookherjee’s interview on 1971 rape victims, published in Xtra, New Age), or urgent notices such as this one.

May Bijoy Dibosh 2010 herald victory for Bangladesh’s garment workers!

Rahnuma

Dec 14, 2010

Please add your name in support of this statement against the unlawful arrest of garment workers leader Moshrefa Mishu, and all garment workers, who have either been arrested or are being intimidated and persecuted, for protesting against non-implementation of promised wage increases.
If you are supporting it as an individual, press `reply’ and write (a) your name (b) profession or affiliation, etc. For groups, please write (c) name of the group.
Please do this right now, we will collect all signatures by BST noon tomorrow and send out the press release by tomorrow afternoon (15 December 2010).
i
n solidarity/rahnuma
___________________________________________
We strongly protest the unlawful arrest of garment workers leader Moshrefa Mishu, demand that she be immediately released, and that the fabricated charges against her be dropped. Moshrefa Mishu, general secretary of the Ganatantrik Biplobi Party and the president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum, was picked up from her home in Kala Bagan at 1.15 am on 14.12.2010 by a force of 12 persons or so claiming to be from the Detective Branch of Police, and was compelled to accompany them to an undisclosed destination. The force did not have an arrest warrant, and when Mishu persisted in asking them to show a warrant, they threatened to arrest her. She was only allowed to change her clothes but not allowed to take her medication with her, for asthma, and for a severe spinal injury caused by an attack on her life several years ago.
Moshrefa Mishu was produced in CMM court after noon today and remanded for two days. We protest against her illegal arrest, and demand her immediate release.
We also protest, and condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the government’s response to the garment workers demands for the implementation of a new minimum wage that should have come into effect last month. More than 3 million people, mostly women, work in this sector which accounts for 80% of annual export earnings and make clothes for major Western brands including Wal-mart, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour. Three persons were killed in clashes with the police in the Chittagong EPZ yesterday, hundreds injured, 33 arrested, and 3 separate cases lodged against about 30,000 unknown people.

Instead of taking `tough action’ to ensure that factory owners implement what is, by all accounts a low increase, prime minister Sheikh Hasina has in effect ordered that action be taken against the workers who, even with the increases remain the least-paid in the world, and largely unable to arrange shelter and buy food in a situation where food-prices are spiralling upwards uncontrollably. Safety conditions in many factories are below standard, as can be gauged from the deaths of 24 people, and injuries suffered by scores more, when a fire broke out at a garment factory in Ashulia, Savar today.

We condemn the government’s anti-people actions (killing, baton charges, firing tear gas, filing cases), we demand that Moshrefa Mishu and all others arrested be released immediately, and that the government take immediate and transparent action to identify those who were behind the acts of vandalism, who, according to the Home Minister herself, are `outsiders.’

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2 Responses to Rahnuma Ahmed’s updates on Moshrefa Mishu

  1. Pingback: Mishu in police custody » ShahidulNews

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