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Bangladesh remains one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations

Deep-rooted plot to exclude Bangladesh from UN peace keeping forces

A total of 166 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been killed so far

Published : 22 May 2024 11:29 PM

German-based media Deutsche Welle (DW) has again published a purposeful report on patriotic Bangladesh Army and the anti-crime elite force Rapid Action Battalion.

They released this report a day after an influential western country imposed sanctions on former army chief General Aziz Ahmed and his family. Leading analysts are terming the move a new deep-rooted conspiracy to exclude the security forces of Bangladesh from the UN peacekeeping mission.

The report titled 'Bangladesh: Human rights abusers go on UN missions' was published by DW on Tuesday (May 21). Controversial Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil's organisation, Netra News, collaborated on the report. Netra News is one of the organisations run by Bangladeshis that receives huge funds from some western countries. The report was prepared by Naomi Conrad, Arafatul Islam, and Birgitta Schülke. The ill-motivated news stated that "Officers from a Bangladeshi elite unit implicated in the torture and killing of political opponents, are being sent on United Nations peacekeeping missions, a joint investigation by DW, Netra News, and Süddeutsche Zeitung has revealed." They also published a video on YouTube on Wednesday.

Deutsche Welle's report began with some videos of Bangladeshi army and police training for the UN mission. Leading intellectuals claimed that they started to speak on purpose. Deutsche Welle has changed or distorted some of the statements and claimed that they were once RAB operatives. But apart from showing their faces, nothing was mentioned about their names or identities. Assuming for the sake of argument, they are not shown or identified for security reasons. But the question may arise: is there such a person at all in the security forces? Or the whole plot of someone's brain? Considering these, some said this video can be called fiction, not a documentary at all.

Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division and a controversial human rights advocate, is reportedly heard saying in the documentary that "officers who are accused of human rights violations should not be sent to UN peacekeeping forces."

At the end of the report, it showed some pictures of the 2009 crackdown on the Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka, saying that former Sri Lankan Army Chief Shavendra Silva, who was accused of human rights violations at the time, had been suspended from the UN peacekeeping mission. But has a situation like Sri Lanka ever been created in Bangladesh? Is a vested quarter trying to stop sending Bangladeshi soldiers on UN peacekeeping missions?

What is the reality?

In 1988, Bangladesh's journey to peacekeeping in the United Nations began with the participation of a group of officers in the Military Observers Group in the Iran-Iraq war. Since then, Bangladesh has been working in the UN mission with reputation and efficiency. Bangladesh now earns praise globally for the Blue Helmets at the United Nations. Bangladesh has a long history of bravery and sacrifice while performing duties at UN missions. In 2005, nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers were brutally shot dead in Congo. A total of 166 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been killed so far.

The peacekeepers of the Bangladesh Army are keeping the status of Bangladesh intact at the world forum by maintaining the highest professionalism in peacekeeping operations in African countries. Due to its professional attitude, contribution, and sacrifice, Bangladesh has consolidated its position as the top contributor of peacekeepers to UN peacekeeping missions. The United Nations has also received recognition at various times for its glorious role.

Despite having so many positive aspects, Deutsche Welle and Netra News have been publishing reports one after another with an ill-motive. Just before Peacekeepers Day on May 29, have these steps been taken to close the United Nations mission in Bangladesh with the help of some influential western countries?

It is clear that a western country is funding Zillur Rahman's Center for Governance Studies in the name of promoting democracy in Bangladesh. And Tasneem Khalil's Netra News is being funded in the name of legal aid and human rights. But both organisations are knowingly tarnishing the reputation and image of the country only for money.

Terming the DW report, based on unverified and weak information, a deep conspiracy, experts think that such provocative news is being published with an ill intention. And for this, DW took preparation for a long time ago.

Professor Abdul Mannan, former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), said, "The conspiracy not to take troops from Bangladesh to the United Nations peacekeeping mission started long ago. This conspiracy was hatched in the past and such ill efforts will be made in the future. The western world is doing that.”

The educationist said that this has been going on since the preparation of the 2014 elections. "These things are being done by giving money to various international media. From where they get money, they are all NGOs. Almost all of them are managed by huge foreign funds. In most cases, news is carried without any evidence.”

According to the DW report, more than US$2.5 billion has been provided to Bangladesh in the last 23 years to work in UN peacekeeping missions. Professor Abdul Mannan said, "Bangladesh has received money for working in peacekeeping mission. It's not aid. Bangladesh has received money from the United Nations for providing services; it is not charity.”

Senior journalist, researcher and freedom fighter Ajoy Dasgupta said, "The United Nations, as a competent authority, will unmask them and disclose the real facts and truth about those who spread false propaganda against the forces of Bangladesh and other countries that work to protect world peace."

On May 15, an assistant secretary of a western country met Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud to discuss bilateral issues, where sanctions on RAB also came up for discussion.

Three years after General Aziz retired as army chief, the western country abruptly announced sanctions against him on May 20, alleging corruption, bribery, and abuse of power that “contributed to the undermining of Bangladesh’s democratic institutions and the public’s faith in public institutions and processes.” Then the DW documentary came within 24 hours.

Bangladesh remains one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. It first deployed uniformed personnel in peacekeeping operations in 1988.

To date, Bangladesh has successfully completed 63 peacekeeping missions and assignments in around 40 countries and locations. Bangladesh has a total of 6,924 peacekeepers deployed in 12 countries and locations, according to the Armed Forces Division.

In January 2019, the UN thanked Bangladesh for their service and sacrifice. Meenakshi Ganguly of controversial human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said UN peacekeeping missions cannot have amongst them officers who may have been responsible for very serious abuses. That defeats the purpose of peacekeeping.

HRW had previously engaged in anti-Bangladesh campaigns with the help of Netra News’ Tasneem Khalil and David Bergman.

DW did not investigate allegations of sexual harassment raised by its employees in January 2020. In June last year, it released another documentary on RAB and strongly advocated dropping its members from UN missions.

The HRW, which tried to defend convicted war criminals, called on the UN to enhance screening of peacekeepers from Bangladesh last year, just a day after the anti-liberation political party Jamaat-e-Islam held its first rally in Dhaka in 10 years.

Taking advantage of the situation, the BNP launched a brazen campaign targeting peacekeepers.

But the UN clarified that it follows “due diligence on peacekeeping forces from whatever the nation to make sure that they are forces that are not associated with any human rights violations”.

In the same month, UN under-secretaries general Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Catherine Pollard highly praised Bangladeshi peacekeepers when they called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The tone and theme of the latest DW documentary are the same—that is, branding Bangladeshi security forces as human rights abusers and pushing for Bangladesh’s exclusion from peacekeeping missions.

It made sweeping allegations without presenting any concrete evidence. It claimed that after their stint in RAB, officers are often sent on highly-paid UN deployments and cited an anonymous “former RAB commander” who was “personally involved in human rights abuses and later deployed to a UN mission”.

“They failed to show any evidence because they didn’t have any,” Professor Mannan said.

Senior journalist and researcher Ajoy Dasgupta said DW published its content without talking to the authorities concerned in Bangladesh. Media outlets like DW and Netra News have been publishing anti-Bangladesh news, he said, adding, “This fabricated documentary is ill-motivated and unacceptable.”

He expressed the hope that the UN would unmask those who are campaigning against Bangladesh and other troop-contributing countries.

Professor Mannan said Khalil’s Netra News and Zillur Rahman’s Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) are involved in anti-Bangladesh propaganda.

"They get paid from a western country," he noted.

The western country uses this to fund various media and selected people. It’s their favourite tool for regime change in other countries under the pretext of establishing democracy.

Netra News has carried out a vicious campaign against Prime Minister Hasina and ran fake news about Bangladesh. During the pandemic, it predicted that more than 100,000 people would die of Covid-19 in Bangladesh.

Tasneem, a controversial journalist coming from a family of anti-liberation supporters, fled Bangladesh in 2007 and since then, he has been engaged in anti-state conspiracies from Sweden. He was sacked by the Daily Star for running biased news with an ill-motive.

Zillur’s CGS is primarily run with the financial support of a wester country. He uses funds to mislead people by sharing videos with flashy titles and thumbnails, besides spreading misleading and wrong information.

Senior journalist Ajoy noted that the UN has lauded Bangladesh for successfully combating militancy and terrorism. "Our security force successfully dealt with incidents like the Holey Artisan militant attack. They have faced Bangla Bhai or Neo JMB,” he said.

RAB and police played a significant role in this anti-militant campaign. They dealt with malevolent forces at various times, the researcher said.

He noted that Bangladeshi security forces have engaged in anti-terror activities with the people’s support. “Bangladeshi forces have been lauded for their significant role in peace missions,” he said.

"When countries are at war, there are allegations of atrocities against the armed forces. In 1971, the Pakistani occupation forces also committed war crimes and grossly violated human rights. But there is no complaint against members of the Bangladeshi security forces working on different missions. Bangladesh is sending most troops to the UN peacekeeping force. They are upholding high moral values,” the researcher and journalist added.

Professor Mannan, however, noted that the western country is helping Israel kill thousands of innocent Palestinians, cracking down on protesters on university campuses, and discriminating based on skin colour.

“Sanctions should first be slapped on that western country. They should not get involved in peacekeeping or any UN activities,” he said.