Student Protests in Bangladesh


Bella Trimmer, Staff Writer

Student demonstrations began in Bangladesh on July 29th over serious concerns over [road safety], but now the situation has morphed into one far more complex. These protests were sparked by the deaths of two teens and the injuries of nine others when they were hit by a speeding bus. According to the Passengers’ Welfare Association, at least 7,397 people were killed in road accidents last years. That’s around 20 casualties a day. According to to The Los Angeles Times, tens of thousands of students took part in the protests, which continued for another nine days. “[Students] blocked roads and checked drivers’ licenses to highlight how poorly traffic rules are enforced. Adding to the government’s embarrassment over the protests, among those caught breaking rules were government ministers.”

They made it clear that the authorities’ lax enforcement of road rules would not be tolerated any longer. Unfortunately, these peaceful protests soon turned violent.

Bangladeshi security forces had grown tired of the demonstrations, and sought to quell the protests by any means necessary. According to DW, at least 150 students were injured in clashes with police, who resorted to using tear gas and rubber bullets. However, it wasn’t only the police who decided to turn these protests violent.

A group of motorcycle-riding young men carrying machetes and sticks approached a group of about 500 protesters, telling them “‘You must leave. The prime minister has asked us to come sort you out.” One protester told the Human Rights Watch, “‘The police just stood there. They were taking pictures and videos to be able to identify the protesters. They did not stop the attacks.’”

While protests have subsided for the most part, the brutality in the face of possible change has rattled the world.

And even though our relationship with Bangladesh is already rocky, the United States felt the need to get involved. The U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page posted this message in response to the police’s violent actions against protesters: “Nothing can justify the brutal attacks and violence over the weekend against the thousands of young people who have been peacefully exercising their democratic rights in supporting a safer Bangladesh.” In turn, Bangladesh’s Information Minister issued this reply: “By issuing this statement [on Facebook], the U.S. Embassy took an ill attempt of poking [its] nose in Bangladesh’s internal politics in an indecent way. We condemn this.”