The Worst Kind of War Crime
DR M A Hasan
Photo: Naib Uddin Ahmed
The Pakistan army unleashed their vengeance by orchestrating the worst war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity in the year 1971. Apart from the genocide, 460,000 women were violated. Among the violated women some were kept hostage and made to endure months of sexual abuse. Rizia Khatun was one of them.
When the liberation war started, Rizia, along with her brother, was running away from her village in order to escape the clutches of the Pak Army. But the Pak Army and their accomplices did not spare her; the Razakars caught her on her way and handed her over to the Pak Army; she was captive in the army camp, located beside Shoilokupa Hospital. The barbarians including Major Jubly and Malek raped her inhumanely for nine long months. Due to shame, fear, humiliation and distress at every day's torture, she wanted to commit suicide. But death did not show up. Rizia could hardly notice the difference between day and night. She could hardly stand on her feet. She could not even express her sorrow by crying or praying. After some months she became pregnant. But they did not spare her and continued their torture. Despite her unbearable humiliation she wanted to protect her unborn child. But she could not save it. The Pakistanis aborted her child by applying medicine. She gave an interview to a representative of the War Crimes Fact-Finding Committee, Bangladesh on 25 August, 2001. In her interview, she described the inhuman torture and unbearable agony of the long nine months of the liberation war.
Frustration and hatred took possession of her when she was asked about the humiliation rendered on her in 1971. She had a far-off look on her face. Coming back to reality, she said apathetically, “ What is the use of talking about those now! I am living the life of a hateful creature” After a pause, she said,” In fact, I do not know if I am alive. Everyone sneers at me as a persecuted victim of 71. Out of shame I cannot stand in front of people, I cannot speak like others can.”
Then she said slowly, “When the war started, I was in my father's house. I was 18 years old and unmarried. I had sound health and a presentable look. In fact, that was the age when everything was good the sky, birds, trees- everything. There was love, affection, and happiness in our house. Then suddenly the war started. Great fear and uncertainty were rampant. We got scared to see the situation of the country. I became greatly alarmed to hear different news in different places. I thought that I would die if I stayed at home. We had a relative in the village Mailmari, and I thought that I would be safe there. Then I, along with my brother, left for Mailmari. But our luck was bad. When we reached Raninagar near Shailakupa, we were held by the Razakars. They handed us to the Pakistani Army. The Army camp was situated in a doctor's house(child specialist) beside a hospital. We were captive in this camp. Then I had to bear the inhumane and brutal torture by the Pakistani Army in this room.”
When asked which month she was nabbed by the Pak Army, Rizia Khatun said, “I am uneducated, I cannot remember the year and date. But I clearly remember that I remained captive for full nine months. I was caught at the beginning of the war and released after independence. I, along with a number of girls, was captive in their camp. There were three other girls in my room. The others were in a different room, which I never saw. Nothing outside was visible from inside, the doors and windows were always closed. The sentries were always on guard; there was no way to escape. That's why it was not even possible to see or know anyone in confinement. Most of the time we did not have any time or opportunity to stand. The armies always kept an eye on us; they used to beat us if we were seen talking. My mental state was such that I did not have time to think of others. For this I did not ask the names of the other three girls in my room.”
Every moment of the nine-month's captive life at the camp was excruciating. In this connection Rizia Khatun said, “I couldn't eat, and didn't want to eat. But the armies used to insist that all of us eat otherwise they would beat us. And everyday they tortured us. I thought of suicide several times but there was no way to commit suicide. There was not a piece of cloth available, let alone a rope. They did not allow us to wear a sari; we had to wear a blouse and shirt. We were not even allowed to wear a scarf. They understood that we would not spare any chance of committing suicide. They never made us work; rather tortured us in confinement.
The barbarian Pakistani army raped Rizia Khatun and three other girls everyday during the nine long months. When asked how she was tortured, she said, “How can I describe the way of their torture? They did not even consider us human beings. They were merciless. The way they tortured us was unprecedented. I never heard of such brutal torture anywhere. I didn't even see any beast act like this. They would beat us mercilessly if we refused to do what they said. Beating, punching and kicking were very normal. They used to beat us in such a way that would not cause bleeding. I became pregnant while staying in the camp. Applying some medicine they aborted my unborn child of about six months. They tortured the other four girls staying in our room the same way. Among all, only we two became pregnant. Though everyone fell sick, our conditions were even worse.”
Rizia Khatun revealed the names of a few soldiers who had assaulted her sexually like animals. In her language “many soldiers tortured me, it was not possible to know all their names. But I specially remember the name of Major Jubly. He was a complete devil- horrendously cruel, and perverted. It was he who tortured the most. Day after day and night after night, he preyed on me. I also remember one Malek, who also assaulted me several times. Besides them, I cannot remember the other names. How helpless I was! I had nothing to do but shed tears silently. After nine long months, when Shailakupa was freed, the freedom fighters rescued me.”
The statement of Rizia may not be a copy of statements of other rape victims of 1971. But it is very similar in essence.
All those victims of 1971 paid the price for our freedom. After that they have become only shadows to us, a few faceless numbers. Among the victims those who are surviving are passing a life of torment, full of humiliation, haunted by self-persecution. They are like withered leaves. Now who should take the responsibility of this failure? The society? The state? The people? I believe the whole nation must shoulder the responsibility of negligence and utter failure. Our government must address the impunity of these savages.
It is only justice that can provide the victims an opportunity for a meaningful life. We must not fail to deliver our responsibility.
Dr M A Hasan is Convener, War Crimes Facts Finding Committee, Bangladesh.
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