June 8, 2017
On 2 June 2017, human rights defender, Sultana Kamal, was publicly threatened with arrest, exile and violence by radical group Hefazat-e-Islam Dhaka City Committee, who willfully misrepresented the comments she made during a talk show broadcast on the private news channel News 24.
Sultana Kamal is a human rights defender and lawyer known for her work on civil and political as well as gender rights. She served as the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a legal aid and human rights organisation in Bangladesh for over 15 years. In addition to that, she is the Chairperson of the We Can End Violence Against Women Alliance, Chairperson for Transparency International Bangladesh and also Co-chairperson for the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission.
In its recent investigative report, Front Line Defenders found Bangladeshi authorities systematically refuse to investigate attacks, killings and threats against human rights defenders, and called the country a “lethal environment for HRDs who advocate for human rights-related reforms to which those pushing a fundamentalist Islamic agenda are opposed.”
On 2 June 2017, Hefazat-e-Islam Dhaka City Committee called for the arrest of Sultana Kamal and threatened her with violence following a TV show in which she participated. Discussing the removal of a sculpture representing Lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises, Sultana Kamal argued with Hefazat-e-Islam representative, Mufti Sakhawat Hossain, that if the group’s position was that no religious edifice should be put in the court premises, by the same argument the mosque that is inside the premises should not be there either. After the talk show, Hefazat’s Vice-President Junayed Al-Habib claimed Sultana Kamal had called for the removal of all mosques from the country and demanded her arrest within 24 hours. Members of the organisation threatened her with violence and said she would share the same fate as author, Taslima Nasrin, who has been in exile since 1994 due to her human rights advocacy. Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ramna Division and the Detective Branch declared on 5 June they had taken joint measures for providing protection to Sultana Kamal. However, the human rights defender said that the law enforcement agency merely spoke to her and said that they are keeping a close eye on her neighborhood as part of their protection effort.