2-part Dhaka Declaration, for a genocide-free world

Living as the inhabitants of unknown hell in this very world courtesy to their birth identity and ethnicity crisis, the Rohingyas are surely the victim of a massive atrocity. Genocide had always been an alarming and toxic issue, whether it happened it Bangladesh in 1971, Middle East in the post millennial regime or Myanmar in recent years; and to discuss the possible procedures to prevent this massive crime, the Liberation War Museum organized the 6th International Conference on Bangladesh Genocide and Justice, with a special focus on Rohingya persecution- along with an exhibition titled 'Quilt of Memory and Hope' from 14-16 November at the museum venue in Agargaon, Dhaka.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen inaugurated this international conference and exhibition, as the guest of honor on November 14 at the Liberation War Museum. Emeritus Professor Anisuzzaman, Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice (CSGJ) director Mofidul Hoque and Liberation War Museum's trustee Ziauddin Tariq Ali also spoke at the inauguration ceremony.

"This conference is being organized at the time when we are preparing to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1971 genocide. Such initiatives are important tools for creating social framework for atrocity prevention," minister Dr AK Abdul Momen praised the initiative of this international conference.

The exhibition 'Quilt of Memory and Hope' was organized by AJAR (Asia Justice and Rights) in collaboration with Liberation War Museum and was inaugurated by Foreign Affairs minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, shortly after the inauguration of the conference. A book with the same name of the exhibition was also unveiled at the inauguration ceremony. A cultural programme on Bangladesh's glorious history and heritage was arranged and performed by the artistes of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, shortly after both the inaugurations and book-unveiling took place.

The three-day conference was attended and participated by notable genocide scholars, jurists and academics from home and abroad. A total of 28 foreign delegates from different countries and disciplines attended this year's conference, which was exclusively themed around highlighting the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1971. A documentary film titled 'EXILED' by the Uzbekistan-borne English journalist Shahida Tulaganova, a prominent war-journalist of BBC and an Emmy nominated director and producer was also shown in the closing day. "EXILED is the film which puts the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in a context of a complicated and violent history of the country. Coming from news background, it was very important to me to tell their story from the onset of Burmese independence, so the audiences realize that mass exodus of Rohingya to Bangladesh in 2017 was not accidental, rather it was the result of more than 40 years state planned and executed strategy of their expulsion, it was "the final solution""- Shahida told filmfreeway.com about her informative and reality-based doc-film.

The conference was wrapped up with a 2-part Dhaka Declaration: one urging action against the ongoing Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the other calling for necessary steps to accord due recognition to the Bangladesh Genocide that occurred in 1971.

The closing ceremony featured foreign delegates Timo Leimester (Germany), Natalia Sineova (Poland) and Dr Minati Kalo (India) and Kornelis Spaans, ex-ambassador of the Netherlands in Bangladesh. United News of Bangladesh - UNB Editor Mahfuzur Rahman, and Dhaka Courier's Executive Editor Shayan S. Khan also attended the closing ceremony. The Dhaka Declaration on Rohingya Persecution was presented by Dr Melanie O'Brien of the University of Western Australia, while the part on Bangladesh Genocide and its Recognition was presented by Naureen Rahim of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. The vote of thanks was presented by Mofidul Hoque, trustee of the Liberation War Museum and Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Justice (CSGJ) who said in his closing remarks that the conference is helping to establish a global alliance against genocide.

"We were able to arrange this international conference on genocide for the 6th time, which shared successful initiatives from all over the world to help government representatives and other key stakeholders formulate new goals and objectives against genocide. We know how Bangladesh is dealing with the Rohingya crisis, and this international conference has successfully established a global connection between our local scholars with those from abroad working against genocide," Hoque said.

He particularly thanked Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and his ministry's officials for their cooperation in arranging the conference on what he said was 'very short notice'. He also thanked Liberation War Affairs Minister A.K.M. Mozammel Huq and his ministry, saying they were "always with us".

Hoque expressed his gratitude to Enayetullah Khan, the Founder and Managing Director of Cosmos Group (full disclosure: parent company of UNB and Dhaka Courier) who donated copies of the book 'Art against Genocide' (Cosmos Books, 2019) for the delegates and participants. The photo exhibition on the plight of the Rohingyas featuring the work of UNB and Dhaka Courier photographers titled 'Quilt of Memory and Hope' ran and mesmerized the participants and attendees concurrently at the Museum, during the 3-day conference.

The Dhaka Declaration calls on all nations to implement the recommended actions to move the relevant agenda forward regarding these two alarming genocides in Asia. It also applauded the steps taken by the Gambia that filed a complaint in the International Court of Justice and insisted other countries join in the effort to support the filing.

It called for the recognition of the long history of discrimination against the Rohingya by the state of Myanmar. Global community was called upon to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees in Bangladesh and ensure the 'important matter of repatriation of the Rohingya to their homeland, with full recognition of their rights as citizens of Myanmar - to that end, it called upon the Myanmar state to revisit its discriminatory Citizenship Law (1982), seen as central to the suffering of the Rohingya.

The participants reached common ground on realizing the need for collaboration in providing elective and rapid justice to the victims, clarification of facts and punishment for the perpetrators. Thus it is reflected in the Dhaka Declaration.

The Declaration on Bangladesh Genocide and its Recognition by Naureen Rahim calls on all parties to take note of the forthcoming birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh Genocide in 2021, as occasions to commemorate with due importance.

It also said that the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh genocide offers an opportunity for all to memorialize, analyze and study this genocide from different perspectives in order to make 'Never Again' - the now infamous sentiment seemingly uttered after every incident of genocides, only to be repeatedly breached - "sustainable and permanent".

The conference featured 12 plenary sessions on various subjects including Ethnicity and Statelessness, Accountability and Criminal Justice, Denialism and much else conducted during the three days where a total of 28 foreign delegates representing 18 countries and disciplines and notable genocide scholars, jurists and academics conducted and attended each session.

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