Today, 22nd August, marks exactly one year since former Brigadier General of Bangladesh Army Abdullahil Amaan Azmi was abducted from his house by the Bangladesh security forces, but despite appeals from international human rights organisations and widespread coverage in the international media, his whereabouts remain unknown.
On the evening of 22 August last year, 30-armed, civilian-clothed individuals, claiming to be from the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police, stormed into Mr Azmi’s family residence in Moghbazar, Dhaka, rounded up all the staff in the building, severely beat the residential caretaker, threatened and intimidated his wife and mother, searched every apartment of the building, and eventually took him blindfolded after a three-hour operation. Since then, the Bangladesh authorities have refused to publicly acknowledge his abduction, and even denied registering him as a missing person. His family are helpless and have no scope to know his whereabouts, spending every day with the hope that he will return one day. However, the Bangladesh authorities are in complete denial of this matter, neither are they interested to even pretend to search for the missing Amaan Azmi and many more victims of enforced disappearances.
Concerns of enforced disappearances of these men, particularly three sons of prominent opposition leaders Amaan Azmi, Mir Ahmed bin Qashem and Hummam Qader Chowdhury had been raised by UN expert group, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, and reports of his abduction were published and broadcasted in international media outlets like the BBC, and the Daily Mail in the UK, renowned American news outlets New York Times, 'Foreign Policy', and Forbes, as well as international media institutions like, Al Jazeera, Al-Jazeera TV English, The Wire, IB Times, Scroll.in, Turkish news agency Anadolu, TRT World etc. A rare Bangladeshi news media report was in the Dhaka Tribune.
Despite all these concerns and coverages, Amaan Azmi and Mir Ahmed are still missing, though Hummam Qader Chodhury was released in March. The families of the two other victims became hopeful that their dear ones would be released too, but the Bangladesh authorities continue to deny that they had been abducted and also refuse to do anything to find them. It seems that Mr Chowdhury has been forced to remain quiet about his abduction as he claimed that he couldn’t remember who abducted them. Such is the level of threat and heavy-handed approach by the Bangladesh security forces that he is afraid to even say who abducted him.
Amaan Azmi is neither a politician, nor charged with any illegal activity whatsoever. He lived at the family home caring for his elderly mother. His five other brothers live in the UK and are not allowed to visit Bangladesh. As the only male member of the household, he is the guardian of the family and the only person to take care of his 84-year-old mother. His youngest two children are less than five years old. His disappearance has left the family deeply traumatized and fearful for the safety of Azmi. They have filed a criminal complaint following the abduction but the authorities have failed to acknowledge the arrest/abduction or the whereabouts of Azmi. Further, a Petition has been filed with the Special Procedures Branch of the UN, however, the Government of Bangladesh has since 2009, shown itself to be quite content to ignore the opinions, and pleas of the UN Special Rapporteurs, to such an extent, that they do not even acknowledge receipt of communications from the same.
The reason Bangladesh authorities are able to continue carrying out injustices of such magnitude is the complete impunity in which they are ruling the country. There is virtually no opposition in the country; the media is almost entirely run and controlled by the government; the civil service is completely quiet, particularly on enforced disappearances; and the international community remain unashamedly unconcerned. One year on, the family of Amaan Azmi, and all those whose loved ones have been abducted by the authorities, are crying for justice. Unfortunately, no one, and absolutely no one, nationally and internationally are there to hear their cries.