#RebootBangladesh Movement Sparks Brutal Violence Against Students

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  • Teenage boys create a pathway to protect the young girls protesting after four girls were raped brutally by the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).

    Sifat Hossain
  • Two students run as the police surround them with tasers and batons.

  • An injured boy is carried to a cart, where he will be transported to a makeshift hospital to be treated for his head injury.

  • Men armed with large poles wait to attack young protesters arriving at the location.

    Indigo Ostrich
  • Groups of armed men clash with students who are attempting to break up the fight before it gets too violent.

  • Kidnapped students wait in a small room, trying to see if fellow students are being attacked or not. Unable to reach them because of political pressure, their parents have to now comply to every word their kidnappers say.

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The illuminating glow of LED light bulbs guards the streets where the teens are chanting. The group then splits up, some holding signs, others cleaning up the trash on the street. A somber mood soon consumes the kids as the night goes on. Suddenly, the lights go out. Widened eyes look around, being met by batons and rough hands. Screams echo across the neighborhood as children as young as 13 are attacked. They call for their parents and friends, wails harmonizing with the sounds of bones breaking. The worst of the horrors are hidden by the obscurity of the night.

These student-led protests started about a week ago when a boy and a girl were killed by a speeding bus that was racing another bus and then lost control. The students of Bangladesh, a city notorious for its dangerous traffic, felt appalled that there was no action taken against the bus driver for killing someone their age. Taking justice into their hands, tens of thousands of students lined the streets to enforce the role of the government. They checked IDs to make sure they weren’t expired or false, they directed traffic, and they fixed dangerous roads to make sure they were safe to drive on.

“[The protests] were so peaceful,” Priya, a student from Bangladesh said. “Students were controlling the traffic better than any police could ever. The roads were so peaceful, and they also cleaned the roads and helped sick people. This time we are right and they are wrong.”

Our government has always been this way. Anyone that comes in their way, they don’t hesitate to kill them.

— Priya

The peaceful protests took a turn for the worse when police started to contain the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, fearing that the government would be embarrassed by the teens. Government officials are now trying to stop the protests, urging students to go home, while at the same time blaming them for the violence. Obaidul Quader, General Secretary of the Awami League, claims his officers acted in self-defense, mockingly asking, “Will we kiss them if they advance towards Awami League office?”

“Our government has always been this way,” Priya said. “Anyone that comes in their way, they don’t hesitate to kill them. Until our demands are fulfilled, we are not going to stop the protests. If we stop now, nothing’s gonna change. Accidents will continue to happen, and no measures will be taken. So we aren’t going back.”

Students have issued a nine-point demand to the government of Bangladesh in order to stop the protests, including an apology by Minister Shajahan Khan to the students, and the punishment of the driver. They are also demanding the construction of speed breakers and sidewalks at every accident-prone road. However, the government is not complying, and instead is attacking and arresting journalists — even going so far as to destroy their cameras. Groups of men armed with pipes and poles line the streets, ready to harm young protesters.

“There have been minor clashes as all protests lead to, but in the last few days, things have worsened severely,” Indigo Ostrich, another student said. “Four girls were raped and taken hostage inside the Awami League Party office. 40-50 other schools girls are being held there as well, and the guys who tried to rescue them were beaten brutally. One boy’s eyes were gouged out. The government is attempting to shut down social media, as that’s how the protesters are organizing. And yes, the police are tracking people down who post online and they may attempt a mass arrest tonight.”

As the protests continue, the violence does as well, with more and more students being injured at the hands of these officials. Cases of excess violence are being posted online, hoping to attract the attention and action of the UN or other surrounding nations. Using disguised Google Drive files and fake names, students are spreading the pictures quickly before they are caught and kidnapped. Because of their lack of political power, all they can do now is wait to hear the fate of all of their missing colleagues, wait for the government to admit their mistake, and wait for the street lights to turn back on, signaling the end of the chaos.

*Note: All of the above pictures were taken by students in Bangladesh. I have permission to publish the photos, however some students did not want their name attached.