(Devil's Due series)
(one simple hand gesture...)
When President Nixon gave the peace sign as he left the office a lot of Americans cheered. It wasn't because he was well liked or that he had done a good job. It wasn't that America had become a better place due to his leadership. It was simply a show of how much the man had become villain to the people who had elected him into office. It was this show of disgust for the man that made the act of lifting your hands and giving the peace sign a symbol that would give generations flashbacks to the devil of the White House.
It is amazing what a simple gesture of the hand can do in our world. When we are in traffic and somebody cuts us off only to stop short right in front of us we often are tempted to "give them the bird" by simply raising our middle finger. When somebody does a good job and we want to show them so we sometimes give them the "thumbs-up" to show them with just a movement of the hand. It is stunning how these little gestures can elicit rather complex responses from the person they are directed at. It is even more astounding how the same simple gesture can elicit dramatic responses in large crowds when just one person gives one of these simple hand gestures.
On February 4th Jamaat leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, gave a hand gesture that would shake a nation. Upon receiving a life sentence for his role in the Bangladesh Genocide, Mollah left the court to an awaiting public. There, before the entire nation, Mollah flashed the "V for victory" sign... the same sign that Nixon had flashed when leaving office. Yet this would not be a sign of peace. It instead would recreate the devil's playground by resurrecting Shahbag Square (a scene of an infamous massacre in 1971).
Life in prison? Yet he took the lives of so many.
What kind of prison? How can a man who created hellish conditions be fit for even the worst of prisons? Is there truly a prison wretched enough, tormenting enough, to lock this monster away in?
Abdul Quader Mollah had made a name for himself in 1971. Across his neighborhood of Dhaka, Mollah was known as "The Butcher of Mirpur". He had earned this name by collaborating with the Pakistani Army and leading his own band of thugs. His actions in Mirpur directly led to the death of a confirmed 344 innocent people. In addition Mollah's contributions to the genocide of his own people included the rapes of women and children, burning of Hindu homes, and the destruction of opposition homes and businesses.
Despite the litany of crimes this wretched man was charged with the International Criminal Tribunal somehow could not find it within itself to issue the death sentence. A man who had terrorized his neighbors, his countrymen, and the world was surprised by the reaction Bengali youth had to his less than favorable jail sentence. This seems odd when you think about it from a Westerners' point of view. For the rest of the world it appeared that justice had finally been served. And yet here we are today. Shahbag Square is still the scene of a nation's unrest when faced with living with the devil for any more length of time than they already have.
So let's take a look at this from halfway around the world.
In 1971 Abdul Mollah violently raped an 11 year old girl. For most this would be reason enough to face a criminal charge. Then you add on the fact that this man committed the rape under the assumption that the war would cover his transgression. It is a common aspect of war after all, the penis is far worse a weapon than the bullet... it destroys the life of the victim and leaves them to suffer. Yet for this Mollah was not brought to justice. He still had other crimes to commit before being charged.
A typical soldier can't account for the number of people he has killed. A stray bullet here and there may add up the number of deaths. The spray and pray method used by soldiers for multiple of reasons can tick the death toll higher. Yet in 1971 Abdul Mollah racked up a known 344 victims. How many soldiers do you know that can count the number of people they killed? Let alone any that can count up even close to 344?
For most people in the West it would only take one innocent victim's death to warrant bringing the murderer to justice. For the ICT in Dhaka it wasn't till decades had passed that the 344 confirmed victims warranted such a case. And yet when Abdul Mollah was brought before them the ICT could not find it within itself to pull the lever and let the criminal hang for his sins.
As a head member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Mollah carried out a policy of ethnic cleansing in his part of Dhaka. Using religion and politics as excuses for his crimes, Mollah targeted Hindus for extermination. Old religious divides that were left from British occupation were used in attempts to drive the Hindu population out of Bangladesh. When religion failed as an excuse for ethnic cleansing, Abdul Mollah used political allegiances to further drive a wedge in his community and exploit the divides he created to help create violent pogroms. According to the Genocide Convention adopted by the United Nations these all are acts that define genocide. And yet for this the ICT in Dhaka could not find it within itself to hang Abdul Quader Mollah.
For the world to ignore the outrage of the protesters in Shahbag Square is to ignore the open wound the genocide left upon Bengali society. This is a festering wound that has been ripped wide open by the lack of justice in the International Criminal Tribunal's decisions. This is a wretched agony that families across Bangladesh have to live with as they watch the men who perpetrated genocide give the "V for victory" upon learning the devil will not pay his due.
If Hitler had lived to face trial would we have ignored the ruling of a court that only gave him life in prison of the deaths of 6 million innocent Jews?
If Stalin had been brought to trial and the court only gave him life in prison for the starvation and slaughter of 7.5 million Ukrainians would we ignore it?
So why is the world so willing to ignore the voice of a nation as they scream for the rightful justice they deserve? When will Bangladesh be able to say that it's Hitler, it's Stalin, it's Talat Pasha have been brought to justice and killed... just as they did to their victims. Or has the world decided on Bangladesh's behalf that "an eye for and eye" is simply out of the question when dealing with the legacy of genocide?
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