’Starving’ Bangladesh garment workers protest for pay during COVID-19 lockdown

Garment workers block a road demanding their due wages during the lockdown amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dhaka, (Reuters)
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Updated 13 April 2020

’Starving’ Bangladesh garment workers protest for pay during COVID-19 lockdown

  • Bangladesh’s apparel factories account for some 84 percent of the country’s $40 billion export sector
  • Protesting workers say many factories have not paid them

DHAKA: Thousands of garment workers who produce items for top Western fast fashion brands protested against unpaid wages in Bangladesh’s streets Monday, saying they were more afraid of starving than contracting coronavirus.
Bangladesh’s apparel factories account for some 84 percent of the country’s $40 billion export sector, which is facing its worst crisis in decades after retailers including H&M, Walmart and Tesco canceled orders because of the pandemic.
Protesting workers say many factories have not paid them after the orders were cut.
Workers shouted slogans such as “we want our wages” and “break the black hands of the owners” as they blocked roads despite a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly disease.
“We are afraid of the coronavirus. We heard a lot of people are dying of this disease,” protesting worker Sajedul Islam, 21, told AFP.
“But we don’t have any choice. We are starving. If we stay at home, we may save ourselves from the virus. But who will save us from starvation?“
The lockdown, which started on March 26, also forced the closure of the vast majority of the country’s garment factories.
“We have not been paid for two months. We are starving,” said another protester, who gave her name as Brishti, from the Tex Apparel factory in the capital Dhaka.
“If we don’t have food in our stomach, what’s the use of observing this lockdown?“
Some 5,500 workers protested on Monday while 20,000 turned out on Sunday, police inspector Islam Hossain told AFP.
“Some workers broke doors and glasses of a factory. But they were largely peaceful,” Hossain told AFP. No one was arrested.
Bangladesh has announced $590 million in loans for export-oriented factories to pay workers.
The South Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest garment maker after China, with $35 billion dollars of exports a year.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.