50 years on, Bangladesh searches for children illegally adopted abroad

50 years on, Bangladesh searches for children illegally adopted abroad
Nurjahan Begum sits in front of her home in Tongi area, Dhaka, Feb. 1, 2024, holding a photo believed to be showing Bangladeshi kids at a charity running a children’s home, where her son Billal Hossain disappeared in 1976. (AN Photo)
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Updated 11 February 2024
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50 years on, Bangladesh searches for children illegally adopted abroad

50 years on, Bangladesh searches for children illegally adopted abroad
  • International adoption was permitted for Bangladeshi babies born to survivors of war rape
  • Many others were also included in the scheme, without their parents’ consent

Dhaka: Billal Hossain was 8 months old when his mother Nurjahan Begum agreed to send him to day care at a charity-run orphanage near their home in a poor neighborhood of Dhaka. A few days later, he was gone forever.

Thousands of Bangladeshi babies were adopted abroad in the 1970s. Most of them were children born to survivors of a campaign of genocidal rape committed by the Pakistani military and associated paramilitary forces during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.

Between 200,000 and 400,000 Bengali women and girls are believed to have been raped at the time, prompting the government of the newly independent Bangladesh to introduce emergency legislation in 1972 to allow foreigners to adopt the “war babies” left at orphanages across the country.

But Begum never gave up her son for adoption. It was 1976, and being a single mother of two living in the impoverished industrial area of Tongi, she hoped that at least her youngest child would be well fed by the charity that offered help.

She was not the only mother in the neighborhood who was approached by the orphanage, which they believed was run by a Dutch organization.




Nurjahan Begum sits in front of her home in Tongi area, Dhaka, Feb. 1, 2024, holding a photo believed to be showing Bangladeshi kids at a charity running a children’s home, where her son Billal Hossain disappeared in 1976. (AN Photo)

“They gained our trust by giving the children proper care. They would look after the children from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but after a few days, most of the children disappeared,” Begum told Arab News at her home in Tongi.

“I begged the orphanage over and over again to return my child, but to no avail.”

She appealed to the local authorities and the military, who at that time ruled the country, and some suspects were reportedly arrested in the case, but Begum did not learn anything about her son’s whereabouts.

After some time she was told her son would be returned to her after completing secondary school. That, too, never happened.

Now, at the age of 75, she looks back at a life spent waiting to see him again.

“The only thing I want is to get back my son,” she said. “If I could just see him ... I have been left with a feeling of emptiness in my heart.”

An investigation into the abduction of children in Tongi was launched by Bangladeshi authorities in December last year, after the British newspaper The Guardian reported on Bangladeshi children “wrongly adopted” to the Netherlands in the late 1970s.

Special Superintendent Mashroof Hossain of the Special Branch — the prime intelligence agency of Bangladesh Police — said that most of the parents likely did not know how to look for official help and their children only recently began to investigate their origins.

“These parents were lured with the offer that their children would be brought up in better conditions and that they would stay in Bangladesh. We have heard that in some cases the parents were asked to sign blank papers,” Hossain told Arab News.

“It’s a very complex and time-consuming probe as we need to find the details of incidents that happened 50 years ago. It’s not very easy. Many records from those days are missing, many people have already died.”

His team is in touch with 25 adoptees and four of them have already been reunited with their families in Bangladesh — a drop in the ocean so far, as Hossain is sure that the actual number of cases is “much higher,” as in the Netherlands alone an association of people adopted from Bangladesh has 500 members.

“During those days, not only war babies were adopted from Bangladesh, but also other babies were there, disguised as war babies. The cases we are dealing with now are of the children of Tongi, who were not war babies,” he said.

“It’s our responsibility to resolve this. A heinous crime was committed. Even after 50 years, if we can resolve a few cases, Bangladesh would at least get some relief from this historic burden.”

Rahman Khaa, 70, was working as a rickshaw driver when the Tongi children’s home approached his wife Razia who agreed to give their 1-year-old daughter Nasima Begum to the charity’s care.

The girl stayed there and they were allowed to regularly visit. But one month later, she went missing.

“I asked the orphanage’s authorities about her whereabouts. I was told that they had no clear idea where she had been transferred,” Khaa said.

His wife passed away last year, grieving until her last day over her decision to admit the child into the charity’s care.

“I know that from another world her mother’s blessings are always with our daughter,” Khaa said.

“She is for sure a grown-up woman now. If she returns, it will make me the happiest man on Earth.”


Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9

Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9
Updated 15 April 2024
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Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9

Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9
  • Fighting getting harder on eastern front, Zelensky says
  • Russia pushing toward Donetsk region town on high ground

KYIV: Ukraine’s top commander said on Sunday Russian forces aimed to capture the town of Chasiv Yar by May 9, setting the stage for an important battle for control of high ground in the east where Russia is focusing its assaults.

The fall of the town west of the shattered city of Bakhmut by the date Moscow marks the Soviet victory in World War Two would indicate growing Russian battlefield momentum as Kyiv faces a slowdown in Western military aid.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who warned this weekend that the situation in the east had deteriorated, said Russia was focusing its efforts west of occupied Bakhmut to try to capture Chasiv Yar before moving toward the city of Kramatorsk.
Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region lies 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles) from Bakhmut, the devastated city captured by Russian forces in May last year after months of bloody fighting.
Kyiv’s brigades were holding back the assaults near Chasiv Yar for now and had been reinforced with ammunition, drones and electronic warfare devices, he said in a statement on the Telegram messenger.
“The threat remains relevant, taking into account the fact that the higher Russian military leadership has set its troops the task of capturing Chasiv Yar by May 9,” he said, without elaborating.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, writing on Facebook, said he visited Ukrainian units on the eastern front on Sunday and described the situation as “tense,” with Russia trying to make headway in areas west of Bakhmut.

“Despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, we effectively disrupt these plans thanks to the courage, training and professionalism of the defenders,” he wrote.
Russia marks May 9 with a big military parade on Red Square overseen by President Vladimir Putin who won a new six-year term in the Kremlin at a tightly-controlled election in March.

Attacks on the energy system
The war has escalated in recent weeks with Russia staging three massive air strikes on Ukrainian power plants and substations, raising fears over the resilience of an energy system that was hobbled in the war’s first winter.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians in his nightly address on Sunday: “The situation at the front during such a hot war is always difficult. But these days — and especially on the Donetsk front — it’s getting harder.”
The Ukrainian leader has warned the Kremlin may be preparing to launch a big offensive in late spring or summer.
It is unclear where that attack would come, but Russia has focused its attacking efforts in the Donetsk region.
Ukraine has this year tried to find a pressure point to strike back against the Kremlin, using domestically-produced long-range drones to bomb oil facilities deep inside Russia.
Ukraine now faces manpower challenges and artillery shell shortages.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think-tank in Philadelphia, said on X that Chasiv Yar would likely prove an important battle.
“Chasiv Yar is located on defensible high ground. If Russia takes the (town), they could potentially increase the rate of advance deeper into Donetsk (region) as part of an expected summer offensive,” he said.
“Russian forces will still have to cross the canal to take the (town), but they have now reached the canal southeast of the (town). Immediate increased deliveries of ammunition could prove critical.”


Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack

Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack
Updated 15 April 2024
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Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack

Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack
  • Cauchi’s assault, which lasted about half an hour, was brought to an end when solo police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead

SYDNEY: Australian police said Monday they are investigating why a 40-year-old man with mental illness appeared to target women as he roamed a Sydney shopping mall with a large knife, killing six people and injuring a dozen more.
Videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.
Five of the six victims killed were women, as well as most of those wounded.
“The videos speak for themselves don’t they, and that’s certainly a line of inquiry for us,” New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said.
“That’s obvious to me, it’s obvious to detectives, that that seems to be an area of interest — that the offender had focused on women and avoided men,” she told national broadcaster ABC.
Webb stressed that police could not know what was in the mind of the attacker.
“That’s why it’s important now that detectives spend so much time interviewing those who know him.”
Cauchi’s Facebook profile said he came from Toowoomba, near Brisbane, and had attended a local high school and university.
A distinctive grey, red and yellow dragon tattoo on his right arm was used to help identify him.
The last of Cauchi’s six victims was identified Monday as Yixuan Cheng, a young Chinese woman who was a student.
The other women killed were a designer, a volunteer surf lifesaver, the daughter of an entrepreneur, and a new mother whose wounded nine-month-old baby is in hospital.
The mother, 38-year-old Ashlee Good, handed her injured baby girl to strangers in desperation before being rushed to hospital where she died of her wounds.
The baby, named Harriet, remains in a stable condition in a Sydney hospital, police said.
Good’s family described her as “a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all-round outstanding human and so much more.”
“To the two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not — words cannot express our gratitude,” they said in a statement to Australian media.
The only man killed was 30-year-old Pakistani man Faraz Tahir, who had been working as a security guard when he was stabbed.
Cauchi’s assault, which lasted about half an hour, was brought to an end when solo police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead.
Following the shooting, Scott — who has been hailed as a hero — was spending time with her family to deal with the “very traumatic matter,” the state police chief said.
In a statement, Cauchi’s parents offered thoughts for the victims and said their son’s actions were “truly horrific.”
“We are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.”
The parents also sent a message to the officer who shot their son dead.
“She was only doing her job to protect others and we hope she is coping alright,” they said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had spoken to the families of some of the victims.
“The gender break-down is of course concerning — each and every victim here is mourned,” he told ABC radio, promising a “comprehensive” police investigation.
Cauchi is believed to have traveled to Sydney about a month ago and hired a small storage unit in the city, according to police. It contained personal belongings, including a boogie board.
He had been living in a vehicle and hostels, and was only in sporadic contact with his family via text messages, his parents said.


At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
Updated 15 April 2024
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At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
  • Iran envoy: If US attacks Iran, Tehran will use “its inherent right to respond proportionately” 
  • US ambassador: If Iran attacks US, it will be held responsible

NEW YORK: Iran has on Sunday said that it has no intention of engaging militarily with the US in the region, but if the latter initiates a military operation against it, its citizens, or security interests “Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately." 

Iran’s permanent representative to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani told a meeting of the UN Security council that his country’s Saturday attack on Israel was "precise, only targeted military objectives and was carried out carefully to minimize the potential for escalation and prevents civilian harm." 

 

 

Iran on Saturday launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation against an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed seven revolutionary guards, including two generals. Iran had warned that Israel would be “punished” for the strike, which took place on April 1. 

The emergency Security Council meeting was requested by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan who called council members to “unequivocally condemn Iran (and) immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.” 

Iran had said that Saturday’s attack was in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which invokes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” 

US ambassador Robert Wood warned that “if Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible. " 

Wood condemned in the strongest terms "the unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran and its militant proxies and partners.” Iran's "reckless actions" not only posed a threat to populations in Israel, but also to other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq, he added.  

"Security Council has an obligation to not let Iran actions go unanswered,” said the US diplomat, adding that "for far too long, Iran has flagrantly violated its international legal obligations through the actions of its IRGC, by arming Hezbollah, by arming, facilitating and enabling Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and more recently, merchant and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.” 

 

 

Wood also accused Iran of being complicit in the October 7 attack on Israel, having provided “significant funding and training for Hamas.”  

He said the US will explore “additional measures to hold Iran accountable at the UN,” and called on the Security Council to unequivocally condemn Iran's actions and call for it “and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks. " 

Israel’s Gilad Erdan compared Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler. He said that in its “plot to impose a global Shiite hegemony through its proxies, Iran has even attacked Saudi Arabia, the Aramco oil field in the UAE and anyone else they view as an obstacle.” 

"The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes,” Erdan told the council, as he warned that Tehran is “barreling towards nuclear capabilities, has enriched uranium up to 60% purity, and its breakout time to produce nuclear weapons is now mere weeks away.  

“Impose sanctions on Iran before it is too late," said Erdan. 

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan shows a video of the Iran missile attack during a meeting  of the Security Council on Middle East security on April 14, 2024. (REUTERS)

The Israeli envoy added that "we are being fired upon from all fronts, from every border. We are surrounded by Iran's terror proxies. The war in Gaza extends far broader than Israel and Hamas. All of the terror groups attacking Israel are tentacles of the same Shia octopus, the Iranian octopus." 

He warned that "while the Ayatollah regime thinks Israel is a frog in boiling water. They are wrong. This attack crossed every red line and Israel reserves the legal right to retaliate.  We are a nation of lions. Following such a massive and direct attack on Israel, the entire world let alone Israel cannot settle for inaction." 

Russia's Vasily Nebenzia accused the council of hypocrisy and double standard over its failure to convene in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, or what he called the “now regular attacks by Israel against Syria and Lebanon.” 

The Russian envoy warned that “if the council’s inaction on such matters will continue "then your appeals to restraint by all parties can become futile." 

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the Security Council of hypocrisy and double standard for not convening in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. (Getty Images/AFP)

China's deputy permanent representative Dai Bing noted Iran’s statement that its military action was in response to Israel's aggression against his diplomatic premises and “the matter can be deemed concluded." 

Dai added that "if the flames of the Gaza conflict are allowed to continue raging, then the adverse spillover is set to spread still further, making the region, even more unstable. Countries and peoples in the Middle East, have no desire for nor can they afford a larger conflict or war." 

Algeria's Deputy Permanent Representative Nacim Gaouaoui said recent developments cannot overrule the central question “which is the aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and at the same time, it can never be used as a pretext or cover to launch a land attack against Rafah.  

“Algeria calls again for ceasefire, and an end to Israel's heinous killing machine.” 

Slovenia's Samuel Zbogar condemned the attacks on Israel in same way Slovenia condemned the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier in April. 

"The sequence of these events accelerates the spiral of violence, escalating into a broader conflict of unpredictable scope,” Zbogar said, as he urged all parties to “choose the path of dialogue and diplomacy, and refrain from further retaliations." 

"Slovenia continues to believe that a ceasefire in Gaza would have a calming effect on tensions in the region. Every moment we delay the risk of a broader conflict increases in these chaotic times," added Zbogar.  

Malta's UN ambassador Vanessa Frazier said the Middle East is experiencing “one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history, which risks spiraling out of control if all sides do not take a step back. 

"Focus should be on defusing tensions by advocating for an immediate and permanent cease fire to the war in Gaza, facilitate immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensure the delivery of sustained humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. All we are witnessing, our steps in the opposite direction," lamented Frazier.  

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador Michael Imran Kanu warned that “the escalating tension in the Middle East is dangerous and unprecedented, with the potential to destabilize not only the entire region, but impact global peace and security.” 

UK’s permanent representative to the UN Barbara Woodward condemned Iran’s attack on Israel and accused Tehran of being intent on sowing chaos in the region.   

Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, addressing the Security Council meeting, accused Iran of being intent on sowing chaos in the Mideast region. (AP)

“As we have demonstrated, the United Kingdom will continue to stand up for Israel's security, and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.” 

France’s deputy permanent representative Nathalie Broadhurst said Iran crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing action and is risking a military escalation for which “it would be responsible.”  

Broadhurst called upon Tehran and its allies “to at long last, and without further delay cease their destabilizing activities throughout the region.” 

 


Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation

Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation
Updated 15 April 2024
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Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation

Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation
  • Biden has been trying to avoid a regional war that could suck the United States back into the Middle East ever since Hamas’s October 7 attack

WASHINGTON: Iran’s attack on Israel gives Joe Biden a familiar dilemma, but on steroids — how to balance support for a difficult ally while preventing the nightmare scenario of a wider war?
Tensions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s war on Gaza were papered over as the US president offered “ironclad” support, including shooting down Iranian drones.
But the White House said it would not support an Israeli counterattack and warned Israel to “think carefully” about escalation that could trigger a full-blown regional conflict.
The question then for Biden, who is facing a tough reelection battle against Donald Trump in November, is what if Netanyahu goes ahead anyway, as he has done in Gaza?
“It puts him in a very tough spot” Colin Clarke, Director of Research at the Soufan Group, told AFP.
“I think he’s suspicious of Netanyahu’s motives here... that Netanyahu is attempting to broaden the war throughout the region to deflect from how poorly the war is going for him in Gaza.”
Biden has been trying to avoid a regional war that could suck the United States back into the Middle East ever since Hamas’s October 7 attack and Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip.
The 81-year-old has, however, struggled to use the leverage provided by the United States being Israel’s main military supplier, especially given a long history of tense relations with Netanyahu.
Biden has been increasingly critical of the death toll in the Palestinian territory and even went as far as suggesting the US could limit military aid, but so far to little effect.
Iran’s attack has seen Biden go back to showing overt support — but at the same time scrambling to stop the crisis spiraling.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Netanyahu was “well aware” that Biden did not want a “wider war.”
Biden himself warned Netanyahu of the potential dangers in a call on Saturday night at a time of “heightened emotion.”
“The president had a discussion about trying to slow things down, think through things,” a US official said.
The hope was that “in the light of day” Israel would see it had had a “spectacular success” against Iran’s attack, added the official.
Washington’s calculus looks to be that Iran also got what it wanted, with a show of force in retaliation for Israel’s strike in Damascus earlier this month that killed a key Iranian general, but with minimal damage.
“However, I fear the status quo will be short-lived,” said James Ryan, Executive Director of the Middle East Research and Information Project, warning of a “dangerous spiral.”
“I expect Biden to attempt to restrain Israeli responses, but Netanyahu has already shown a willingness to test any kind of limit Biden wishes to impose,” he added.
“It’s all very cynical now, unfortunately.”
Biden’s options for restraining Israel are likely to be limited at this stage to tough language in private and making threats in public.
“They’ve got themselves into a corner in many ways,” said Clarke.
“I think they’ve overplayed their hand a little bit by saying the administration is considering cutting off weapons to the Israelis. It’s never going to happen — I think it’s an empty threat, especially in an election year.”
The US presidential election in November comes as Biden faces domestic political pressure on all sides when it comes to Israel.
Trump has led a chorus of Republicans accusing Biden of being weak on the issue — while young and left-wing voters in particular are angered by his failure to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.
Netanyahu, facing his own political and legal issues at home, would now be able to use the Iran attacks to “paper over the very real rifts that exist” with Washington on Gaza, said Clarke.
“If he can drag this out until November, he’s hoping for a Trump victory” when he would have “carte blanche” to act however he wanted in the region, said Clarke.
Another possibility, however, is that Netanyahu may decide to “accede to American urgings” for now on Iran — but with a cost, said Paul Salem, President and CEO of the Middle East Institute.
“Politically, I think they can cash in on saying, ‘okay, America, we won’t do anything, we’re being good. But in exchange, you have to, you know, give us more of a free hand in Gaza,’” he said.


G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran

G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran
Updated 15 April 2024
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G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran

G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran
  • Going forward we will reflect on additional sanctions against Iran in close cooperation with our partners: Ursula von der Leyen

ROME: G7 leaders offered their full support for Israel on Sunday following an attack by Iran, and said they were ready to “take further measures” in response to “further destabilising initiatives.”
In a statement following a video meeting, the leaders of the Group of Seven powers said they “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel.”
“We express our full solidarity and support to Israel and its people and reaffirm our commitment toward its security,” they said, in the statement published by the Italian G7 presidency.
“With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided.
“We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation.
“In this spirit, we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilising initiatives.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a separate statement: “Going forward we will reflect on additional sanctions against Iran in close cooperation with our partners. Specifically on its drone and missile programs.”
Iran launched the attack, its first ever to directly target Israeli territory, in retaliation for a deadly air strike widely blamed on Israel that destroyed its consular building in Syria’s capital early this month.
The attack came as the Israel-Hamas war raged in besieged Gaza.
The G7 — which groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — also said Sunday they would step up efforts to end that crisis.
“We will also strengthen our cooperation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work toward an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need,” they said.
The Israel-Hamas war began with an unprecedented October 7 attack by the militant group against Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.