Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mutiny in Dhaka

Political unrest can be just so... tiring.

Long story short (to the best of my understanding): The boarder guards- aka the BDR- have been upset that they get less benefits/ pay than the primary army. They mutinied in their headquarters in Dhamondi (a neighborhood in Dhaka), killing a general and some other people. (Not to say I don't care who they are, I'm just not sure). There are also reports of violence caused by the BDR in other regions of the country. The new (old and reoccurring but newly reelected?) prime minister offered amnesty to the mutineers if they surrendered, disarmed and disbanded. The mutineers accepted. The actual surrender is in the process as I type.

Now, apparently all this happened in a region near New Market. (Actually, a friend of mine was down there at the time.) I must agree that if I were in a crowded place and their were mortar and gunshots fired, I'd probably be in the picture below.(credits to the Daily Star) Please note, it's mostly women running for their lives.

(My friend was ushered into a jewelry store. Her daughter explained to me today that's because jewelers are armed to deter burglars. I don't know if that works, but it just deterred this potential shopper) My friend (reports her daughter) is perfectly okay. Although she reportedly suggested to a blond in the car that she stick her head out the window to show off their "white people pass" and get out of the area faster. As much as I would not want to stick my head out the window when there is potential gunfire, here in Dhaka flaunting the 'white skin pass' isn't such a half baked idea. Of course, I say this as a brunette who would not be the first candidate to flaunt the "whiteness' of my hair.

It can also be comical-as when one of the mutinying boarder guards stated that one of their complaints was not being sent on peace keeping missions. This from Farid Hossain of the Associated Press
During Wednesday's standoff, one guard in combat dress, his face covered in a yellow handkerchief, emerged from the compound and complained to television reporters that "army troops are sent abroad to work in U.N. peacekeeping missions and they get fat salaries. But they don't take border guard personnel for peacekeeping."
They don't send us to keep the peace! Shoot someone! Great complaint and follow through. (FYI, Bangladeshi is one of the primary suppliers to the UN peacekeeping forces.)

Now, I know I've previously mentioned my white-women in Bangladesh super-power of being able to effortlessly draw a crowd of 30 men in less than a minute. I would like to put this in context. Please ask yourself, "If I were in a country where the political stability is a bit dubious, there has been bullets and mortar-fire and the army has lined the streets with cannons, what would I do?" If you answered anything to the effect of "run like hell in the opposite direction," you'd be with me and the women in the picture above. However, if you're a normal Bangladeshi male, the answer is something like that picture below. (credits again to the Daily Star) Please look closely at the background.

Yes, that's right. Get closer, stand around and wait to see if there will be more live 'entertainment'. I just wish I could find another image that was in the print edition- it really shows the crowd and stare mentality in all its packed, land-covering, oxygen smothering glory.

Life in the diplomatic zone- where I live and work- has been effected in a way I would categorize as more overly cautious to the point of annoyance than anything else. One of the school's buses didn't run yesterday afternoon or this morning because it transports students outside the dipzone. We've had our after school and weekend activities postponed since yesterday. -This includes the middle and high school music concert, the high school play and the middle school boys basketball and girls soccer tournament. Also, the entire middle school had various trips/ activities planned for today. The sixth grade was going to do activities on campus associated with Shaheed day, or mother tongue day. This is a huge day because the War of Liberation (the civil war that separated East and West Pakistan into Bangladesh and Pakistan) was provoked by the insistence that Bangla people abandon their mother tongue and adopt Urdu. The eighth grade was actually going to go downtown to the War Liberation Museum. And the seventh grade (that's my group) has been planning activities to teach English to the orphans at Families for Children (FFC), an organization with whom we have a formal and ongoing relationship. We were going to go to the orphanage, which is also quite an experience for our rather privileged kids. Also, we got some of our passports back from the Indian High Commission where they were being processed for visas. (The Thai Embassy didn't release the passports we have there.) (We have the passports in preparation for the class trips full of camping and outdoor education.) Some parents wanted the passports back for the weekend- just in case.

So- I originally wrote 'minimally effected' - I guess that's more than minimal. But, as far as political unrest goes, I'd classify all that more as disrupting curriculum and being a tad vexing than anything serious. After work today I went out to my balcony, ate tuna salad on a multigrain bagel, some fruit salad and read a little while listening to the birds and admiring my plants. I still plan on popping into our school's mardi gras party tonight to say hi to everyone.

No comments: