My Hard Lessons for Peace
Meine schwere Lektion in Sachen Frieden
Internationale Gesamtschule Heidelberg (Unesco Projekt Schule):
I always loved my father and admired him more than anyone else in the world. In this I was not alone. He was the founding father of our nation, so beloved by his people that he got a special name, Bangabandhu, meaning the “Friend of Bengal”. After our Liberation War he returned home from prison in a foreign land to take charge of the country as Prime Minister. Only three and a half years later, in the early hours of 15 August 1975, some military men killed Bangabandhu at his residence in Dhaka. They also killed my mother, my younger brothers, two of them, along with their newly wed wives, and my youngest brother, who was ten. At that time my only sister and I were in Germany where my husband, a scientist, was doing a course. This is how she and I survived.
|1) Every father leaves a legacy for his children. The legacy my father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, left for us was a deep love for our land and its people, a love never to be compromised, a firm belief in democracy and democratic values, commitment to secular ideals and, above all, love for peace. These are values not easy to pursue in a country where religion and the religious nature of the people, many of them poor and illiterate, have been exploited for long for political purposes and for personal advancement. And where military dictatorship and other forms of authoritarian rule have dislodged democracy time and again, and violence and conflict rather than peace got the upper hand repeatedly. When my father met his tragic end, I made up my mind to pursue his ideals, in the face of all odds.||1)||2) Those who had killed Bangabandhu and seized power would not have spared my sister or me either, if they had a chance. We moved from country to country stalked by the fear of death all the time and could return to Bangladesh only six years later. We were not allowed, for quite some time, even to enter the house where my parents and others were killed, though the house was our own. I have been through the deepest trauma. I know what military rule, formal or veiled, means. I know how important democracy is, peace is, and the human rights are. I have learnt these lessons from life and can never forget them.||2)||3) Bangladesh is a small country with a large population. A total 120 million or so live in an area of no more than 147,570 square kilometers. The country is very green and full of rivers, mighty and small, with hills and forests in the south and the south-east. We have a rich language and a rich culture. Poetry and music run in our blood. We love our land, language, and culture, and had to suffer, and pay a high price, for these. We love peace and our idea of peace is closely linked with these.||3)||4) Peace is more than merely an absence of war, violence or conflict. If children die of hunger or malnutrition, if people do not have homes to live in, if the sick have to go without treatment, if people commit crime and are not punished, peace cannot be said to prevail. If the people do not have an opportunity to decide how they are going to be ruled and who are going to rule them, if they do not have freedom of thought and freedom of speech, if they are subject to the whims of the military or a dictator, there is no peace worth the name. Peace is pointless if the people are not free and happy. They must have every opportunity to lead, without hindrance, the kind of life they wish to.||4)||5) In 1947 the British quit after ruling the Indian sub-continent for nearly two hundred years. India was divided and Pakistan established as a separate state for the Muslims, but in two parts, separated from each other by more than a thousand miles of foreign territory and with two peoples different from each other in every respect except religion. We in the eastern part were in the majority in Pakistan, but our voice was heard only rarely and our language was denied the status of a state language. We were exploited, economically and politically. Even the name ’East Bengal’ was changed to ’East Pakistan’. We had no right to be Bengalis, but had to become Pakistanis, first and last. ||5)....................Wir wurden wirtschaftlich und politisch Ausgebeutet. Sogar der Name „Ost-Bangladesch“ wurde in „Ost-Pakistan“ umgeändert. Erstens hatten wir kein Recht Bengalen zu sein und letzt endlich mussten wir Pakistaner werden. ||6) Awami League, led by Bangabandhu, won general elections in 1971, the first ever all over the country since Pakistan came into being. The military rulers did not, however, allow Bangabandhu to form the government. Earlier, when he had demanded full autonomy for Bangladesh, he was imprisoned, charged with sedition and tried in a military court. The people rose in protest, forcing the government to withdraw the false case. This time, Pakistan army attacked the unarmed people of Bangladesh and started a genocide that eventually took a toll of three million lives. Bangabandhu declared independence of Bangladesh, but was arrested soon after and taken as prisoner to Pakistan. A Liberation War, lasting for nine months, followed. Awami League formed a government in exile and led the war. Bangabandhu’s words inspired and electrified the people, though he was away. Pakistan army lost the war and surrendered on December 16.||6) 1971 waren die ersten landesweiten Wahlen unter der Regierung Bangabandhus, die Awami League gewann. Jedoch erlaubten die militärischen Führer es Bangabandhu nicht die Regierung zu bilden. Früher als er für ein freies Bangladesch kämpfte wurde er ins Gefängnis gesteckt. Die Bevölkerung erhob sich in Protest um die Regierung zu zwingen die falschen Urteile wieder zurück zu nehmen.
Zu dieser Zeit griff die pakistanische Armee die unbewaffnete Bevölkerung Bangladeschs an und begann einen Völkermord der einen Preis von 3 Millionen Leben kostete. Bangabandhu erklärte Bangladesch unabhängig, er wurde jedoch kurz darauf festgenommen und als Gefangener nach Pakistan gebracht. Ein Befreiungskrieg der neun Monate andauerte folgte. Die Awami League gründete eine Regierung im Exil und führte den Krieg an. Bangabandhus Worte inspirierten und faszinierten die Leute, obwohl er weit weg war. Die pakistanische Armee verlor der Krieg und kapitulierte am 16.Dezember.||7) Though we believe in peace, we had to take up arms in self-defense, since our survival was at stake. We could not be silent witnesses to the murder of our people and the rape of our women, could we? We had to shed blood for our mother tongue, for, when the language of a nation is threatened, its culture and indeed its very identity is threatened. We learnt our hard lessons for peace from our days with Pakistan. First, military or authoritarian rule cannot bring about peace; only rule by the people can. Secondly, a life, quiet and unruffled on the face of it, is no guarantee of a truly peaceful one. Thirdly, peace can never be taken for granted. One has to work for it and go through struggles, if necessary, to earn it. Fourthly, it may call for sacrifices, and, if sacrifices are called for, these must be made. Finally, it is the duty of all of us, both individually and collectively, to try to attain peace and to sustain it.||7) Obwohl wir an den Frieden glauben mussten wir zur Selbstverteidigung zu Waffen greifen, da unser Überleben bedroht war. Wir konnten keine stillen Zeugen für den Mord unseres Volkes und der Vergewaltigung unserer Frauen sein. Wir mussten Blut für unsere Muttersprache vergießen, denn wenn die Sprache unserer Nation bedroht ist, ist unsere Kultur und unsere ganze Identität bedroht. In den Tagen mit Pakistan hatten wir schwer für den Frieden zu kämpfen.Erstens, militärische oder autoritäre Regierungen können keinen Frieden bringen; nur Regierungen des Volkes können dies.
Zweitens, wenn ein Leben still und gelassen aussieht, ist das keine Garantie für ein wirklich friedliches Leben. Drittens, Frieden kann nicht als selbstverständlich angesehen werden. Man muss dafür arbeiten und durch Schwierigkeiten gehen, wenn es nötig ist, um ihn zu verdienen.Viertens, er kann Opfer verlangen und wenn er diese verlangt, müssen sie getan werden. Und zu guter Letzt ist es unser aller Pflicht, sowohl im einzelnen als auch in der Gruppe, Frieden zu erlangen und zu halten. ||8) When I returned home from exile in 1981, 6 years after my father’s death, I did so with a firm determination to break the pattern of violence and violation of human rights in my country. The first imperative was to end undemocratic, military rule. I was the first to protest against it. A number of smaller parties aided Awami League in mobilizing public opinion and, in 1990, the government finally had to resign. We had campaigned for securing democracy, respect for human rights and peace, both within the country and with our neighbours. I was put under house arrest several times and even taken to prison on one occasion. Attempts were repeatedly made on my life. In 1986 and 1996, bombs exploded at my public meetings; in 1989, grenades were thrown at my residence; in 1988, my truck came under heavy fire when I was leading a peaceful demonstration in Chittagong, the port city; in 1996, my car was attacked twice, once in front of the Press Club and again in front of the Secret! ariat in Dhaka. In 1996, a bullet missed me in a meeting, killing a young man. Another missed me in November 1987 and killed a champion against authoritarian rule. My life is, I know, at stake, even now.||8) Als Ich 1981, 6 Jahre nach dem Tod meines Vaters, aus dem Exil zurück nach Hause kam, kämpfte ich festentschlossen gegen die Gewalt und das gewaltsame Muster der Menschenrecht in meinem Land. Das erste Anliegen war die Beendung der undemokratischen militärischen Herrschaft. Ich war die erste die für diese Anliegen protestierte. Eine Zahl kleinerer Parteien half der Awami League die öffentliche Meinung zu mobilisieren und 1990 musste die Regierung endlich zurücktreten. Wir hatten eine Kampagne gestartet um die Demokratie, Respekt gegenüber den Menschenrechten und den Frieden zu bewahren, dies in unserem eigenen Land als auch bei unseren Nachbarn. Ich bekam mehrer Male Arrest und wurde sogar ins Gefängnis gesteckt. Wiederholt wurden Anschläge auf mein Leben begangen. 1986 und 1996 explodierten Bomben bei meinen öffentlichen Auftritten, 1989 wurden Granaten auf meinen Wohnsitz geworfen, 1988 geriet mein Auto unter starken Beschuss, als ich eine friedliche Demonstration in der Hafenstadt Chittagong anführte; 1996 wurde mein Auto zweimal angegriffen, einmal vor dem Presseclub und ein weiteres Mal vor der Botschaft in Dhaka. 1996 verfehlte mich eine Kugel die einen jungen Mann tötete. Eine verfehlte mich im November 1987 und tötete einen Kämpfer gegen die Autoritäre Herrschaft. Mein Leben ist, dessen bin ich mir sicher, sogar jetzt noch in Gefahr. ||9) The other task was to restore to the people their right to vote freely. Elections had become a farce. Those who were in power would win in any case, either by rigging the elections or by fabricating figures over radio and TV. Awami League proposed an amendment to the constitution to establish a neutral caretaker government to run the country in the three months ahead of the elections. In the face of massive agitation, the government had to agree to make the amendment. In the general elections held under the new system, the Awami League won. If democracy is a pre-condition of peace, we believe we made a little contribution to it.||9) Eine weitere Aufgabe war es, das freie Wahlrecht des Volkes wieder herzustellen. Die Wahlen waren eine reine Falle, die, die an der Macht waren würden auf jeden Fall gewinnen, entweder durch Wahlbetrug oder durch Manipulation durch die Medien. Die Awami League schlug einen Nachtrag zur Verfassung vor, für einen neutrale Übergangsregierung, die drei Monate vor den Wahlen eingesetzt, das Land regieren sollte. Angesichts großen Drucks musste die Regierung dem Verfassungsnachtrag zustimmen. Bei den ersten allgemeinen Wahlen, die unter dem neuen System abgehalten wurden, gewann die Awami League.
Wenn Demokratie eine Bedingung für Frieden ist, dann glauben wir, dass wir einen kleinen Beitrag dazu geleistet haben.||10) Since we believe in peace, my government took measures, immediately after coming to power, to resolve the long standing dispute between Bangladesh and India over the sharing of the waters of the Ganges. A large area in the south of Bangladesh had virtually turned into a desert for want of water, affecting agriculture, environment and the lives of the people. I took a personal initiative and went to New Delhi to talk to the Prime Minister of India. We succeeded in concluding a thirty-year treaty, ending the dispute. Another lesson to learn: given sincerity of purpose, nothing is irremediable and nothing can stand in the way of peace.||10)||11) Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a mountainous area in the south-east of Bangladesh, the home of the majority of the tribal population of the country, had been a seat of unrest, violence and conflict for more than two decades. The conflict had, according to one estimate, cost no less than twenty thousand lives and uprooted thousands who had sought shelter across the border in India. It was a complex problem, but boiled down, as I had once remarked, to “one basic question: the right of an indigenous people, an ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic and social minority, to preserve their identity, culture, tradition and values and lead life in their own way in an area where they had lived for ages.” After forming the government, we constituted a national committee with Members of Parliament from all major parties, including those in the opposition, to talk to the representatives of the tribal people. The talks ended with the signing, on 2 December 1997, of a peace accord b! etween the two sides. Since then, there has not been a single incidence of conflict or violence in CHT. Those who had gone across the border, more than sixty-three thousand of them, have all returned home. Peace in CHT was reached, and holds, without any external help, aid or mediation. I do not know of any other case in the world, full of ethnic conflicts as it unfortunately is, where such a thing has happened.||11)||12) How did we succeed in resolving the problem when others before us did not? Government after government tried to suppress the tribal people with military might. One attempted to outnumber the tribal population by resettling people from other parts of the country in CHT. One that tried to talk to the tribal people had failed to reach an agreement. Now, these were no ways to solve a problem, which was basically political in nature. When in the opposition, my party and I were the first to ask for a political solution. If a problem is to be solved, it must first be viewed in its correct perspective. When we came to power, we tried to generate trust and confidence among the representatives of the tribal people. We invited them to come to Dhaka for talks, and they did. Both sides made concessions in the peace accord, but with due respect to each other. We, for example, recognized CHT as the homeland of the tribal people and did so in the very first sentence of the accord. We believe that generating trust is the first step for resolving any problem and that it is also the last. This was, we think, our key to success.||12)||13) Two months after the peace accord, I went to Khagrachari, a remote town in CHT, where the former insurgents gathered for a ceremony to surrender their arms. There was unprecedented jubilation. A number of former insurgents laid down their arms. The leader of the former insurgents handed over his arms to me. I gave him a bouquet of white roses.||13)||14)As the ceremony proceeded, a thought came to me in a flash. Why should I be at a distance from those who had given up arms, responding to my call? I brushed aside the security people and started walking down to the former insurgents, taking every one by surprise. So here they were, these young men, many seemingly still in their teens, the stamp of a life led for long away from home and in inhospitable conditions unmistakable on their faces, their minds filled with apprehensions about the future, their eyes moving to and fro between the arms they had surrendered a moment back and the empty space in front of them, arms that were their closest and, at times, sole company in bushes and jungles in a forlorn terrain. I could read their mind easily. They needed to be reassured and encouraged. As I approached them, they looked at me incredulously. I went close to them, talked to them, had a close look at the arms they had deposited. There were tears in the eyes of some before. Now t! hey smiled, all of them, signs of apprehension gone from their faces, their eyes gleaming. ||14)||15) It was an unforgettable day, the beginning of a peaceful life for the tribal people in their own region and own homes, which the government would help to rebuild, with their children going to school and their men and women going to work, unforgettable also for the whole of Bangladesh, which cold take pride in the peaceful resolution of a long-drawn conflict.||15)|