John Openshaw


Long Weekends and Protests


MARCH 7, 2013

FILED UNDER:development, bangladesh


The last week has been marred by political disruption and violence as protests and rallies continue to sweep across Bangladesh. Since the war crimes tribunal sentenced an Islamic leader to death last week, tragically, at my last check of news outlets, over seventy people have been killed.

The news has been full of pictures showing angry protestors burning cars and baby taxis, setting up flaming road blocks, and smashing store fronts.

Over the last two weeks we have had six days disrupted by dawn to dusk hartals — nationwide protests called by political groups — which force a countrywide shut down of businesses and schools.

Stores are closed and people avoid going out on the streets for fear of violence and protests. We are advised to stay inside, and I have spent much of the last two weeks inside the apartment. I have been to work only four days of the last two weeks — which means that I have had two very long weekends.

For me this is an inconvenience, thankfully I have a computer and an internet connection and can continue do some work from home.

For many, however, this represents a major difficulty with a large negative economic impact: people who depend on a daily wage cannot go to work, store owners cannot open their shops, and businesses cannot ship or receive goods.

According to a recent news report, hartals since December have cost the country $3 billion, a cost of $200 million per hartal day.

One does wonder how long this can be kept up given the challenges to the economy and political stability that hartals pose.

This video of a political procession — which appears to be peaceful — was taken from the safety of a balcony. Credit for it goes, once again, to intrepid urban explorer Chelsea Wood who (thankfully) always seems to have a camera at hand.