12:00 AM, December 04, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:21 AM, December 04, 2017


Pvt university student Talha receives Faraaz Hossain Courage Award 2017

He was known for helping others without expecting anything in return.

Righteous at heart, Khondaker Abu Talha epitomised the spirit of courage and humanity as he stood up to protect others in the face of extreme danger.

The 22-year-old youth showed exceptional courage by refusing to be a mere onlooker when he saw a group of criminals mug two passengers on a rickshaw near his house on KM Das Lane in the capital's Tikatuli on October 8 morning.

Talha, a second-year student of computer science and engineering at Daffodil International University, managed to save the lives of the two, but lost his own as one of the muggers stabbed him when he tried to stop them.

Bleeding profusely, he was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

For his act of valour, Talha was posthumously awarded "Faraaz Hossain Courage Award 2017" on Saturday.

PepsiCo Global last year introduced the award with a fund of $200,000 which will support a $10,000 prize to be awarded annually for the next 20 years.

The purpose of the award is to recognise acts of exceptional courage by individuals setting examples of empathy for fellow human beings and imbue the Bangladeshi youths with the spirit of bravery, the very spirit that 20-year-old Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain symbolises.

Faraaz refused to desert his friends and was brutally killed by terrorists in the July 1 terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in the capital's Gulshan area.

The terrorists specifically targeted foreigners dining at the Gulshan café. They were looking for "infidels", taking test as to who could recite verses from the holy Quran and who couldn't.

Faraaz, a brilliant student of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta, US, recited from the holy Quran, and was given the chance to walk out of it all.

But he chose to stay with his friends -- Abinta Kabir, a Bangladesh-born US citizen and a student at Emory University, and Tarishi Jain, an Indian student at the University of California, Berkeley -- with whom he had gone to the café on that fateful night.

At Saturday's ceremony in the capital's Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel, Brac Founder and Chair Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, and PepsiCo India Chairman and CEO D Shivakumar handed over the prize money of $10,000 to Talha's sisters Tayeba Mahmuda and Rokeya Mahmuda.

They also gave a certificate of honour to Talha's mother Selina Chowdhury and a plaque to his father Abu Reaz Mohammad Nuruddin Khondaker, a businessman in Tikatuli.

Last year, Miraz Sardar, a college employee in Madaripur, got the award.

After receiving the plaque, Nuruddin said, "Talha was our only son. We had many dreams centring him. He is no longer with us as he sacrificed his life to save others."

Talha sought help after the muggers stabbed him, but no one came forward, he added.

"We have to awaken people's consciousness if we want to check crimes."

He further said his son exemplified the ideals Faraaz had set for the young generation through his courage and sacrifice.

This year's jury was comprised of eminent personalities -- Sir Abed (jury chair), Bishwa Sahitya Kendra Chairman Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed, renowned Tagore exponent Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Naser Ezaz Bijoy, Dhaka Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Nihad Kabir, teacher of American International School Dhaka Sabahat Jahan, PepsiCo Bangladesh Country Manager Manish Muley, and Faraaz's grandfather and Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman.

The ceremony started with a minute's silence in memory of Faraaz, Abinta, Tarishi and the other victims of Holey Artisan attack, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Annisul Huq and the awardee.

Speaking on the occasion, Sir Abed said Faraaz's extraordinary courage and selflessness on the dark night of July 1 last year served as the beacon of light in Bangladesh and far beyond.

This year's awardee has exemplified the type of courage Faraaz had shown disregarding his own safety to save others, he said.

"I warmly salute the memory of the awardee of Faraaz Hossain Courage Award, 2017," he said.

Explaining the procedure, Sir Abed said notices were published in the national dailies and social networking sites to collect nominations for this year's award, and around 180 written nominations were submitted. Of those, 20 were shortlisted based on their acts of courage.

The jury board was presented with a short list of four candidates, and it unanimously selected Talha for this year's award, he added.

US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat said the July 1 incident was a turning point not only for Bangladesh but also for the world, because everyone who loves freedom and understands the true meaning of faith was attacked that night.

"Faraaz's action exemplified true friendship, bravery, and most of all selfless courage, standing against injustice and demonstrating true love, empathy and the ultimate sacrifice for humanity itself," she said.

D Shivakumar, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo India, said people wish the terror attack on July 1 evening had never happened. But it was a fateful day of courage as well.

An act of individual courage is what makes terrorism look very small and hopeless, and that's what Faraaz did that night, he noted.

Among the words, surfaced on the social media to describe valiant Faraaz, Shivakumar chose five -- “courage”, “hero”, “student”, “grandson”, and “inspiration”.

Surprisingly, most of the social media users who used these words were not from Bangladesh but from other countries, Shivakumar said, adding that Faraaz's gallantry is celebrated all over the world.

"He [Faraaz] is a hero from Bangladesh but his act of courageous friendship resonates across the world."

"He resonates; his act resonates because he acted selflessly in a selfish world. He stood tall when many people think small," he added.

Addressing the ceremony, Latifur Rahman said, "Faraaz showed courage beyond my belief. He showed a character which I admire but I struggle to understand would I ever have had the guts to do what he did. Honestly, I doubt very much."

"He was much bigger in his 20 years than I am at my age." Faraaz displayed the characteristics of Bangladesh and what its people are, Latifur noted.

Praising Talha's bravery, Latifur said this is Bangladesh, a strong and proud nation.

"Bangladesh will not bend to any kind of extremism in any manner whatsoever. And if all of us can put in our own little commitment in our daily lives, nothing can hold this country back."

Stressing the need for working for the country, he said Faraaz wanted to come back to Bangladesh from abroad, and live and build a career here.

Latifur thanked PepsiCo for the endowment of $200,000 for the award.

Saying that his younger brother continues to be his conscience, Zaraif Ayaat Hossain, who moderated the programme, noted that Faraaz's decision to stand and protect his friends from barbaric radicals shone a light on what truly matters.

“And that is the real life by principles, grounding in ethical values that encourage us to look out for one another, values that galvanize us to protect those we love, and values that bring us all together in the spirit of doing what is right,” he said.

“Let Faraaz's example of selflessness manifest in our will to do good, no matter how small or large our efforts may be,” he said.

Recalling their mother Simeen Hossain's contribution to their lives, Zaraif said Faraaz's act of selfless courage was because of the way their mother taught him.

Zaraif then announced the formal launch of Faraaz Hossain Foundation.

He said the foundation is a community that intends to build itself on unbreakable bonds.

"It is a reminder that we are strongest when we are together. It is a movement that begins here and continues to touch every life that we meet... the Faraaz Hossain Foundation is our vision together to see a brighter tomorrow.

"You can make a difference. You are the Faraaz Hossain Foundation. We are Faraaz," he added. 


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