A living proof of Pak army's atrocities | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 05, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:45 PM, December 10, 2015

PAKISTAN LYING, STILL

A living proof of Pak army's atrocities

She is a living witness of innumerable atrocities by the Pakistan army against unarmed, innocent Bangalee civilians during the nine-month Liberation War.

Not only that, she herself is one of the rape victims of the Pakistani occupational forces which, together with their local collaborators, violated almost a quarter of a million Bangalee women.

But Ferdousi Priyobhashinee, then 23, would not be silenced. Years after being freed from the clutch of her tormentors towards the end of the war, she would go on to stand by the women abused like her and speak of her ordeal in public, unlike most others who buried their agonies deep inside them because of the social stigma associated with it.

And she is furious when Pakistan, after all these years, denies that it had committed any atrocities in 1971.

Following the hangings of war criminals Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Pakistan on November 30 summoned the acting high commissioner of Bangladesh Maushumi Rahman to its foreign ministry and denied committing any war crimes or atrocities during the 1971 Liberation War.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, she described such denial as “total lies”, which is “disgraceful”.

Accounts by witnesses, relatives and rape victims as well as historical records show many women became pregnant during the war and gave birth to war babies.

After independence, the rape victims were honoured with the title "Birangana" or war heroine.

Born into a cultural family, Ferdousi was associated with a cultural organisation, Sandeepon. She worked at the Crescent Jute Mills in Khulna when the war broke out.

She was the lone bread earner of her family after her parents separated. One of her brothers joined the war.

Like many other places, Khalishpur, where she used to live with her mother, younger brothers and sisters in Khulna town, turned turbulent with sporadic clashes between Bangalees and Biharis.

The riot between Bangalees and Biharis spread throughout the town on March 26, the day Bangladesh declared its independence. It turned serious in the next two days. At the end of the month, she along with her family members moved to her maternal uncle's house at Muslimpara in Khulna.

As the situation calmed down a bit, she returned to their Khalishpur house a few days later, only to see their home ransacked and looted. Yet, they started living there amid fear of destruction by the Pakistan army. At one point, her family members went to Jessore. But Ferdousi had to stay back in Khalishpur for her work so she could support the family.

She said she was threatened with consequences because one of her brothers joined the war. The Pakistan army and its local collaborators also threatened to implicate her in a murder case, as she witnessed the killing of one collaborator by some Bangalees. 

In an interview with veteran journalist and war crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir in 1999, Ferdousi described how she was kept virtually imprisoned by the Pakistani forces and their collaborators in Khulna during the war. It was the first time she spoke in an interview of her trauma.

She witnessed how the Pakistani troops slaughtered innocent Bangalees by guillotine with jute cutters of the mill and narrated the horrific times of her life when she was violated repeatedly by the troops. She became pregnant, but had an abortion.

"I had seen many deaths, heard about many incidents of women repression, but I never thought that I would also have to become the victim of such cruelty," she said in the interview which was published in 1999 in a book titled "Tormenting Seventy One: An account of Pakistan army's atrocities during Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971".

Ferdousi was taken to Jessore by the Pakistan army officers who violated her on the way and again at the billiard room at Jessore Cantonment before handing her over to another army officer. She named many top army officers who violated her. She was not spared even by junior officers.

"I told them, 'Please kill me. Don't torture me in this way.' But unfortunately it was not my fate to be killed by the Pakistanis. I was brutally tortured by both Colonel Khatak and Colonel Abed. Colonel Abdullah and Colonel Zafar also tortured me at Jessore Cantonment in the name of interrogation.

"My request, my tears, my resistance, my hatred -- nothing could stop the Pakistan army officers who held high ranks," she said.

Once she was taken to a concentration camp in Jessore where she heard the sound of beating people who were tortured there.

In the early days of the war, once she and her family heard sounds of massive firing coming from Munshibari, a neighbouring house, in Khalishpur. Looking through a window, they saw 15-16 people were being killed.

"I read many stories of repression by the Nazi soldiers, I also watched many films on the second World War, but all those incidents of repression faded in front of the brutality of the Pakistani forces I witnessed every day in 1971," she told the interview.

"Now, they are lying," she told this correspondent yesterday when approached for a comment over Pakistan's denial.

"I have named many officers [involved in the crime]. Should they be walking free? Shouldn't they be tried? ... They must be brought to book," said Ferdousi, also a vice-president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, which champions the demand for war crimes trial.

“Why should we keep relations with a country that made us suffer so much and is still trying to do so? All relations, diplomatic or economic, should be severed [with Pakistan],” she said.

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