Who Cares About YouTube Anyway?

Mashuqur Rahman

Mashuqur Rahman

Cartoon by Arifur Rahman http://www.cartoonstudio.tk/
Cartoon by Arifur Rahman http://www.cartoonstudio.tk/

About a year and a half ago I uploaded three videos to YouTube. For more than three and a half decades these videos, and the truth they held within them, remained largely hidden from the Bangladeshi people. Few had read about these videos and fewer still had actually seen them. A generation of Bangladeshis has grown up not fully grasping the brutality that had been visited upon the emerging nation in 1971. For decades these videos lay hidden in dusty archives and in the purview of scholars and academics. The truth in the videos, and the larger truth about the genocide of 1971, was muddied by successive rewritings of Bangladesh’s history by those who ruled its people by force. Bangladeshi history and the genocide of 1971 became a playground for genocide deniers.

Some of us have been fighting back to reclaim our history. In this fight, the Internet and YouTube have been our weapons. As part of this fight, I uploaded the three videos.

I uploaded a NBC News report from January 7, 1972 that showed chilling video of Pakistani soldiers executing students, professors and workers at Dhaka University on March 26, 1971. This was video taken by a university professor that was kept hidden until the end of the war. It documented the killing spree that began the genocide that would eventually take up to 3 million Bengali lives.

I uploaded a CBS News report from February 2, 1972 that showed evidence of mass graves and widespread killings in Khulna district that took approximately 100,000 lives.

I uploaded a NBC News report from February 20, 1972 that showed interviews of pregnant Bengali women and girls who were victims of genocidal rape. Some of the girls were as young as 13.

NBC News anchor Gerrick Utley, reflecting on the rapes and massacres of the 1971 genocide, said in his February 1972 report:

“We Americans are aware of what is happening in Cambodia and South Vietnam because this country has a big stake there. But, Bangladesh is a different case. There is no major American involvement or commitment there – nothing that approaches the needs of that young and impoverished nation. And so, the memory of what happened there may already be growing dim in many of us. But, what did happen there will never be forgotten by the people of Bangladesh, especially the women.”

It is a national shame for Bangladesh that much of what happened in 1971 has been forgotten, distorted or buried under the weight of lies and genocide denial. A generation of Bangladeshis has grown up denied access to their history.

So, I uploaded these videos hoping someone, some young Bangladeshi, would see and learn what they did to us. Since I uploaded these videos, Bangladeshis by the thousands have watched – most for the very first time. The three YouTube videos have been watched by over 300,000 people. The videos have been downloaded and reposted by many others – on YouTube and on other video hosting websites on the Internet. The videos have been reposted on social media sites like Facebook, and they have been emailed countless times to Bangladeshis who were watching for the first time what they did to us.

That is the power of the Internet. And that is the power of YouTube. What was once hidden away in dusty archives is now available for all the world to see.

After seeing the videos, a commenter wrote on my blog:

Thank You. Thank You for shocking me again after all these years. Thank you for making me cry. Thank you for making me angry. Thank you for making me feel that feeling. Thank you for making it real, once again.

Thank you for reminding me again how it had felt the first time I had seen these footages, many, many years ago.

Thank You for giving me few precious moments to share with my twelve-year-old and explain why Baba has trouble using his Muslim identity to overlook some inconvenient truth from his past.

Thank you for restoring my faith on the Internet and reminding me that just the plain truth sometimes can be the most powerful equalizer and our greatest weapon against all things evil – whether appearing in the guise of an affable general or a well-published scholar.

It is our history. For us to carry. For us to preserve and pass on to our children.

Unfortunately, the Bangladesh government has now banned YouTube to try to block an inconvenient audio tape that was leaked to the public. In so doing, the government has also blocked access to those three videos I uploaded and many others like them that tell our story, that expose the truth of our past, and that shame the genocide deniers. These same genocide deniers thrive on ignorance and on hiding facts and evidence. Censorship and disinformation are the tools of their trade.

The Bangladesh government needs to rethink its policy of censorship. It needs to ask itself who benefits from such censorship, and who suffers.

To illustrate the point, I invite Bangladeshi government officials, members of the Bangladesh military, and Bangladeshi citizens to watch the three videos below – all hosted on YouTube:

NBC News (1/7/1972): Dhaka University Massacre
Video of Pakistani soldiers executing students, professors and workers at Dhaka University on March 26, 1971.

CBS News (2/2/1972): Khulna Massacres
Evidence of mass graves and widespread killing in Khulna. Approximately 100,000 people were killed in Khulna.

NBC News (2/20/1972): Rape Victims
Genocidal rapes of Bangladeshi women and girls during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The report interviews pregnant girls held at Pakistani army barracks and repeatedly raped. Some of the girls are as young as 13.

Mashuqur Rahman [http://www.docstrangelove.com] is one of the highest read Bangladeshi-American bloggers. Critically acclaimed for his incisive analysis on Bangladesh, US foreign policy and dedicated advocacy of human rights.


9 Responses to “Who Cares About YouTube Anyway?”

  1. Faissal

    I have seen the DU massacre video, somewhere, before. Thanks for posting your videos. Someone, some days back, sent me a link to where someone had stored a copy of that “banned” tape, but that RapidShare account went over its limit. Maybe we can spread the contents of that tape by other means. The BD Govt. should realize that state secrets should be protected by preventing them from getting out, in the first place, not by censorship once it is already out.

  2. faiz

    The tapes were leaked long time back. There is little interest among people about its content. Transcripts of the supposedly ‘authentic’ tapes have been published in some media linked to the leakage.

    The government not only reacted late but also acted foolishly to block the YouTube. It doesn’t make sense.

    Therefore, I ardently ask the democratically elected government to lift the ban ASAP. This may also be the work of the conspirators within the government to destroy democracy in Bangladesh.

  3. Akash

    Sure, all those hullabaloo over the YouTube ban makes sense, especially for the pampered brats of the digital domain. But not much concern about how a recorded version of a meeting with the prime minister of the country and officers of the “disciplined” and “professional” army got out. And most bloggers and bloggees do not seem to get the enormity and gravity of that deliberate mischief.

  4. Engr Khondkar Abdus Saleque( Sufi)

    When Bangladesh has a perceived vision for Digital Bangladesh blocking You Tube does not go with it. Well, the meeting of PM with disgruntled Army Officers was definitely a state secret. No media was there. Army intelligence should have been active. Yet some army officers recorded discussions on cell phone and let out on You Tube. Army officers are expected to behave in a much more disciplined manner. One or many here behaved irrationally. Army administration can find out the officer(s) concerned and discipline them.But blocking You Tube was a crazy response.The action of Army officer was irresponsible. But blocking You Tube was also injudicious. PM handled the situationwell. BDR situation was definitely a massive intelligence lapse for which DGFI, NSI , MI ,BDR Intelligence are responsible also. Letting out state secret has not glorified Army as an institution at all.The sooner Army Administration realises this the better. Otherwise discipline in army rank and file will not be re-established.

  5. Mash

    Akash, the government seems to be less concerned about finding out who leaked it and more concerned about taking draconian steps to shut down access to Internet sites. The government’s first response should not be censorship. It demonstrates weakness on the part of the government.

    Us “pampered brats” dont like government censorship. You may find that to be a quaint notion, but there it is. But, seeing that you are also using the Internet to post your comment, I suspect you also belong to the subgroup you seem to be maligning. Self loathing is not healthy 🙂

    Some of us fully understand “the enormity and gravity of that deliberate mischief”. But grasping the issue behind the leak of the tape and the underlying tension between the civilian government and the military does not mean we snooze when the government decides censorship is its way out.

  6. Akash

    Mash: I really wanted to push the button. I am completely with you but it is not totally a B/W situation of “freedom” and suppression. No, we don’t snooze when the government goes astray but surely you see that the government, and may I say the state, is under seige. I definitely enjoy your blogs, but I am not sure all the commentators here and elsewhere see the vast difference between the dire mischief of the audio leak (by an army personnel/s no doubt) and the injudicious decision of the government. That the leak has happened and the government can do little in admonishing, much less discipline a grieving and aggrieved army (really the pampered ones here) shows the planned consequence of Pilkhana: a divisiveness and rancor between the civilian government and army institution. Pilkhana was planned as the center of a whirlpool from where other tensions and turbulence will cascade out.

  7. IMRAN-Washington

    Its a shame for a government that boasts about a digital Bangladesh to impose such censorship on digital media. Censoring the media is wrong and undemocratic. I hope Sheikh Hasina doesn’t roll back her promises made during the elections. If politicians start doing what authoritarian regimes do, then they haven’t learned from the past few years. Democracy can not be guaranteed without a free media. What the government has done by blocking You Tube is despicable, sad and threatining to our democracy.

  8. Akash

    Mash, please allow me to add a few more words: YouTube is no universal talisman and the idea of freedom is not absolute; they must always be located in some geographical and political context. I for one enjoy YouTube and the various tools of what appears to be a seamless universe but I also live and participate in a particular situation to which I am obligated to. It seems to me that there is a strange parallel between the aggrievement of the army officers and the digital media people (I am not saying that they are party to the same cause but both are surely shooting at the same target). It seems by the uproar of both that the natural entitlement (privilege) of both have been, in one form or another, compromised or violated by the state. There is certainly some truth there but that “truth” has to be set up against a scenario larger than both, where the fundamental fact is the nation-state (and not just the government in power) is under an unprecedented seige and where any interim solution will be procrustean. Let is talk about Digital Bangla or its demise, etc., when we are certain the seige has been lifted.

  9. faiz

    I would like to thank the overwhelmingly democratically elected peoples government to listen to our pleas and respond accordingly.

    DON’T BLOCK ANYTHING! PEOPLE ARE NOT STUPID TO BELIEVE EVERYTHING THEY SEE AND HEAR.

    The intentional posting of the audios have tainted the image of the army intelligence. It is yet another failure after the Pilkhana massacre.

    If the highest office holder’s informal talks with her officers are deliberately released then there is every reason to doubt the standards of the defenders of our territories.

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