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Shoaib Choudhury Supporters Launch Boycott

Friday July 13 2007 15:55:07 PM BDT

By Hannah Brown, USA

“A grassroots group has declared a worldwide boycott of Bangladesh goods,” according to a Press Release distributed July 12, 2007. The group is calling the boycott until the government of Bangladesh “drops its false charges against author, publisher, and peace activist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.”

The group’s web site, http://www.boycottbangladesh.org, provides background on the Shoaib Choudhury case in response to its banner question “Why Are We Boycotting Bangladesh.” It also lists the five top importers of Bangladeshi goods: Wal-Mart, The Gap, Nike, VF Corporation (maker of name blue jeans and other products), and Phillips-Van Heusen Company. It also provides contact information for the companies and for US Senators and Members of Congress who represent the districts where the companies are located. The site urges Americans to tell the companies why they refuse to purchase Bangladeshi goods. The US imports about 70 percent of Bangladesh’s garment and textile exports.

According to the press release, as well as other information received by this journalist, the action is being taken as something of a “last resort” after almost four years of “appeals to justice and waiting for the Bangladeshi government to do the right thing.” The press release states that “the group hopes that economic pressure will succeed where appeals to human rights fell on deaf ears.” Many of Choudhury’s supporters believed that the government which took power in January would be “free of radical ties and therefore willing to drop charges that the radicals engineered,” according to Dr. Richard Benkin of Chicago, Choudhury’s principle defender. The current Bangladeshi government, however, remains defiant of resolutions passed in the United States, Australia, and the European Union on this case.

I asked Benkin if he was behind the boycott effort. “No, I’m not,” he said. “Everyone does what they can do, and I never used boycotts. But this thing—the international outcry for Shoaib—has taken on tremendous proportions. For years, we have been saying that the charges were brought to appease radical Islamists, and people simply do not want to patronize countries that do that. I think that is what’s generated this effort—that and frustration with the Bangladesh government’s continuous assurances that turn out to be false. People don’t like being lied to, either.”

Benkin suggested that the last straw was Choudhury’s June 28 court appearance. “It wasn’t just that the government did not drop the charges,” he said; but it was the fact that the newly appointed public prosecutor made a point of saying that he wanted to proceed with the case.

“We’ve tried diplomacy. We’ve tried patience. Since the government didn’t respond to any of that, some people are trying this [the boycott]. I’ve got other things on my mind and will be in Washington at the end of this month. What happens then,” he said, “will depend on what happens at Shoaib’s next court date on July 18.”

Hannah Brown
California, USA
E Mail : hannahwrite@comcast.net


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