On October 6, Abrar Fahad, 21, was summoned from his dorm room at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) to Room 2011, known among students as the “torture cell.” The room is run by members of the Chhatra League, the student wing of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League. A few hours later, Fahad was found dead.
The Chhatra League’s assistant secretary at the university told the media that the group interrogated Fahad about his involvement with Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the Islamist organization Jamaat-e-Islami. They claimed to have found “evidence” of Fahad’s ties to Shibir after looking through his Facebook account and confiscating his cell phone.
CCTV footage shows students carrying Fahad’s limp body from Room 2011 in the middle of the night. Dhaka Medical College Hospital Forensics reported that he died of internal hemorrhaging from numerous blows to his body. Police told the media they found cricket stumps in room 2011, which they suspect were used to beat Fahad to death.
This deadly incident is not surprising. The Awami League government has long refused to hold Chhatra League supporters accountable for acts of violence and intimidation. There are complaints of extortion, threatening false allegations, violent attacks around elections, and even acting as vigilante law enforcers during the 2018 student protests.
Thousands of students protested Fahad’s killing. His father has brought a case against 19 people and police have so far arrested 13, mostly members of the Chhatra League.
But Fahad’s killing reflects a deeper failing by the Bangladesh government to bring those responsible for politically motivated abuses to justice. A government that ignores torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings by security forces, and arbitrary arrests over dissent begets a culture where students can run a “torture cell” on a university campus.
Bangladesh authorities should ensure a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into Abrar Fahad’s murder, and hold all those responsible to account.
Bangladesh should not be a Room 2011.