Labor Rights Advocate Tortured and Murdered in Bangladesh
It is with great sadness and concern that I write to inform you of the torture and murder of Aminul Islam, a prominent labor rights advocate in Bangladesh. Aminul disappeared on Wednesday of last week, after reporting to colleagues that he was under police surveillance. His body, bearing signs of severe torture, was discovered on Thursday. These articles from ABC News and the New York Times provide informative accounts of these events.
Aminul worked for the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), a leading labor rights group in Bangladesh and a long-time partner of the WRC in our work in that country. BCWS is widely respected for its labor rights efforts. Levi Straus & Co. has called BCWS “a globally respected labor rights organization that has played a vital role in documenting and working to remedy labor violations in the apparel industry in Bangladesh.” The efforts of Aminul and others at BCWS have helped to expose and address labor rights violations at collegiate factories.
As we have reported to you previously, the government and security forces of Bangladesh have been carrying out a campaign of harassment, intimidation and violence against BCWS and other labor rights advocates for two years – ever since the country was shaken by large-scale worker protests in 2010, over wages of 11 cents an hour and abusive working conditions. Aminul and two other leaders of BCWS – Kalpona Akter and Babul Akhter – were arrested, jailed and beaten in 2010.
Bangladesh is a leading exporter of university logo apparel and is now the fourth largest producer of apparel for the US market. There are currently 3.6 million apparel workers in the country. Thus, the grim labor rights environment in Bangladesh is an issue of enormous importance, for the university apparel sector and beyond.
All indications are that Aminul’s murder was in retaliation for his labor rights advocacy. The premeditated torture and murder of a labor rights advocate is a horrifying act with profoundly disturbing implications for the future of the apparel industry and workers’ rights in Bangladesh.
The WRC is working with a number of other organizations to assist Aminul’s family and his colleagues at BCWS in this time of crisis. We are also working to raise awareness of the situation, through the media and by other means, in the hope that public scrutiny of the situation in Bangladesh will deter further acts of violence. Many organizations, including the WRC, are writing to the government of Bangladesh to express outrage over Aminul’s torture and murder, to urge a thorough and independent investigation, and to call on the government to end its attacks on labor rights advocates. Please see our letter, attached. We will also be communicating with licensees and other apparel brands sourcing from Bangladesh about steps they can take.
This work will be a top priority for the WRC in the days and weeks ahead. We will keep you posted as to further developments.
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292