Terrorist Attack in Bangladesh

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:July 7, 2016
Re:Terrorist Attack in Bangladesh

Many of you have seen media coverage of the horrific attack Friday night at a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh, carried out by people apparently associated with the so-called Islamic State. The attackers killed twenty restaurant patrons and two local police officers.

Among those murdered were three students at U.S. colleges: Tarishi Jain, an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley; Abinta Kabir, an undergraduate at Emory University; and Faraaz Hossain, also an undergraduate at Emory. All of us at the WRC join the communities at UC-Berkeley and Emory in grief over the tragic deaths of these young people and we mourn all those who died in this vicious attack.

Bangladeshis and visitors to the country have witnessed a rising wave of extremist violence in recent years, including attacks on liberal bloggers, university professors, members of religious minorities, gay rights activists, and foreign nationals.

The attack on Friday targeted the Holey Artisan Bakery, a restaurant and bakery that is widely popular with expatriates working in and visiting Bangladesh. It is located in Gulshan, the diplomatic zone of Dhaka, which is considered the safest and most secure section of the city. Foreigners were the explicit target of the attack, although several Bangladeshi nationals were also killed. 
The attack represents a major escalation in the dangers to foreigners working in the country, with significant implications for the garment sector – the linchpin of the Bangladeshi economy. Thousands of foreign nationals employed by apparel brands and retailers are based in Bangladesh and tens of thousands travel there in the course of a given year. Ten of the people killed at the restaurant, nine Italians and a Bangladeshi, were involved in the apparel business  
A number of apparel brands temporarily suspended non-essential travel to Bangladesh after the attack and others will likely follow suit. While there are ways for brands to maintain current levels of production, even if they decide to reduce their local presence (such as shifting meetings with factory managers from Bangladesh to nearby countries), there is nonetheless growing speculation that the deteriorating security situation will result in a substantial shift of garment production out of the country.  
There are, of course, also implications for non-governmental organizations working on labor rights issues in Bangladesh, including the WRC and the Bangladesh Accord. After attacks began on foreigners last year, the WRC implemented a new security protocol for members of our staff when they travel to Dhaka.

WRC’s field work in Bangladesh, however, is being conducted primarily by local consultants who are Bangladeshi nationals, an arrangement which should permit us to continue our current program work, while limiting our exposure to security threats specifically aimed at foreigners. Nevertheless, we remain concerned about the risks facing everyone working in Bangladesh, local and foreign, in the current environment, and, in the wake of the latest escalation in violence, we will again review the security situation and make a determination as to the most prudent course going forward.

The Accord will also have to take stock. The Accord’s Chief Inspector had already relocated his primary base of operations from Dhaka to Amsterdam, for security reasons, but still spends ample time in the country. Other senior members of the Accord’s Dhaka-based staff are foreign nationals and other staff travel there regularly. The leadership of the Accord will be reviewing the issue in the coming days.  
Apparel brands, organizations seeking to protect the rights of apparel workers, and the many other foreign companies and organizations active in Bangladesh will all seek ways to continue to operate effectively in the country, while addressing the heightened safety risks to personnel. However, the dangers will require significant adjustments and will result in new limitations. It is my hope that, despite these limitations, vital efforts to protect the rights and safety of Bangladesh’s 3.5 million garment workers will not be undermined.   
We will update you as to any key developments. As always, if you have any thoughts or questions about this communication, please let us know. 

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]