On October 6, 2019, suspected members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling political party, reportedly killed Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET) student, Abrar Fahad, in apparent retaliation for his social media activity and his membership to an opposition student group.
Fahad, a second-year student of engineering, allegedly posted to Facebook comments critical of a deal made between Bangladesh and India on October 5 that would allow the former to draw water from the Feni river, which lies on the border of the two countries.
On the evening of October 6, multiple individuals reportedly entered Fahad’s dormitory, asked about his membership in an opposing student group, took him by force, and over the course of four hours brutally beat him with blunt objects. Fellow dormitory residents later found Fahad and rushed him to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Doctors reported that Fahad died of “internal bleeding and excessive pain.”
News of Fahad’s death and allegations that BCL members were behind the attack immediately sparked protests in cities across Bangladesh. Within days of the attack, authorities detained at least thirteen BUET students, including BCL members, identified as suspects.
Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about the killing of a student in retaliation for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and association. SAR offers its condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and the BUET community. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, violent attacks undermine freedom of expression, academic freedom, and democratic society generally. State and higher education authorities have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent violent attacks and to hold perpetrators accountable.