SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 09, 2020

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Dhaka University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Bangladesh

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 9, 2020, Dhaka University (DU) fired professor Morshed Hasan Khan in apparent retaliation for a newspaper article he wrote about the late Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman.

Khan is a professor at DU’s Faculty of Business Studies Department of Marketing. On March 26, 2018, Khan authored an op-ed about the Bangladesh War of Independence in the Daily Naya Diganta newspaper. In his piece, Khan made remarks about former presidents Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman.

On April 2, 2018, DU suspended Khan from his academic and administrative duties for “distorting the liberation war history” and “disrespecting the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.” On May 28, 2018, DU created a committee to open an investigation into the allegations against Khan. 

On February 12, 2020, DU sent a letter to Khan informing him of the creation of a tribunal around the allegations against him and asking him to respond to the allegations within seven days. Khan reportedly responded to the allegations. On September 9, 2020, DU dismissed Khan for “moral turpitude” or “inefficiency.” 

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the dismissal of a scholar, in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party. University authorities should refrain from retaliating against scholars for nonviolent expression, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, dismissals aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.