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: August 18, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Other

Institution(s):Dhaka University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Bangladesh

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 18, 2022, Dhaka University (DU) facilitated the detention and interrogation of a student, in response to allegations that he had engaged in anti-government expression on social media.

The student, Meftahul Maruf, is in his third year of studies in DU’s political science department. In a discussion on a Facebook messenger group, he reportedly commented about a series of bombings that occurred on August 17, 2005. In response, members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) reportedly confronted Maruf, accused him of making anti-government comments, and brought him to Bellal Hossain, the provost of the residence hall where Maruf lived. Hossain, then reportedly brought Maruf to a local police station, accusing him of anti-state activity and militancy. Maruf was held overnight and interrogated, but apparently released after police found that his social media statements had not violated the law.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and interrogation of a student based on nonviolent expressive activity, and the facilitation of such actions by a university administrator. Nonviolent political expression is expressly protected by 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 administrators and police have a responsibility to refrain from actions intended to punish, restrict, or deter such conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.