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: April 30, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Dhaka

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Bangladesh

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 30, 2023, the University of Dhaka (DU) barred international relations professor Imtiaz Ahmed from all academic activities due to controversy surrounding a book Ahmed published in 2009.

On March 29, 2023, former Bangladesh Supreme Court justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury published an article in which he accused Ahmed of distorting facts about the Bangladesh Liberation War and the country’s founding leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Following the article’s publication, DU groups – including Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling party, the Awami League, and the DU Teacher’s Association – called for the university to take disciplinary action against Ahmed.

On April 3, DU’s vice-chancellor formed a five-member committee to investigate the allegations. Three days later, Ahmed went on post-retirement leave. On April 11, DU dismissed Ahmed from his role as director of the university’s Centre for Genocide Studies. Then, on April 30, a group of DU officials met, and DU subsequently announced that Ahmed was barred from conducting academic activity at the university. In a press release, DU also called on Ahmed and the publisher to withdraw the book and requested the government to take legal action regarding the case.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a scholar due to criticisms of an academic publication. University authorities have an obligation to refrain from coercive actions that punish, restrict, or chill academic activity or viewpoints. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, dismissals of scholars in retaliation for their academic work undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.