South Asia

Petition Demanding Release of Dr. Shahidul Alam Signed by Global Group of Intellectuals

Alam's arrest came in the wake of student protests in Bangladesh after a speeding bus killed two teenagers on July 29.

New Delhi: After the unceremonious arrest of prominent Bangladeshi photographer Dr. Shahidul Alam, triggered by an interview with Al Jazeera, a group of scholars and lawyers has released a petition demanding his immediate release. Alam was arrested on August 5, hours after the video went up. The next day, he was charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act, a comprehensive law against electronic communication that “tends to deprave or corrupt” the state.

Also Read: Bangladesh: Concerns Over Free Speech Continue With Opposition-Linked Lawyer’s Arrest

Alam’s arrest came in the wake of student protests in Bangladesh after a speeding bus killed two teenagers on July 29. Protestors took to the streets to demand road safety in a country where, according to Al Jazeera, over 7000 people are killed in traffic accidents each year. In the interview, Alam argued that the protests were fueled by “larger” factors than simply road safety. Among the issues he highlighted were  “the looting of the banks and the gaggling of the media”, “extrajudicial killings, disappearings, bribery and corruption”. Perhaps most contentiously, he discussed the declining credibility of PM Sheikh Hasina Wazed, an unacceptable criticism in the eyes of the government.

The petition addressed to PM Wazed is reprinted below.


To: Sheikh Hasina Wazed,

Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh

14, October 2018


Madam Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned strongly condemn the detention of Dr. Shahidul Alam, Managing Director, Drik, since 5th August 2018. He was arrested after being interviewed on the Al-Jazeera English news channel, where he had criticized the Bangladeshi government’s response to student protests calling for safer roads after two students were killed and 13 others injured by a speeding bus while waiting at a bus stop. The student protests have been met by disproportionate police force, including the use of tear-gas and rubber bullets, resulting in more than two hundred students being injured.

Global protests on Dr. Alam’s incarceration continue unabated and have included statements made by 12 Nobel Laureates, many eminent citizens and journalists across the globe. We add our voices to theirs.

Dr. Alam has worked tirelessly for decades to promote the welfare of Bangladeshi citizens through his photography and journalism, and to bring national and international attention to their resilience in the face of adversity and oppression. His photographs echo the voices of the people. Dr. Alam’s continued detention is counter to the principles of democracy and freedom of opinion.

Continued detention of Dr. Alam is contrary to the foundational values of rule of law and fundamental rights embodied the Constitution of Bangladesh and its commitments under international law to uphold human rights, fundamental freedoms and civil liberties of its citizens. It is also gravely tarnishing Bangladesh’s image and reputation.

We call for the immediate release of Dr. Shahidul Alam and that all charges are dropped against him in this connection. We also condemn and call for a stop to all other human rights violations in Bangladesh including repression and/or arbitrary detention and to ensure freedom of expression, assembly and association for all.


1. Romila Thapar Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

2. Mark Sidel Professor, Law and Public Affairs University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

3. Rajeev Dhavan Advocate, Supreme Court of India

4. Osama Siddique Executive Director, Law and Policy Network, Pakistan.

5. Mitra Sharafi Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, USA

6. David Lewis Professor of Social Policy and Development, Department of Social Policy

7. Ali Riaz Professor of Political Science, Illinois State University, USA

8. Maya Jasanoff Professor of History and Harvard College Professor Center for European Studies Harvard University, USA.

9. Aziz Rana Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, USA

10. Cyra Choudhury Professor of Law, Florida International University Law School, USA

11. Rohit De Assistant Professor, Department of History, Yale University, USA

12. Surabhi Chopra Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong

13. Chaumtoli Huq Associate Professor, CUNY Law School, USA

14. Prabhakar Singh Associate Professor of Law, Jindal Global Law School, India

15. Usha Natarajan Usha Natarajan, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Associate Director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, American University in Cairo, Egypt.

16. Narendra Subramanian Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Political Science, McGill University, Canada

17. Rituparna De Advocate, Calcutta High Court, India

18. Sumudu Atapattu Director of UW Law School Research Centers, University of Wisconsin Law School, USA

19. Tariq Omar Ali Assistant Professor, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

20. Neeti Nair, Associate Professor of History, University of Virginia, Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center, 2018-20,USA

21. Rachel Sturman, Associate Professor Department of History & Asian Studies Program, Bowdoin College, USA

22. Amarta Ghose Advocate, Calcutta High Court, India.

23. Toby Goldbach Associate Professor, School of Law, University of British Columbia, Canada

24. Dina Siddiqi Clinical Associate Professor, Liberal Studies, New York University

25. Matthew Corrigan General Counsel, Australian Law Reform Commission, Australia

26. Nusrat Chowdhury Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Amherst College, USA

27. Shanthi Senthe Assistant Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Canada

28. Maryam Khan Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS), Pakistan

29. Samiya Ahmed Selim Associate Professor and Director Center for Sustainable Development, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh

30. Srimati Basu Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Anthropology, University of Kentucky, USA

31. Shahnaz Rouse Professor, Sarah Lawrence College, USA

32. Sanele Sibanda Senior Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

33. Mostofa Haider Lecturer, Law, Curtin University, Australia

34. Cristina Blanco Sío-López Global Young Academy

35. Dr Kalpouzos Lecturer in Law, City University, U.K.

36. Mircea Raianu Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, U.S.A.

37. Subho Basu Associate Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University, Canada

38. Rishad Choudhury Assistant Professor, History, Oberlin College, USA

39. Melissa Crouch Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, Australia

40. Daud Ali Associate Professor, South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

41. Svati Shah Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

42. Auritro Majumder Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Houston

43. Tania Saeed Assistant Professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan

44. Summaiya Zaidi Advocate, Sindh High Court, Pakistan

45. Nida Kirmani Associate Professor, Sociology,

School of Humanities and Social Sciences Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan.

46. Waqas Butt Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada

47. Hana Shams Ahmed Graduate Student, York University, Canada

48. Utpal Sandesara Graduate Student, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

49. Natasha Raheja Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University, USA

50. Max Stille Research Scientist, Max Planck Institute, Germany.

51. Saad Quasem Graduate Student, Anthropology, University of Virginia, USA

52. Mizanur Rahman Graduate Student, Political Science, University of Illinois State University, USA

53. Cynthia Farid Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin Law School, USA farid@wisc.e