Bangladesh’s Support for Palestinian Refugees: Upholding Humanitarianism in Foreign Policy

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Bangladesh has pledged a voluntary contribution of $50,000 to the “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)” for the year 2023 at the pledging conference at the UN headquarters. The promise was made on behalf of the Bangladeshi government by Dr Md. Monwar Hossain, Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in New York. The meagre donation serves as proof of Bangladesh’s government and people’s unwavering support for the legitimate fight of the Palestinian people. Since 2018, Bangladesh has made contributions to UNRWA. The systematic oppression of Palestinians has long held a place in the collective conscience of Muslims across the world, or the ummah. Muslims throughout the globe have watched as Palestinians have experienced recurrent forced relocation, excessive collective punishment, and statelessness for decades. As a Muslim Majority country, Bangladesh always shows sheer commitment to supporting the cause of Palestine. In January 2023. when the ambassadors and high commissioners of seven OIC member states, who are stationed in Dhaka, PM Sheikh Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman supported Palestine and following this she herself has been standing beside the Palestinians. She also asked the Muslim Ummah to collectively stand beside the Palestinians.

COVID-19 and the ongoing Ukraine war have made it considerably more challenging for underdeveloped nations to provide humanitarian aid. In light of these conditions, Bangladesh’s treatment of the Palestinian refugee has been excellent. The nation has become “a symbol of humanitarianism” around the world as a result of its ongoing support and strong opposition to the oppressors.

Bangladesh’s Unwavering Commitment to Palestinians’ Cause

Bangladesh and Palestine have close and warm bilateral ties. Bangladesh has consistently supported the Palestinian cause for independence and has no links with Israel. Furthermore, Palestine maintains a mission in Dhaka, and Bangladesh provides scholarships to young Palestinians, among other things. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina constantly urged the Muslim nations to collectively stand over the Palestinians’ cause saying since its 1971 emergence Bangladesh’s stance on the issue remained very firm. Bangladesh’s support for the Palestinian cause dates back to its pre-independence period when wartime Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed turned down Israel’s offer of recognition and military assistance without hesitation. Since then, genuine dedication to the Palestinian cause has remained elusive throughout the political spectrum. In all possible diplomatic forums, Bangladesh has persistently sided with Palestine.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, was a strong supporter of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights and just struggle, adding that Bangladesh has maintained this viewpoint since its inception. He also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during an OIC summit in Lahore in 1973. Bangladesh’s decision to join the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), its outspoken opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and its active efforts to support oppressed people all over the world all reflect this. Indeed, our battle for independence, as well as the awful experience of the worst kind of genocide in 1971, prompted us to speak out against the injustice and tyranny that the Palestinian people had endured for decades and to push for an early settlement of this protracted problem. In 1973, Bangladesh supported Palestine’s fight against Israel in the October War, sending a medical unit and relief supplies for the fellow war-ravaged country. With the Father of the Nation’s approval, all passports included the clause: “This passport is valid for all countries in the world except Israel.” In 1980, a postal stamp was made picturing a Palestinian liberation warrior, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the backdrop surrounded by barbed wires and wording in English and Arabic praising Palestinian militants as “valiant.” Following the humanitarian foreign policy of Father of the Nation, Bangladesh’s commitment towards the right cause of Palestine hasn’t altered a little bit. Like his father, PM Sheikh Hasina was always vocal to provide all sorts of diplomatic and humanitarian support to the Palestinian people in various bilateral and multilateral forums. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the Palestinians have a “special place” in our hearts. Dhaka has long supported the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundaries, with Jerusalem as its capital. In addition, Dhaka is home to at least 100 Palestinian students, both military and civilian.

The cycle of impunity coupled with the indifferent attitude of the international community has only encouraged the occupying forces to commit repeated violations of human rights. Bangladesh vehemently rejects any hostile and unlawful acts taken against Palestinians, especially the most recent crimes committed by the occupying force in the Palestinian Territories. Bangladesh asked the international world to cooperate to resolve the Palestinian conflict in a way that is fair, peaceful, and long-lasting. The donation shows the Bangladeshi government and people’s unwavering support for the legitimate fight of the Palestinian people.

Bangladesh: A Symbol of Humanitarian Foreign Policy

The country’s constitution enshrines Bangladesh’s principled position to stand by the oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism, colonialism, or racialism. Bangladesh has recently played a more active role in preserving world peace and security thanks to the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu. Bangladesh won independence in 1971, thus it was not long ago that she needs humanitarian aid from other nations to exist. Fifty years later, it is setting an example by providing humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees. Despite the enormous strain on its economy and limited resources, Bangladesh has graciously hosted over a million Rohingya refugees for more than a decade on humanitarian grounds.  Bangladesh, at a cost of more than Tk. 23 billion (about US$224,000,000), has built a new township at Bhasan Char to house more than 100,000 Rohingyas and provide them with improved living conditions. However, it provided Bangladesh with a worldwide humanitarian image that even European nations were unable to accomplish during the 2015 Migrant Crisis.

Bangladesh has also demonstrated its humanitarian foreign policy when it comes to providing support for crises occurring in any part of the world. The Bangladesh government has given aid to the victims of Syria’s recent earthquake. Bangladesh Air Force C-130-J delivery plane stocked with tents, blankets, sweaters, dry meals, and medications. Previously, the Bangladesh government dispatched a 46-member rescue team to Turkey, which included a 24-member army rescue squad, a 10-member medical team, and 12 personnel from the fire department and civil defence. A massive earthquake struck Afghanistan on June 22nd, killing 1,150 people (including at least 155 children) and destroying or damaging hundreds of homes in the hardest-hit southeastern Paktika and Khost districts. Bangladesh’s supply of significant emergency help in the form of dry food, blankets, tents, and medication to earthquake-ravaged Afghanistan as part of its continuous attempts to expand its humanitarian aid network is noteworthy. Bangladesh has sent humanitarian (potato) help to Sri Lanka in an effort to alleviate the country’s chronic food crisis. Previously, Bangladesh delivered emergency medical supplies for US$2.3 million and a currency swap worth US$250 million to Sri Lanka.

Outside South Asia, Bangladesh has also offered assistance to Sudan, which has been unable to repay an IMF loan. In response to the IMF’s request, Bangladesh supported Sudan by granting a ‘debt forgiveness’ of US$650 million on June 15, 2022. Previously, as part of an IMF effort, Bangladesh had provided comparable incentives to Somalia (about Tk. 8.2 crores; US$8.2 million). The country’s ongoing humanitarian assistance initiatives, as well as its public stance on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and its active efforts to aid people in crises across the world have made it a symbol of humanitarianism.

Once again, when the world is forgetting the sufferings of thousands of innocent Palestinian people and children, Bangladesh continues to show the world that it always stands with the oppressed people all over the world. On top of that, Bangladesh’s response was not just limited to providing funds and diplomatic support to Palestine, it urged the Muslim Ummah and the overall international community to take action against Illegal Israeli occupations, to stop violence against the Palestinian people and find a fair and durable solution to their problems.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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