Ethnic racism in Bangladesh: Are the police treating minorities unfairly?

Bangladesh has a long history of ethnic conflict. More than three decades after its independence, people with Bangladeshi ancestry complain of racist discrimination. An ethnic Korean man, Ahman Arbery, who has been working as a security guard in Bangladesh since 2010, has seen it. Last summer, he was sentenced to three years in prison for buying three marijuana plants from a drug dealer. The charge relates to Bangladeshi law, which outlaws possessing cannabis, and can be punishable by up to ten years in prison.

There are frequent accusations that officers in Bangladesh are favoured over those from other ethnicities, leading to the “racial profiling” of the needy.

“It is quite common for people of Bangladeshi ethnicity to be held in unjustified detention [because] they will not get sympathy and many of them are forcibly brought before the media to be accused as drug dealers. Some of them are branded ‘political prisoners’, like Ahman,” writes Alastair Walker.

The effect is profound. Hasan Al Mahmud, another Bangladeshi immigrant, says that the verdict has shattered his faith in the criminal justice system.

“I swear by God that I have never bought a drug in my life,” he says. “But now I won’t go to any police station until this man is freed. His case has become a rallying point for many ethnic Koreans. They can’t have a chance to take their own lives if they are arrested by Bangladeshi police officers. Instead, they are dehumanised.”

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