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Threats and harassment faced by Rohingya human rights defenders Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani

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Threats and harassment
About the situation

On 15 July 2022, the Bangladeshi Armed Police Battalion 16 conducted a raid at the house of Rohingya human rights defenders and journalists Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani in Nayapara Registered Camp. Unable to find them at the residence, the police physically assaulted and arrested the defenders’ father Sultan Ahmed and their brother-in-law Nur Bareq. While Sultan Ahmed was released by the police after four hours, Nur Bareq remains under detention for more than four days without being made to appear in court. He was also severely beaten and tortured in the custody of the police.

About Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani

Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani are brothers and Rohingya journalists who report on the various human rights violations faced by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and elsewhere in Asia. Saiful Arakani works as a reporter and Aziz Arakani as a camera operator for Rohingya news website The Arakan Times. The human rights defenders report on issues such as human trafficking of Rohingya refugees, killings of Rohingya human rights defenders and leaders, sale of drugs, lack of food security schemes, fires in refugee camps and so on. For their reporting on the issues faced by Rohingyas, Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani have faced repeated threats, harassment and violence from the police in Bangladesh and local mobs. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been following their case and issued statements in support of the human rights defenders.

19 July 2022
Threats and harassment faced by Rohingya human rights defenders Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani

On 15 July 2022, the Bangladeshi Armed Police Battalion 16 conducted a raid at the house of Rohingya human rights defenders and journalists Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani in Nayapara Registered Camp. Unable to find them at the residence, the police physically assaulted and arrested the defenders’ father Sultan Ahmed and their brother-in-law Nur Bareq. While Sultan Ahmed was released by the police after four hours, Nur Bareq remains under detention for more than four days without being made to appear in court. He was also severely beaten and tortured in the custody of the police.

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Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani are brothers and Rohingya journalists who report on the various human rights violations faced by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and elsewhere in Asia. Saiful Arakani works as a reporter and Aziz Arakani as a camera operator for Rohingya news website The Arakan Times. The human rights defenders report on issues such as human trafficking of Rohingya refugees, killings of Rohingya human rights defenders and leaders, sale of drugs, lack of food security schemes, fires in refugee camps and so on. For their reporting on the issues faced by Rohingyas, Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani have faced repeated threats, harassment and violence from the police in Bangladesh and local mobs. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been following their case and issued statements in support of the human rights defenders.

On 15 July 2022, the Armed Police Battalion 16 raided the house of Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani in search of the human rights defenders and instead detained their father and brother-in-law as a form of reprisal. Nur Bareq, their brother-in-law remains under detention without being presented in court. He is currently being detained in Cox Bazar Prison. The police also attempted to extort money from Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani in order to release Nur Bareq. The police uncovered a sum of money at their house during the raid which they claim has been unlawfully obtained and have accused the human rights defenders of money laundering, even though they have written evidence to prove that the money has been donated by international organizations for their father’s cancer treatment.

This is not the first form of reprisal faced by Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani in retaliation for their journalistic activities. On 29 June 2022, Aziz Arakani was violently assaulted by human traffickers in the presence of Bangladesh police, for his reporting on the trafficking of 34 Rohingya refugees from their camps. The traffickers also threatened to kill him and Saiful Arakani. Aziz Arakani tried to lodge a complaint with the police but believes that the police have been bribed by the traffickers and no action was taken against them.

On 20 December 2021, the Armed Police Battalion summoned Saiful Arakani to the station in Nayapara Refugee Camp, in relation to one of his reports and severely tortured him and threatened him against reporting. He was also forced to call Aziz Arakani to the police station and when he warned him that the police were looking for him, the police beat Saiful even more. The following day, the police hunted Aziz Arakani down at his residence and threatened him against reporting for the Rohingya people. The police detained their father for over three hours and let him go after obtaining his signature on a blank sheet of paper. Both Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani went into hiding for several months after this incident.

On 16 October 2021, people from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed insurgent group who are against the repatriation of Rohingya refugees and are believed to be behind the killing of Rohingya human rights defender Mohib Ullah, visited their residence looking for them and shot their guns in the air as a threat for reporting on the death of Mohib Ullah. When they informed the police of this incident, they refused to take any action saying that CPJ and Rohingyas will save them. On 29 September 2021, the journalists had also received threatening phone calls from members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the repeated threats, harassment and police brutality faced by human rights defenders Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani and their family. We condemn the use of force as a reprisal against legitimate human rights work and peaceful activities carried out by human rights defenders. The safety of Saiful Arakani and Aziz Arakani must be ensured by the authorities in Bangladesh as they are refugees and do not have the rights related to nationality.

Front Line Defenders urges the relevant authorities in Bangladesh to:

Immediately and unconditionally cease all forms of harassment against human rights defenders Saiful and Aziz Arakani and their family;

Immediately and unconditionally release Nur Bareq, the brother-in-law of the human rights defenders and conduct an impartial investigation into his wrongful detention and allegations of torture with a view to bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international human rights law;

Initiate an immediate, impartial and thorough enquiry into the threats and harassment faced by the human rights defenders and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international human rights law;

Initiate a thorough judicial review of the rights guaranteed to refugees in Bangladesh in genuine consultation with independent civil society organisations and human rights defenders, with a view to aligning the laws with Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights law and standards;

Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.