(Warning: Some of the images in this article may appear disturbing to some viewers.)
Bangladesh is undergoing a crisis as the eighth day of student protests demanding safer roads met with more violence in the capital city of Dhaka, according to local sources.
School students, mostly in the age group from 10 to 18, took to the streets last week after two teenagers died because of a speeding bus. On the seventh day of the protests on Saturday, government-backed groups attacked the protesting students. The city’s Jigatala area was believed to be the worst hit, with reports suggesting that some protesting teens had been killed, while four young women were believed to have been raped, although those reports could not be independently verified by international media.
According to Reddit, images of a young man whose eyes were draped in the Bangladeshi flag after reports that local militias gouged his eyes out were doing the rounds on social media, even as other reports suggested that the situation was worsening for the protesting students in the South-Asian nation. The Guardian reports that freelance journalists had been beaten up and had their cameras taken away from them. Images of journalists being beaten up have continued to appear sporadically on social media all of Sunday.
Students allege that the Awami League-led government is behind the sinister attack on students, although party members deny the claims. Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, urged parents to convince their children to not continue protesting. Students, despite the escalating violence, have said they will continue the protests until their demands are met unconditionally.
“That’s why I request all guardians and parents to keep their children at home. Whatever they have done is enough,” the prime minister said from her office.
However, Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan appeared on the offensive, saying the protesting students will have steep price to pay unless they cut short their demonstrations.
“Law enforcers are showing patience. It does not mean that they will keep crossing the limit and we will sit idle and watch. We will go for tough action if the limit is crossed,” he said.
US ambassador Marcia Bernicat’s car was also caught up in the violence as she was reportedly attacked by “armed men,” but she escaped unhurt. The United Nations put out a statement saying it was worried for the safety of young people in Bangladesh.
Moreover, the internet was either suspended completely or had been slowed down tremendously in a move activists say will help the ruling Awami League choke dissent and stifle further mobilization.
“The pro-government students attacked,” a young protester said.
“Then we broke the locks of a building and around 50 boys and girls took shelter there. And now the journalists helped us to leave the place. The police fired tear gas and used batons. The pro-government students also attacked and roughed up the girls,” he added.
Shahidul Alam, a renowned photographer and social activist, told Al Jazeera that the government crackdown on the student protests is a natural culmination of years of “looting of the banks, the gaggling of the media, the extrajudicial killings, disappearings, bribery and corruption.”
Alam said the government had miscalculated in how to deal with the protests, and its response would likely be met with more protests.
“The government has miscalculated,” he said.
“It thought that fear and repression would be enough but you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner.”
Soon after Alam gave the interview, he was reported to have been missing. Some organizations, including Al Jazeera, claim Alam has been arrested by the police but his whereabouts remain unknown.