Stop Tiptoeing Around Tulip


London Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has done an impressive job fighting for the release of her constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from an Iranian prison.

Just about everyone is aware of the plight of the British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since April 3 2016 thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Siddiq.

It is fair to say she has challenged and hoisted the bumbling British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson by his own petard over his lack lustre efforts to help the mother who has been accused of spying while visiting Iran with her daughter last April. She and all her supporters vehemently deny the allegations.

Until Tuesday night I would have said that Tulip is just the sort of MP you want fighting your corner against any injustice. She’s gutsy, vocal and tireless in the face of oppression and tyranny.

However Tulip is not as vocal when it comes to British lawyer Ahmad Bin Qasem who has dual nationality with Bangladesh, a country where Tulip’s aunty happens to be Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the current Prime Minister who has been in office since January 2009.

According to members of Sheikh Hasina’s government all it would take to get Bin Qasem safely back home would be one phone call from Tulip. If that’s the case why doesn’t she pick up the phone?

It is a bit of a mystery and when confronted by Channel Four News, Tulip and her team became deeply unpleasant. I understand there are protocols to consider because Bin Qasem is not her constituent but if she could secure his release with a phone call to ‘Aunty’ then why not?

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have already urged the Bangladesh authorities to end the unsavoury practice of illegal detentions and in particular have identified Mir Ahmed Bin Qasem and Hummam Qader Chowdhury, arrested respectively on 9 August and 4 August..

Both men were arrested without warrants or charges, have not been produced before a magistrate, and have not been allowed access to family or lawyers

“There is no question that Bin Qasem and Chowdhury are subject to an enforced disappearance in the custody of the security forces. Yet the government continues to deny having them. Both men have been refused access to lawyers and their families, and production before a magistrate,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty’s South Asia Director who added: “This is a practice which has unfortunately become completely routine in Bangladesh, and has to end.”

Bin Qasem, a Supreme Court lawyer, was arrested from his home around 11pm on August 9 by several men, also in plainclothes. Authorities have denied having either of the men in custody, although multiple credible sources have said that both men were at the headquarters of the Rapid Action Battalion in Dhaka on the morning of August 12. His family has subsequently learned, but has not been able to confirm, that he has been moved to the headquarters of the Detective Branch.

Both Chowdhury and Bin Qasem are the sons of two senior opposition politicians convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 Independence War. Chowdhury’s father was executed in 2015 and Bin Qasem’s father is currently facing execution on war crimes charges having exhausted virtually all appeals.

Michael James Polak, a barrister at Church Court Chambers is trying all ways to get his client freed but what Bin Qasem really needs is an MP who will champion his cause, a fearless fighter against injustice and someone who will go that extra length in the name of humanity and human rights.

His MP is Labour’s Shabana Mahmood, a barrister, who holds Birmingham’s Ladywood seat. She has raised a parliamentary question for her constituent but perhaps now she should pick up the phone to her colleague Tulip and ask her to pick up the phone to her aunt and leader of Bangladesh.

What the hell is going on with Labour’s MPs? Don’t they communicate with each other? Come on ladies! It’s not rocket science. Can we have a dose of common sense and compassion from Corbyn’s MPs … like NOW!

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