Libmonster ID: U.S.-1312
Author(s) of the publication: A. A. SUVOROV


Doctor of Philological Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Bangladesh, women political leaders, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, military coup of 1975, women's empowerment, political dynasties in South Asia

Of the bright galaxy of outstanding women heads of state and government who came to power in South Asian countries in the second half of the 20th century, only one Sheikh Hasina Wazed (b.1947) is now a real political centenarian. Her political career spans more than four decades, during which she alternated between Prime Minister and opposition leader of Bangladesh. She was repeatedly subjected to house and prison arrest, expelled from the country, and an attempt was made on her life in 2004. In 2007 she was arrested on charges of corruption and organizing political assassinations. However, in 2014, Hasina was elected Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the third time after her party won the parliamentary elections, another victory that came after a fierce battle with the opposition and Islamic fundamentalists.1

Hasina Wazed entered politics early, starting as the Vice-President of the Student Union at the University of Dhaka in 1966-1967. This association was the youth wing of the People's League (Awami League) party, whose leader was Hasina's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975), the founder and first head of State of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Bangabandhu ("Friend of Bengalis"), who led the Bengali national liberation movement in East Pakistan, is now considered the "father of the nation" of Bangladesh and the most popular Bengali in the world.2

During the War of Independence 1971-1972. Hasina was under house arrest along with her mother and three siblings. The head of the family, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was serving another prison sentence in West Pakistan at the time. After Bangladesh gained independence in 1972, Hasina's role in politics remained more than modest, as Mujibur Rahman's eldest son, Sheikh Kamal, was considered the sole political heir to become Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

In fact, Hasina was on the second and even third place in politics all the time of her father's premiership. She lived a non-public life as a private citizen: in 1967, she married the talented nuclear physicist Wazeda Miya, and in 1971, she gave birth to her eldest son, Sajib. Hasina's fate changed dramatically and tragically on the night of August 25, 1975, when Sheikh Mujibur and his entire family were killed in a coup d'etat carried out by a group of disgruntled Bangladesh army officers, most of whom were veterans of the country's freedom war.

The details of this coup, which was more like a massacre, are well known.3 The plotters were divided into four groups, one of which attacked the Prime Minister's house. The security platoon offered no resistance. Sheikh Kamal was the first to be shot. Mujibur Rahman himself was found by the conspirators on the stairs between the floors and offered to resign his duties, giving a short time for reflection. He refused to negotiate with the putschists and was shot right there, on the stairs 4. After him, all members of the family were killed: the wife of Prime Minister Begum Fazilatunnisa, sons, daughters - in-law, grandson, brother, nephews, as well as random guests and servants-a total of 20 people.

Of the entire large Mujibur clan, only two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana, who were on a private visit to Germany during the coup, where Hasina's husband was studying at the time, miraculously survived. The military junta that came to power forbade the sisters to return to their homeland. Hasina later found political asylum in England and then in India, where she remained in exile until her return to Bangladesh on May 17, 1981.

The murder of Sheikh Mujibur and his family went unpunished for a long time. Ziyaur Rahman, who became President in 1978, released all participants of the coup from criminal liability. Only in 1998, after Hasina came to power, 15 putschists were found guilty of

The article was written with the financial support of the Russian Foundation for Science, grant N 14 - 03 - 00014 "Heiresses of Asian Democracies: Tender and Political Dynasties in South Asian countries".

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murder of the prime Minister and sentenced to death. However, the Bangladesh Supreme Court acquitted many of them in 2001 and effectively froze the trial. Several conspirators were convicted in absentia because they were hiding abroad.

After much delay, the Supreme Court approved the death sentences of five criminals in 2009. The court ruling stated that the killing of Mujibur Rahman and his family was not justified by any military or political necessity. The convicts were executed on 28 January 2010.5

It is obvious that the murder of her father, mother and other family members largely determined the fate of Hasina. In one of her interviews, she said: "As the eldest daughter in the family, I was the closest to my father. Its role in the struggle for an idea, in the struggle for the betterment of the people, for the satisfaction of basic needs and the development of the cultural sphere - all this served as a lesson to me and is still my guiding ideology today. Therefore, despite the extent of my personal tragedy, I found the strength to overcome myself and enter the arena of political struggle, continuing the line of my father. " 6

The terrible family tragedy gave Hasina's political activities a complex motivation: on the one hand, personal revenge, on the other - a high mission to restore democracy. She said of her dual motivation: "How can you forget the ideals of a man who laid down his life for his people and was so brutally murdered? For three whole years, I couldn't calm down. The mixture of two emotions-inconsolable grief and the need to act-ensured my determination, which greatly helped me later. " 7

Hasina Wazed was not alone in this: most women political leaders in South Asia, including Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Benazir Bhutto or Sonia Gandhi, entered the power struggle in the wake of personal grief, after the murder of their fathers or husbands.


While in exile in India, Sheikh Hasina was elected president of the People's League, her father's party, in 1981, and as a result was allowed to return to her homeland. President Ziyaur Rahman, who ruled the country at the time, was assassinated in another coup d'etat in May 1981. The following year, General Hussein Mohammad Ershad seized power in a new coup and imposed martial law in the country.

In 1983, Hasina formed a coalition of 15 parties to remove Ershad from political influence. During her struggle against the Ershad dictatorship in the 1980s, she was repeatedly imprisoned. The People's League, together with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by the widow of slain President Ziyaur Rahman, Khaleda, fought against the military dictatorship. It was only in 1990 that eight parties from Hasina's coalition, in alliance with the BNP-created party alliance, finally overthrew the dictatorial Ershad regime.

However, in politics, as you know, there are no permanent enemies. Later, Hasina repeatedly entered into a coalition with the Jatiya Party, led by Ershad, against the BNP, and after the 2014 elections, which were won by the People's League, the opposition was led by the former dictator's wife, Roshan Ershad.

Bangladesh held its first democratic elections in 1991 after a long period of authoritarian rule. The BNP, led by Khaleda Zia, won, and she herself became the first woman to hold the post of Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Hasina's Popular League, defeated, entered the political arena as the largest opposition party. Hasina accused the BNP of rigging the election results.

There was not only a power struggle between her and Khaleda, but also a personal grudge. After all, Khaled's husband was once one of the organizers of the military coup that killed Hasina's father. One can only try to imagine what a heavy fusion of emotions connected, or rather separated, these two women. In addition to the intense political rivalry, there are all the motives of a sensational literary plot: murder, betrayal, coups d'etat, grief for the dead father and husband, and, most importantly, revenge.

A turnaround in Bangladeshi politics occurred in 1994, when

page 36

The Popular League demanded that the next elections be held under the control of the Transitional Government. Khaleda Zia's cabinet refused to meet this demand. Opposition parties have launched an unprecedented strike campaign. Under pressure from the opposition, the Government called early elections for February 15, 1996, but they were boycotted by all major parties, and Hasina publicly called the election a farce. Nevertheless, the parliament elected in this way, which was almost entirely made up of members of the BNP, made concessions to the opposition. He amended the Constitution by introducing a clause on a transitional Government during the elections.8


The next parliamentary elections in 1996 were held under this system. The People's League won 146 seats in parliament. The support of the Jatiya party was enough to achieve the necessary majority of 150 seats. It was a long-awaited victory. Hasina Wazed took the oath of office as Prime Minister of Bangladesh and promised to form a national unity government. Despite the fact that several representatives of the BNP participated in the creation of the new government, disagreements between the two largest political parties in the country (as well as between their leaders) so they remained insurmountable.

The main economic achievement of the new government was the conclusion of an agreement between India and Bangladesh on the Farraka dam on the Ganges, which has been the subject of disputes between the two countries since its construction in the 1960s. This dam is located in the Indian state of West Bengal near the border with Bangladesh. The construction of the dam has significantly reduced the flow of water to Bangladesh, resulting in poor water quality, reduced fish catches, complicated navigation, and increased flood risk. Under the new agreement, the Bangladeshi side had access to the Farrak water reservoirs during the dry months of the year, which significantly restored the country's water resources, which are constantly suffering from floods and droughts.

In June 1999, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed an agreement in Dhaka to expand trade and transport links between the two countries and provide Bangladesh with a loan of $40 million. But despite its clear economic success, the government of Hasina Wazed has been criticized from both sides, including for its supposedly non-independent," pro-India " foreign policy. Indeed, Hasina avoided confrontation with a powerful neighbor and did not make any claims to India, even when several Bangladeshi border guards were killed in one of the border conflicts. 9

As for domestic politics, Hasina was accused of using the "dynastic" resource too often, in particular, the name of Mujibur Rahman in the media and renaming major state institutions in his honor. Hasina, in turn, argued that under previous governments, the merits of the "father of the nation" were deliberately suppressed, and to pay tribute to him, even if belatedly, means to restore justice.

In Hasina Wazed's last year in power, Bangladesh was recognized as the most corrupt state in the world. The last position on the list of corrupt countries outraged the public, and such a low rating of Bangladesh was regarded as a major failure of the Wazed policy. The opposition demanded that Hasina immediately resign and call new elections, but she refused and stayed in power for a full term.


In 2001, the People's League failed miserably in the parliamentary elections, winning only 62 seats, while a four-party alliance led by the BNP won more than 200, easily securing a two-thirds majority. Hasina Wazed and her party disputed the results, calling the election rigged with the support of the country's President and transitional Government. However, a coalition of four parties began forming a government, and the post of prime minister was again taken by "eternal rival" Khaled Zia.

In late 2003, the People's League launched an anti-Government campaign to expose and discredit the Government. During this campaign, Hasina survived several attempts on her life, as well as the assassination of a number of important party functionaries. However, in June 2005, the People's League slightly improved its rating when it won the election in Chittagong, the second - largest city in the country. The elections looked decisive in the struggle between the opposition and the ruling party.

In the same year, Hasina Wazed visited Moscow, which to some extent helped to strengthen relations between the two countries, but above all-to further increase her popularity as an opposition leader. The elections scheduled for January 22, 2007 have worsened the political situation.

At the height of the political crisis, the Government announced that the police had documented the extortion and the personal involvement of Hasina Wazed. She was accused of pressuring members of Parliament to get money for their election campaign in 1998. In addition, the former prime Minister was charged with the murders of political opponents that occurred in October 2006. Four people were killed allegedly as a result of a confrontation

page 37

The People's League and its opponents.

In 2007, Hasina was on a visit to the United States, where she was surprised to learn that the Transitional Government in power at the time had taken a number of steps to prevent her from returning to her homeland. The Government accused Wazed of making a series of provocative statements and said her return to the country could have caused unrest. On April 22, a court issued a decision on her arrest10. On the same day, Vazed tried to fly home from London Heathrow, but did not receive permission to fly. Calling the campaign launched against her "the greatest treachery and deception" 11, Hasina said that she intends to defend her rights in court. As a result, the warrant for her arrest was lifted, and on April 25, the ban on her return was lifted.

Her opponent, Khaleda Zia, was also in exile, and the actions of the Transitional Government against both women looked like attempts to introduce anarchy and division into Bangladeshi society. After spending 50 days in the United States and the United Kingdom, Sheikh Hasina Wazed arrived in Dhaka on May 7, 2007, where she was greeted by a cheering crowd of thousands of supporters. However, in July, she was arrested by the police at her home and handed over to the court, where she was charged with extortion. She was jailed and refused bail 12.

Hasina's son, Sajib Wazed, who lives in the United States, tried to organize an international campaign in her defense abroad. He sought to portray his mother's arrest as an attempt by the Transitional Government to force his mother to leave Bangladesh as an exile.13 Some success was achieved, in particular, the British Parliament condemned the arrest of Hasina.

Only in June 2008, Hasina was released from prison for treatment of an eye disease in the United States. At that time, the charges against her did not have a sufficiently serious judicial justification, and for most of them the investigation was not completed.


In November 2008, Hasina Wazed returned to the country to lead her party in the new parliamentary elections. According to the results, the "People's League" won a more than convincing victory and formed the government of the country. Hasina assumed the post of Prime Minister for the second time on January 6, 2009 and has been in this position ever since.

During her second term as Prime Minister, Hasina faced a dangerous challenge - the rapid spread of Muslim fundamentalism in the country. The fact is that when Bangladesh was created, its ideology was initially based on two directly opposite concepts of national identity. In accordance with the first concept, supported by Mujibur Rahman himself, Bangladesh is a secular nation-state of Bengalis, regardless of their religious affiliation. According to another concept, the identity of Bangladeshis is determined primarily by the religious, rather than ethnic, linguistic and cultural community, and therefore only Muslims can be considered full citizens. While in the first two decades after independence, the ideology of Bangladesh was clearly dominated by nationalist ideology, over the years, pro-Islamic tendencies began to grow in society.14

The confrontation between Bengali nationalism and Muslim fundamentalism has intensified in recent years, following the formation in 2010 of the radical religious organization Hifazat-e-Islam ("Protection of Islam"), which demands the introduction of Sharia law in the country, the death penalty for atheists, a ban on secular education, and restrictions on the rights of women and religious minorities.15 Hasina, who inherited the idea of the Nazis from her father-

page 38

a disgraced democratic state, free of theocracy, has declared a real war on this organization, seeking to bring its activities under strict state control.

Without a doubt, Hasina Wazed is one of the most prominent women politicians not only in South Asia, but also around the world. After surviving the death of her family at the hands of putschists in her youth, she retained a lifelong hatred of dictatorship and authoritarian rule based on force. Her whole life was devoted to the celebration of democracy and freedom in Bangladesh.

In 2013, Hasina Wazed paid an official visit to Russia and met with President Vladimir Putin. This was the first visit of the head of Bangladesh to our country in 40 years, after the state visit of Mujibur Rahman in 1972 to the Soviet Union. In an interview with ITAR TASS Hasina said: "Russia has always been a loyal friend to Bangladesh. This was especially significant during the War of Independence in 1971, when the Soviet Union came to the aid of our people. And the fact that I can pay a visit to Moscow on the 40th anniversary of our cooperation established during that difficult military period adds to my confidence and undoubtedly serves to reach a new level in our relations. Remembering the friendship of my father Mujibur Rahman with the Soviet leadership, I say that every time we remember that war, we also remember the help that Russia gave us. " 16

In Bangladesh, Hasina is called the "daughter of democracy", which is true given the ideological and political legacy that her father bequeathed her. Mujibur Rahman was a strong advocate of democracy, national statehood based on the linguistic and cultural identity of Bengalis, and secularization. His daughter's policy is also based on these "three whales". Her services to her native country are beyond doubt. The overthrow of the dictatorial Ershad regime, the gradual increase in living standards in the country, lasting peace and good relations with India and other neighboring countries, the suppression of separatists and Islamic fundamentalists, and even the increase in trade with Russia - all these achievements cannot be denied.

Today, much of what Hasina Wazed dreamed of in her youth is being fulfilled: her father's precepts are coming true - Bangladesh, although still far from overcoming poverty, is following a democratic path. The number of illiterates in the country is decreasing, and education and health care are developing. Bangladesh is at peace with its neighbors, even as "difficult" as Myanmar.

Unlike Pakistan, of which Bangladesh was once a part, the country is not shaken by endless terrorist attacks, and the intensity of Muslim fundamentalism here is much lower. There is also someone to entrust the work of his grandfather and mother: Sajib Wazed, a Harvard graduate, computer engineer and creator of the ambitious project "Digital Bangladesh", is now actively involved in party politics.

The only thing that Mrs. Prime Minister constantly regrets is the lack of time for her six grandchildren.

1 Crime and politics in Bangladesh - 982-more-trials-bangladeshs-deflated-opposition-bang-bang-club

Sabir Mustafa. 2 Listeners name 'greatest Bengali' - asia/3623345.stm

Mascarenhas Anthony. 3 Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood. London: Arnold Overseas, 1986.

4 This staircase is preserved intact in the Mujibur Rahman House Museum in Dhaka. On the landing where he was killed, there is a picture of the dead prime minister on the wall with the inscription: "Here you can cry" -

Lifschultz Lawrence. 5 The Long Shadow of the August 1975 Coup -

Wazed Hasina. 6 Miles to Go: A Collection of Speeches. Dhaka: The Wing, 1998, p. 127.

7 Op. cit, p. 134.

Craig Baxtel. 8 Bangladesh: From Nation to a State. New York, Westview Press, 1997, p. 268.

9 Op. cit., p. 273.

10 Bangladesh Issues Ex-PM Warrant - 31.stm

11 B'desh's Hasina to stay abroad pending murder charge - article/2007/04/12/us-bangladesh -idUSSP23714720070412?feedType=RSS

12 Detained Ex-PM of Bangladesh Faces New Graft Charges // The Times of India, Sep. 3, 2007.

13 Sajeeb Wazed Articles -

Gupta Barun. 14 Rise of Religious Fundamentalism in Bangladesh -

15 Behind the rise of Bangladesh's Hifazat -

16 The success of democracy is simple: it is enough to be honest with the people -


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