Bangladesh Garment Workers Die Producing Cheap Clothes

Bangladesh garmet fire victim

Bangladeshi men carry the body of a victim after a fire in the nine-storey Tazreen Fashion plant in Savar, about 30 kilometres north of Dhaka on November 25, 2012. Rescue workers in Bangladesh recovered 109 bodies on Sunday after a fire tore through a garment factory, forcing many workers to jump from high windows to escape the smoke and flames. (Photo credit STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

As Americans indulge in post-Thanksgiving shopping sprees in chain stores across the country and online, we are reminded of the real toll that cheap goods has on human rights in countries such as Bangladesh: the death toll from a horrific fire at a Bangladeshi textile factory has risen to over 110. Dhaka’s largest English-language newspaper tells of a harrowing scene inside the factory:
“Hot smoke filled the air within minute as soon as fire alarm rang and electricity supply became off. We were running to escape death through the dark. Many died inhaling smoke”

In Solidarity with Garment Workers in Bangladesh

UPDATE: For more stuff about human rights in South Asia (Bangladesh and India, in particular), follow acharya_dude on Twitter!

In the days around Bangladesh’s Liberation Day (Bijoy Dibosh) celebrations, the country has been convulsed by a number of protests and human rights violations that will have grave implications for the future direction of the country if the government does not immediately take steps change course.

The government, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has taken a number of important steps in ensuring the protection of human rights.  But, the recent crackdown against opposition protests and the pettiness of a squabble over housing for politicians threaten to derail gains made.  Worst of all, is the deaths arising from both recent fires in garment factories and from violent street clashes between police and garment workers in Dhaka.


Our Work in Myanmar Isn’t Done Yet!

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Labor activist Su Su Nway was arrested for putting up an anti-government banner near the hotel in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, where the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar was staying. After a few previous close calls, Su Su Nway went in to hiding before the Special Rapporteur’s visit in order to avoid arrest by the oppressive dictatorship which presides over the small Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (Burma). It is estimated that Su Su Nway is one of over 2,200 political prisoners currently being detained in Myanmar.

Prisoners in Myanmar are held in poor conditions and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Su Su Nway suffers from a congenital heart condition, high blood pressure and, according to a July 21, 2010 “Radio Free Asia” report, malaria and gout, which are all made worse by conditions at the prison where she is held. The prison is 1,200 miles from her family’s home in Yangon, so it is very difficult for them to visit and bring her necessary food and medicine. Prisoners typically rely on their families to bring them medicine and food, as supplies in prison are completely inadequate.

Wonderful news has come out of Myanmar recently with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate and symbol of hope for eventual Burmese democracy. However, thousands of others, including Su Su Nway, are still being punished for the peaceful expression of their views; the government continues to deny its citizens the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. But you can make a difference. Write a letter on behalf of Su Su Nway and join with thousands of others in this year’s Global Write-a-thon who are writing to uphold human rights throughout the world.

Lisa Hart, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.