Happy Birthday, Bangladesh

George Harrison, former Beatles, singing “Bangla Desh” (Ringo Starr, another Beatles member is at the drums) at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh in New York City.

Well, it’s technically, Liberation Day but close enough.  On this day, December 16, 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the Mukti Bahini and the Indian Army, ending one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II.  Some estimates put the death toll from the violence at upwards of 3 million people, mostly civilians.  Ten million Bangladeshis fled to neighboring India, where cholera and other diseases took their toll on the innocent civilians trapped by the fighting or forced from their homes by an occupying army. To date, almost no one has faced charges from these murders, rapes and other war crimes.

Though freed, it was completely devastated not just by the 1971 war, but also by the Bhola cyclone which killed 500,000 people in late 1970.  It was followed by a decade of at least 30 military coup attempts (at least 6 of them were successful) and other political instability.  Human rights violations abound.  Women especially face the brunt of a justice system that is unable and unwilling to protect them.  Yet, through it all, the country has made some amazing advances.