June 18, 2017


I came from Bangladesh due to political problems. I am very supportive of the opposition to the current ruling party who are clamping down and repressing dissident voices. Extrajudicial killings are commonplace, the leader of our opposition group went missing and some of us were even briefly detained. People started fleeing their villages when the current ruling party took over. The ruling party rigged and manipulated elections where they prevented other major parties from even participating. If we protest, the police come with tear gas to disperse the demonstrators; they’ll imprison people; they’ll bring false charges against people in courts. Even the media is controlled by the government, so there’s very little coverage about what’s happening. Many forms of private journalism are banned. What’s going on has nothing to do with Islam or religion. It’s pure ideology and keeping power. I was a student in Bangladesh, and I was actively involved in politics. My actions created my problem, and I grew increasingly afraid for my life.

I left and first went to South Africa, which also has political problems, before coming to Brazil. I feel better here, it’s very friendly here. Sure, there’s the economic crisis, but we have to live our lives and make ends meet. I was in other countries and felt the discrimination against the Bangladeshis. I’ve seen in other countries the prejudices where people see us as Muslims and possible terrorists or suicide bombers, but I haven’t witnessed that in Brazil – it’s not an issue here. Most of us who came from Bangladesh have been here about 5 years, but our Bangladeshi community isn’t large. There’s maybe 5000 of us in São Paulo, and most of us live in the Brás neighborhood where we sell different types of textiles. Brazilians generally don’t have a good understanding of our community, but it’s understandable. We live almost exclusively in one neighborhood, and most Brazilian cities don’t have any Bangladeshi immigrants or refugees. I’ll tell people where I’m from and they immediately ask where Bangladesh is on the map.

I have family that fled to Mali, so I’m sending money to them. I still have family in Bangladesh, too, and I’m afraid for them. While I feel safe, I don’t know about them and their situation. Maybe if the government can’t find me, they’ll do something to my family in retribution. I’m still working to get my RNE from the Brazilian government so that I can try and bring my family here. We’ve been able to stay in contact by the internet but we can’t talk by phone due to security concerns.

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