The Cox's Bazar CSO NGO Forum (CCNF), a network of 60 local and national non-governmental organisations operating in Cox's Bazar district, has strongly condemned and protested the recent assault on six staffers, including two women, of an NGO in Teknaf.
At a virtual press conference on Saturday, the network demanded exemplary punishment for those involved in the incident and delivered an ultimatum of suspending their activities in the area.
"If proper action is not taken within the next seven days, no CCNF member will continue their activities in the union," said Abu Murshed Chowdhury, co-chair of the CCNF.
"This is not an attack on the staff of a single NGO, it is an attack on the entire NGO sector. So, we demand justice," he added and urged all other local and international NGOs to support their protest.
"On 2 February, six activists of COAST Foundation were beaten and humiliated in Hnila Jele para of Teknaf by a group of miscreants led by Hnila Union Council Member for ward-5 Rezaul Karim. The NGO workers were attacked while they were holding a courtyard meeting with the beneficiaries of a project," said Jahangir Alam, CCNF member secretary.
Two female victims – Ferdous Ara Rumee, joint director of COAST Foundation, and Tahrima Afroz Tumpa, its project manager – also spoke at the event.
"UP member Rezaul Karim was visiting nearby areas of our meeting place. He asked us what we were doing there without his permission," Tumpa said.
"We described our activities but he, along with his subordinates, came down on us heavily. We were verbally abused and asked to leave the area. Then, we tried to persuade them to allow us to continue our work, but they could not be convinced. At one point, they randomly punched and kicked all of us."
"Meanwhile, local people took us into a house and hid us from the attackers. We then informed police about the matter over the phone," she added.
A case was filed with the Teknaf police station on the same day.
Speakers, in the conference, said they were now panicked over the incident and felt fearful to work in the area.
Accused Rezaul Karim, while speaking to The Business Standard on Saturday, however, denied the allegations.