The 2013 Shahbag protests, associated with a central neighbourhood of Dhaka, Bangladesh, began on 5 February 2013 and later spread to other parts of Bangladesh, as people demanded capital punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and for others convicted of war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal. On that day, the International Crimes Tribunal had sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison after he was convicted on five of six counts of war crimes. Later demands included banning the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party from politics and a boycott of institutions supporting (or affiliated with) the party.
Protesters considered Mollah's sentence too lenient, given his crimes. Bloggers and online activists called for additional protests at Shahbag. Tens of thousands of people joined the demonstration, which gave rise to protests across the country. By mid-April, their numbers had declined, and the original protest site is now clear.
A counter-protest, demanding release of those accused and convicted, was launched by Jamaat-e-Islami as its leaders were the majority of those first identified for trial. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) initially expressed its support for Jamaat-e-Islami, a principal political ally. But, the BNP cautiously welcomed the Shahbag protest, while warning the government not to make political mileage from a movement demanding capital punishment for war criminals.
During the protests, Ahmed Rajib Haider, a pro-Shahbag blogger, was brutally killed outside his house by machete-wielding youth. On 2 March, five Jamaat-Shibir activists were arrested; they 'confessed' involvement in Rajib's killing, though independent verification and investigation is not possible at this stage. On 27 February 2013, the tribunal convicted Delwar Hossain Sayeedi of war crimes and sentenced him to death. Jamaat followers protested and there were violent clashes with police. About 60 people were killed in the confrontations; most were Jamaat-Shibir activists, and others were police and civilians.
Oath of Shahbag Square movement
We swear an oath that the leadership of the mass of people from the Gonojagaran Mancha (National Awakening Stage) will continue the movement from Teknaf to Tetulia until capital punishment is handed down to those Razakar and Al-Badr members who committed crimes against humanity like mass killing and rape in 1971. We take the oath that we will remain vocal, both on the streets and online, until the politics of the war criminals, Jamaat and Shibir, is banned and the citizenship of their members cancelled. We further take the oath that we will continue this demonstration and keep demanding trials, under a special tribunal, of those Razakars and Al-Badr activists who were convicted, and under trial, but freed after 1975. We swear that we will boycott the war criminals' business entities – Islami Bank, Ibn Sina, Focus, Retina and various other coaching centres. We know through these they collect money to continue with their anti-liberation activities. We will also boycott the academic and cultural organisations through which they are spreading anti-liberation sentiments among the children. In brief, we will work for banning all the business, social and cultural organisations belonging to Razakars and Al-Badr activists. We swear that we will continue with our demand for stringent punishment of Jamaat and Shibir, who have committed crimes of sedition by threatening civil war, after making their immediate arrest by recognising them through video footage of news and newspaper pictures. We swear that we will boycott war criminals' mass media like Diganta Television, Daily Naya Diganta, Amar Desh, The Daily Sangram, Sonar Bangla Blog. We will not subscribe to the newspapers of the war criminals at any office or house. At the same time, we request the pro-liberation mass media to boycott the war criminals and their accomplices.