Branding Bangladesh for Tourism: This Is What I Never Thought


During the weekend, a colleague who is working here in Bangladesh for some time, went to the sea in southeastern Cox’s Bazar with his family. “A great relief after the countrywide blockade and anti-government movement and this is for the first time that I have travelled outside the capital with my family,” as he said. He is from Uzbekistan and a very pious Muslim in his early 50s.

We are habituated with the cynicism that Bangladesh’s tourism industry offers nothing that foreign tourists look for and the scenario needs a change to attract them. Nothing has changed that much but my colleague today gave me a fresh food for thought.

Synopsis of what my colleague told me:

  1. I am very happy to visit Cox’s Bazar with my family. It was a relaxing experience.
  2. I went to Bangkok and the sea beach there is beautiful. It’s beautiful here too as the beach is wide and very long.
  3. In Bangkok, I would not feel comfortable to take my children to the sea beach. I don’t mind personally what many of the tourists do there (munching and so on) but I will prefer not to visit the sea beach with my mother or my daughter. Here in Bangladesh, I was totally comfortable to visit the beach with my children. No public nuisance was that bothered me. There are few things that one can ignore easily.
  4. On the way to the beach and here and there, you will find thousands of used condoms and beer bottle and so on. I did not feel comfortable to see those stuffs. Here in Bangladesh, there are things like water bottle, chips packet etc. but no condom or beer bottle.
  5. For Halal food, I had to think a lot and ask a lot in restaurants in Bangkok. Here I did not need to ask anyone as I know the practice here.

I went to Cox’s Bazar for couple of times in the last eight months and people say local tourists are now the main income source. Some people argue that introducing alcoholic drinks will pave the way for attracting foreign tourist. But many tourist also looks for sex tourism and the question is whether Bangladesh’s tourism spots should become a sex tourism destination.

So branding Bangladesh with its decency, beauty and unique cultural identity for those who look for it can be an option.


Sex Jihad & Ill-fated Tunisian Women

Couple of days ago, some of my facebook friends shared some news links and one of the headlines was: “Tunisian women ‘waging sex jihad in Syria”. I was puzzled. I read the news again and again and tried hard to find out the message in it. To me, it was such a bullet which had multiple targets. My hunch is: it was a planned black PSYOPS.

Thanks to Google, I saw many news webs were repeating mainly one story by Al Arabiya (Al Arabiya is known for being an arm of Saudi foreign policy or what can be termed as public diplomacy weapon. It is seen as being part of ‘a concerted Saudi attempt to dominate the world of cable and satellite television media in the Arab world’. Barack Obama gave his first formal interview as president to Al Arabiya delivering the message to the Muslim world that US is not the enemy of the Arab people.)


This photo was used in most of the websites that carried the sex jihad story.

However, the point was that Tunisian Minister claimed that a number of women of his country were travelling to Syria to undertake ‘sex jihad’ by giving battlefield comfort to Islamist fighters battling Bashar Al Asad’s regime. Such claim was denied by Syrian activists later. But in the mean time, the news was shared thousands of times on facebook, twitter and other social networking sites. The news did not carry any proof or evidence. I did not see any evidence provided by the Tunisian government in the following days and human rights bodies or journalists are yet to find any clue.

I am not saying rebels of Syria are saint or such things have actually happened. Going into that direction will actually shift the attention.

If anyone carefully dissects all those news which had travelled the whole world via social networks, one will find that those are all from Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou. “They have sexual relations with 20, 30, 100″ militants, the minister told members of the National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia adding: “After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of ‘jihad al-nikah’ – (sexual holy war, in Arabic) – they come home pregnant,” Ben Jeddou told the MPs (Quoted in the London Telegraph). He did not elaborate the number of Tunisian women who had returned to the country pregnant.

So, all these were actually allegations and further investigative journalism was kept confined within the territory where the rebels would deny the allegations. A question that popped up in my mind was that: was there any internal political game? There are a number of reports on the issue challenging the notion that Tunisian women actually did so. Foreign Policy magazine is one of those. David Kenner of the FP quoted Amna Guellali, Tunisia researcher for Human Rights Watch. According to Guellali, the context of Ben Jeddou’s statement could shed light on why the interior minister chose to make this accusation at this period of time. “The Tunisian  government has been under fire for allegedly asking adult women for authorization from their husbands or fathers before they travel to certain countries in the Middle East — Ben Jeddou was justifying any restrictions by saying that the government was
attempting to prevent women from embarking on “sex jihad” in Syria. The interior minister has also made the fight against extremist Salafi groups a centerpiece of his term in office. Suggesting that Tunisian Salafi women are sleeping with dozens of Syrian rebels could be another way to discredit them.”
Policymic’s Sana Saeed has more background on it [details are available on this link] Saeed wrote: “Despite the lack of clear evidence of a sex war pandemic, this hasn’t stopped news media outlets all over the world from grabbing, expanding, and running with this story.” Such a shame for global media’s capability in digging out the truth!

David Kenner pointed out that the pro-Assad media “have been only too eager to advance the idea of “sex jihad” as a way to tar their opponents”. Syrian state television ran an interview of a 16-year-old girl who admitted the practice of sex jihad while the Syrian opposition denounced the programme as staged.
I found it as an insult to Tunisian women (No matter what religion they believe in or practice). Before anything was proved, they were put on dock in the minds of millions of people around the world. The word ‘sex’ which has a negative connotation such as the word ‘propaganda’ has been tangled with the word ‘Jihad’. Excellent chemistry has been formed and presented before the media and automatically the final product in different shapes ping-ponged around social networking sites. So far, it’s very successful as I can see many of my friends who shared the news on facebook are preaching in a desired way.

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