– For the first time in my life I feel safe, says Supriti Dhar.

”Now that I am still alive”

2020-03-24 | Jenny Rönngren padlock


– When I felt that every day can be my last day at my life, I couldn’t even dream. The overwhelming fear took over every other aspect of my life, says Supriti Dhar, who came to Sweden in 2018 as a sheltered journalist and will participate with articles in Feminist perspective through a co-operation with PEN/Opp and Norrköpings kommun.

ABOUT/Supriti Dhar

Journalist, women’s rights activist and feminist from Bangladesh who founded the online writing platform Women Chapter.

ABOUT/Network of Refugee Cities

International Parliament of Writers (IPW) and Network of Cities of Asylum (INCA) where established in mid 1990’s with the purpose to find refuge for persecuted authors poets and journalists after the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989.

In 2005 they were succeeded by The International Cities of Refugee Network (ICORN), that in close co-operation with PEN International have created a network of over 70 cities around the world.

Through the agreement with ICORN the cities or municipalities commit to receiving a persecuted writer and during two years secure housing, a two-year scholarship to live on and assist the writer on practical issues.

Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and where you live?

– I am Supriti Dhar, a senior journalist and activist from Bangladesh, Currently living in Norrköping, Sweden as an ICORN Guest Writer. I am the Founder Editor of Women Chapter, the first online writing platform for women in Bangladesh which was created in 2013.

– When our fellow bloggers, freethinkers, dissidents, LGBTQ leaders were being killed, I was routinely threatened and monitored by different groups in Bangladesh. So I decided to leave my country. As a result I am here now and for the first time in my life I feel safe, as a human being, and especially as a woman.

– I remember the date when I arrived at Norrköping. During my last days in Bangladesh I was preparing myself to move, because I had to move without my son. It’s hard to explain the feeling I had to go through at that time as a single mother leaving my 21-year-old son behind on his own. It was a traumatic feeling. At the same time, my son was also in unexpected situation, that time he knew that he will join me soon, what did not happen till now. For the security reason he also moved to India for study. Recently I was able to meet him after two years.

– When I arrived here, at first, I was totally lost. It was a new country, new environment, different weather and most importantly, I was all by myself. A single mother away from both of her children. Then I whispered myself, ”Supriti, go ahead, everything will be okay. No one is following you here, and the most important thing of all, is that you are alive! As long as you are alive, your children will also be alive and can join you in the future”. I started my new journey in a new country, I wake up every single morning with a new hope now that I am still alive.

You have been running the online platform Women Chapter since seven years now. What was the purpose of creating the platform and what are some of the main challenges that you have had to face?

– I have been actively participating in many social movements and protests since 2011, and because of my activism, I lost my job on the Television Channel because I was more vocal than others in my position. But that did not stop me.

– In 2013, when we started Shahbag movement against the war criminals who were the main player behind the war in 1971, the extreme fundamentalism also emerged from the ashes to stop this movement and they listed our name in the killing list. Interestingly I felt a necessity of an online writing platform for us women to express ourselves against the fundamentalism. Unfortunately, women did not have any place to write that time. The mainstream media did not allow as they are not established columnists, so when I started Women Chapter, it became popular within a very short period.

– So my journey started. I did not even think about money, how I can pay for the website, who will manage everything. It was the time in 2013, when we were fighting against fanatics who were dead against equality and women’s rights. Since then I am managing this website single handedly and paying all costs from my own. I count it as my brainchild, so as a mom I cannot leave it. And when it got two international and national awards, I cannot sit back and do nothing but to keep it moving forward.

– Main challenges are: 1. Money, I do not have any sponsor. 2. Now I have so many competitors who are more organized with all facilities. 3. I have dream to make it more globalized and multi-cultural, which means I want to publish Women Chapter in different languages and make it as a tool of movement for the changes of women’s lives.

How would you characterize the Bangladeshi feminist movement, and the main struggles currently?

– I think, the feminist movement in Bangladesh is going through different phases. Nowadays, the word ”Feminist”, ”Feminism” has become talk of the town. And yet, are facing many obstacles, many criticisms, but at the same time there are so many windows also has opened for understanding the word. Women are writing more and more, expressing themselves, breaking the taboos, which are positive.

– Unfortunately, everything is happening within the online sphere and within the upper middle class. We were not able to reach to the marginalized people who do not have internet access. We need to go to the remote areas if we want to bring the real changes in rural lives. Here is a difference between women rights activists and religious activists. Religious activists are more organized, and they are progressing in a much-planned way. Here we have been defeated, I think.

– And with the government directly cahoots with the fundamentalists in a bid to stay in power, it has become impossible to fight for basic women’s rights such as preventing domestic violence, childhood marriage, sexual violence against women and guaranteeing their security in public sphere. The only way forward is to fight against the organized powers of fundamentalists and a state that is actively supporting their agenda.

Looking ahead – what are your hopes and expectations?

– I have a big dream which does not allow me to sleep nowadays. If I am here in Sweden, I know that my dream can come true one day. It is not Bangladesh where I feel insecure in single moment. When I felt that every day can be my last day at my life, I couldn’t even dream. The overwhelming fear took over every other aspect of my life.

– I really want to continue working for women, not only for Bangladeshi women, for women everywhere. Women who are oppressed, who are abused, who need people to fight on their corners. Recently I was reading a book of a Nigerian Feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I had feeling that she is talking about me and my surroundings. There are no boundaries on violence against women and women’s live.

– Since I cannot go back to my country, I can contribute from here. I dream to create an organization which will work for women’s betterment not only in Bangladesh, it will work everywhere wherever there are women in need. And I want to create a Support Center under that organization which will give mental and legal support who needs it. Especially women, who go through mental and physical trauma, my organization will provide them help and bring them into the normal life.

– And as a journalist, I would really like to continue my work through my reporting and writing. My only expectation is to have a safe place where I can feel at home and so that I can use my full potential and give back to the community all that I have and so that I can continue my work of working for the equality and betterment of women everywhere.


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