AFP/New Indian Express
New Delhi, 3 July 2016
horrific slaughter of diners at a Dhaka cafe has fanned fears that
surging Islamist violence may imperil the giant garment industry in
Bangladesh, which built its economy on cheaply supplying fashion to the
world's big-name brands.
Gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery
in the capital's diplomatic quarter on Friday evening, rounding up
foreign hostages before murdering 20 people with explosives and
machetes, in a brutal targeting of the small expat community.
State jihadists released gruesome images of corpses lying in crimson
pools on the cafe floor as they claimed responsibility for the deadly
11-hour siege. Most of the victims were Italian or Japanese.
attack will turn away foreigners," said Faruque Hassan, senior
vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters
Association, which represents 4,500 factories.
"The impact of
this attack will be very damaging for the industry. We are now
extremely worried," added Hassan, whose Giant Group supplies clothes to
retailers including Britain's Marks & Spencer and Next.
before the cafe siege, Bangladesh, the world's second-biggest exporter
of apparel after China, was reeling from a wave of Islamist-linked
killings of religious minorities, liberal activists and foreigners,
including an Italian aid worker last September.
mounting that the South Asian nation, wracked by political instability
since independence in 1971, is sliding into deeper chaos, with
under-pressure police arresting 11,000 people last month in a desperate
"The hostage crisis in Dhaka is a terrible tragedy
reflecting how security has deteriorated in the country," said Sarah
Labowitz, co-director at the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human
Rights in New York.
The violence presents "a serious threat to
the economy," Labowitz said. "This kind of attack will surely keep
(fashion) buyers away in the months leading up to the holiday shopping
Although a quarter of its 160 million people still live
below the poverty line, Bangladesh has clocked growth of around six
percent nearly every year since the turn of the millennium.
largely thanks to garment exports, the lifeblood of its economy,
accounting for more than 80 percent of total outbound goods last year.
Between them the nation's clothing factories employ more than four million people, most of them impoverished rural women.
Bogh Lind, a spokeswoman for H&M, which sources many of its clothes
from Bangladesh, told AFP the Swedish chain was "deeply sad about the
"We are of course monitoring the situation in Dhaka closely."
Echoes of Pakistan
Bangladesh may suffer the same fate as its restive rival Pakistan,
fears Ahsan Mansur, a former representative for the International
Monetary Fund in Islamabad.
"I saw the decline of a promising
economy into a terrorist hotspot. This attack reminds me of those days,
although I hope things won't turn out that way," said Mansur, now
executive director of the Policy Research Institute in Dhaka.
extremist violence began to spread in Pakistan, he said, the first sign
of financial malaise was expat families packing their bags, then trade
and investment crumbled.
"The perception that Bangladesh is a potential terrorist hotspot can seriously hit our export potential and growth prospects."
plucky Bangladesh has ridden out numerous storms, seeing off threats
from labour unrest, mass transport blockades and large-scale political
paralysis -- as well as workplace disasters.
Clothing exports swelled nearly 10 percent in the year to June, to $27.3 billion, industry figures show.
deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed at least 1,138 workers
in 2013 shocked the world, heaping opprobrium on Western retailers seen
as exploiting impoverished workers.
But the tragedy prompted
retailers to act on appalling safety conditions in their factories,
where fires and other accidents are frequent.
Brands set up two global alliances to make workshops safer and cleaner -- although it remains a work in progress.
retailers will watch Bangladesh closely, industry experts point out
that unrest plagues many developing countries where labour is cheap.
Islamist attacks in France, Brussels and the United States over the
past year show, the threat of extremist violence is not confined to
foreigners give in to fear, terrorism's political mission will have
succeeded," said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a
retail consultancy in New Delhi.
and foreign investment are both critical (in) the upliftment of a very
large poverty-stricken population," Dutta told AFP.
"The contribution of foreigners is vital. It is important for everyone to remain engaged."
in The New Indian Express)