As protests subside, authorities are using onerous digital laws to target demonstrators
The list began spreading from phone to phone on Saturday, just as police were starting to fire teargas and rubber bullets at protesters in Dhaka demonstrating for safer roads.
Please pass these addresses to trusted people through Messenger or text message, it read. Names, phone numbers and locations were listed: sanctuaries for students fleeing a police crackdown.
If anyone needs shelter around Jigatola or Dhanmondi, come to my place, one student wrote.
Take shelter please – the situation is getting worse, said another.
The next day, as armed men alleged to be supporters of Bangladeshs ruling party entered the fray, beating protesters and journalists, more people added their names and addresses to the list.
Then police started raiding their homes.
Wazir, a recent high school graduate involved in the protests, was on a Facebook thread with several students who had listed their houses as shelters.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, one of them, Mahmoud, suddenly exited the thread. Photos and posts began to disappear from his Facebook wall. The group began to fill with panicked messages. Why had he vanished?
Hes doing the smart thing, one of the boys wrote. Hes saving us.
The Bangladeshi capital was paralysed for nine days, starting at the end of July, by protests involving tens of thousands of students.
Triggered by the killing of two schoolchildren by a minibus, the demonstrations started as a demand for better road safety, but spiralled into a larger expression of frustration against corruption and government impunity.
As protests have subsided in the past 48 hours, many of the students involved now fear reprisals from a government that rights groups say is becoming increasingly intolerant to opposition.
The same social media posts they used to organise and fan the demonstrations could serve as evidence to arrest dozens under Bangladeshs onerous digital communications law.
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