Our Children Have Already Died – Correct Your Policy!

A letter of support to the Bristol amendment on climate and in solidarity with the vigil opposing 2045 net zero carbon date for the Church of England.

By Rumana Hashem

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall.

Three young lives were lost on 26 August in 2006 in a protest opposing coal mining and carbon emissions in northwest Bangladesh.  The children who have died were teenagers aged from 11 years to 18 years.

They were the residents of a green and peaceful town, called the Phulbari, that has turned into a town of uproar because a London-listed mining company wants to build an open-cast coal mine there.  In the face of Britain’s wrong policies on emissions, coal-crime and climate crisis, more than 80,000 people took strike action and marched across Phulbari in the Dinajpur district. The teenagers, Al-Amin (11 yo), Mohammad Salekin (13 yo), and Tarikul Islam (18 yo) were amongst many other young people who joined the march and were striking with their families and communities for a green planet.

Amin, Salekin and Tarikul were shot dead when the protest had nearly ended and people were to return home.  It was the paramilitary force who opened fire in favour of a British mining company, Asia Energy – thereafter, the Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc.

The Global Coal Management plans to extract 572millions tons coal from Phulbari  and wants to build the project by immediately displacing 130, 000 people and polluting 14, 600 hectares of fertile land (1 hectare is equal to 2.471 acres or 10,000 square metres)  from a location that is Bangladesh’s only flood protected area.  For the people in the region, this project would mean losing their livelihood and identities because the mining would disperse the communities. It would impact upto 50,000 indigenous people from the area.

The families of the murdered youths search for peace in appreciation that the Bangladesh government will not let this project happen. The families and injured people in Phulbari bear the burns of the UK’s emissions and the climate crisis, though they do not know that it is the British government’s poor policy that enabled such killings in Phulbari.

Amin, Salekin and Tarikul’s families have not got a clue that England still allows similar projects, causing emissions across the UK and elsewhere. Their grief for and pain of losing loved ones are yet to heal.  Amin’s sister Hanifa told, recalling the memory of her little brother, that it was just before her wedding time that Hanifa has heard the news of young Amin’s death. Amin had never been to a strike before the UK Company, GCM, entered the town for mining. The grief, the emptiness, and disbelief remain in Hanifa’s voice as does the tears and pain in Salekin’s mum for 13 years. We hope that the Church of England can hear the cry of Amin’s and Salekin’s families.

In her tears, Salekin’s mum supports the cause of her lost child’s strike action. Salekin went to the protest with his uncle and took part in the strike because it was urgent to oppose GCM’s plans. Everyone has gone to protest in Phulbari. We stand in solidarity with them.

The deaths of Amin, Salekin and Tarikul are heart breaking.  The ballad of Phulbari is one of cruel climate injustice. My heart weeps as I write this letter of cruel murders of innocent children which I have witnessed in Phulbari. The children wanted to save their earth, to live, and play in their green play ground. They were taking strike action as coal mining would release carbon and would destroy their green land.

13 years on, despite the killings and brutal causalities, the UK government continues to make poor policies on emissions. The UK government let their mining companies, as GCM, to move ahead, to expand corrupt business and  sell shares for this coal-mining project on the London Stock Exchange. People on the ground have been led to believe that the project has been halt, though in reality the company operates with green signal from the UK’s National Contact Point. Britain let carbon emissions that would kill many more people across Britain and overseas.

Synod should make timely amendment to their net zero bill as necessary.

Please DON’T let more children die – End UK’s Wrong Policy on Emissions.