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Iran: a Bangladeshi perspective on IHL

14-06-2012 Interview

From 27 April to 4 May, the Iranian island of Kish was home to 70 experts from 11 Asian countries attending the South Asian Teaching Session on International Humanitarian Law. Military personnel, government officials, legal practitioners and academics took part in case analysis, group discussions and debates, exchanging views and developing their insights on IHL.

The South Asian Teaching Session (SATS) takes place twice a year. This session was organized jointly by the ICRC, the Iranian Red Crescent Society and Tehran University's Kish International Campus. Rafiqul Islam, Chairman of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Dhaka, was one of a five-member team from Bangladesh who attended this 20th SATS, becoming one of its top scorers. In a conversation with the ICRC in Dhaka, Mr Islam shared his experience of teaching humanitarian principles to students.

What is the relevance of IHL for Bangladesh?

Bangladesh was born out of armed conflict in 1971. Even after independence, internal conflict continued in the Chittagong Hill Tracts until 1997. IHL was applicable to both these conflicts. Bangladesh is also the largest contributor to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, with its armed forces and law-enforcement personnel deployed in conflict zones around the world. IHL is therefore important to Bangladesh, both as a means of understanding the consequences of conflict and as a basis for responding to its changing nature.

How important is the academic study of IHL?

History teaches us that armed conflict is an inevitable part of human civilization. There is a saying that “all’s fair in love and war,” but over time, people have drawn up conventions and treaties to regulate war and minimize its effects. Because IHL seeks to regulate armed conflicts through human behaviour, this body of law is fundamental to peace and conflict studies. Through the academic study of IHL, students learn to think critically about peace, security and conflict from a wide variety of perspectives.

Tell us about your experience of teaching humanitarian principles

IHL was introduced in our department following an ICRC teacher-training programme in 2006. I teach IHL to a class of 35 post-graduate students, who take a great interest in the course once they start relating the principles of IHL to modern-day conflicts such as the "war on terror." Our students study the applicability of IHL to the changing nature of conflict and the ethical and humanitarian issues that arise during armed conflicts.

How would you evaluate the contribution of SATS to academia?

Since IHL is a relatively new subject in many countries, universities and colleges need better support and training if they are to expand teaching of the topic. SATS provides a crucial platform for developing and exchanging IHL resources. For instance, the team from Afghanistan discussed valuable case studies related to armed conflict and violence that will be interesting for my students. However, course participants also have a responsibility to make use of their knowledge, and to enhance it through research and through the promotion and implementation of IHL at national level.


Photos

Kish, Iran. Rafiqul Islam, Chairman of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Dhaka. 

Kish, Iran. Rafiqul Islam, Chairman of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Dhaka.
© ICRC

Kish, Iran. Participants at the South Asian Teaching Session on International Humanitarian Law pose for a group photo outside the convention centre. 

Kish, Iran. Participants at the South Asian Teaching Session on International Humanitarian Law pose for a group photo outside the convention centre.
© ICRC