The U of T student who was taken into police custody after a hostage crisis in Bangladesh is currently missing.
Tahmid Hasib Khan, a life sciences student in his final year, was detained by Bangladeshi police for over a week following the hostage crisis in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Militants stormed into a café and killed 20 hostages; Khan was one of the hostages that escaped the siege unharmed.
Bangladeshi media outlets are reporting that Khan had been released after questioning by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police; he still has not made contact with his family and friends.
Those close to Khan and have taken to social media in an attempt to help him get home safely. A Facebook page called ‘Free Tahmid’ was created and hashtags such as #WeAreTahmid and #FreeTahmid are being used to bring attention to the situation.
A post on the Facebook page states, “Many of you have been asking about the most recent news stories that Tahmid’s whereabouts are unknown. We can confirm that he has NOT been released to his family.”
When asked what measures U of T was taking to assist in Khan’s return, Elizabeth Church, a spokesperson for U of T Media Relations said, “The university has been in touch with Global Affairs Canada about this matter and last week [U of T president Meric] Gertler sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion.”
In his letter to Dion, Gertler offered to assist Global Affairs Canada in their efforts to bring Khan back to Canada.
“It is difficult to determine what is happening in Bangladesh,” reads a portion of the letter. “However, I can confirm that Mr. Khan is a student at the University of Toronto in good standing, is actively progressing towards a degree, and is involved in University-related extra-curricular activities, as well as sports and music.”
Global Affairs Canada has been reluctant to speak with the press on what actions they can take given that Khan is only a permanent resident of Canada and not a citizen. “We continue to monitor the situation closely. There are limits to what any country can do for individuals who are not citizens of that country,” wrote Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Jessica Seguin in an email to The Varsity. Seguin also mentioned that the Privacy Act prevents her from disclosing any further information.
Student groups, including the Arts & Science Students’ Union and the University of Toronto Students’ Union have released statements about Khan’s current situation in support of Tahmid’s return to Canada.
The Bangladeshi Students’ Association, of which Khan was formerly an executive, also released a statement on Facebook expressing concern for his safety: “We at BSA-UTSG have strong faith in the law enforcement agencies. We believe they are doing whatever they can to halt the evils of terrorism. However we ask them to consider the position of Tahmid, consider what he’s experienced so far, consider his basic human rights and consider what his family and friends are going through.”
As for what people can do to help with his return, the ‘Free Tahmid’ Facebook page is calling for people to use the hashtags to spread awareness about his situation, saying, “Tahmid is innocent. The world must know this. We cannot stop.”