Global leaders express deep concerns for Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Global leaders express deep concerns for Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Forty global leaders expressed their "deep concerns for the well-being" of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus in an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The letter said that it is "painful to see Prof Yunus, a man of impeccable integrity, and his life's work unfairly attacked and repeatedly harassed and investigated by your government."

The letter also appeared as a full-page ad in the Washington Post on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

The letter said Muhammad Yunus, one of seven people in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Congressional Gold Medal, and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, has been under attack by Sheikh Hasina and her government off and on since 2010.

According to the letter, Sheikh Hasina accused Prof Yunus of using his influence to have the World Bank cancel its loan for building the Padma Bridge, a 3.8-mile bridge that was opened in June 2022. A month before its opening, Sheikh Hasina was quoted in the Bangladesh press saying, "[Yunus] should be plunged into the Padma River twice. He should be just plunged in a bit and pulled out so he doesn't die, and then pulled up onto the bridge. That perhaps will teach him a lesson."

The World Bank, according to the letter, said it rejected the loan due to "credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials…." and others and added, "The World Bank cannot, should not, and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption."

The global leaders said statements like that add to the concern for Muhammad Yunus' safety in Bangladesh.

"The attacks on Muhammad Yunus are exactly what you'd expect from an authoritarian government," said Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the anti-poverty lobby RESULTS and one of the signatories of the letter. "When a government controls all the levers of power, the media, the courts, and all branches of the government, it does whatever it can to stay in power."

Prof Yunus, known as the "banker to the poor", founded Grameen Bank in 1976 and grew it to a world-renowned poverty-fighting institution of 9 million borrowers, 97 percent of them women. The institution has lifted millions out of poverty and been a model for other microcredit programs around the world. Professor Yunus shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank in 2006.

Signatories of the letter supporting Prof Yunus include business leaders such as Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, artists including Bono and Peter Gabriel, government leaders including former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, former Irish prime minister Mary Robinson, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former US vice president Al Gore, and activists such as primatologist Jane Goodall.

The letter acknowledges Muhammad Yunus' contributions to Bangladesh and to the world and calls on the Prime Minister to suspend her harassment and persecution of him.