De-constructing the ‘Legitimate’ War Victim

Rashaam Chowdhury1
1School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

This paper utilises data gathered from interviews conducted in Bangladesh to explore victimisation experienced by Bangladeshis during the 1971 liberation war. It considers the multifaceted nature of victimisation during the war – from well-known kidnappings, torture, rape to little known long-term impacts of women who underwent abortions, ‘forced’ adoptions; to effects on standards of living amongst whole families and other traumas. Criminological and transitional justice research overwhelmingly focuses on the extreme aspects of victimhood that define particular wars. Such processes of categorizations render experiences of individual victims invisible. Drawing on existing research in the area of ‘victimology of ordinary crimes’, the paper argues that such invisibility results in the ‘common’ war victim receiving less public sympathy. Ultimately, the failure to gain a ‘legitimate’ war victim status, along with limited academic and activist curiosity has the capacity to erase the ‘common’ victim from transitional justice efforts – whether it be trials and tribunals or broader efforts of remembrance or truth seeking.


Rashaam is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in areas of state crime, refugees, genocide and war victimisation. Her thesis explores feelings of victimisation and perceptions of justice amongst Bangladeshis in relation to the 1971 liberation war.


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