On 29 November 2013, we lost Nora Shariff. She had not only been an invaluable member of ICSF and an ever present colleague in our activities in London, but she had also been a true friend of Bangladesh. For her lifetime work as a vocal activist and campaigner against Bangladesh genocide and for always being a true comrade in Bangladesh’s struggle for justice and democracy, Barrister Nora Shariff had been honoured in 2013 by the Government of Bangladesh as a friend of Bangladesh’s Liberation Movement.
On 9 February 2014, a citizens’ memorial was held at Westminster (Central Baptist Hall), London, arranged by the family and friends of the departed. On behalf of all ICSF members, Dr Rayhan Rashid and Saikat Acharjee (Solicitor) attended the event and presented the following tribute in her memory:
Nora Shariff: Tribute to a fellow ICSF member
It’s an honour to be able to say something here today, and I am speaking on behalf of all the members of ICSF, spread out in five continents. Barrister Nora Shariff was a valued member of ICSF, an adviser, a mentor, and above all – a true friend.
His Excellency The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in the UK,
Ladies and gentlemen –
It was probably January or February in 2010, when I met Barrister Nora Shariff (our Nora aunty) for the first time. It was a time when the International Crimes Tribunal was about to be set up in Bangladesh to try the war criminals. A time, when concerted propaganda was taking place in London and all over the world against the justice process before it even started.
It was at that time, I remember a London event, when I saw Nora aunty for the first time. She was speaking to a group of young activists telling them about the importance of defending the trial, how important it was to be well prepared, factual, incisive and yet at the same time rational. She was telling them – how being overly emotional with narratives is not going to help either the trial or the victims.
Hearing Nora aunty we realised that that is how we like to work as well. In Nora aunty, we found a kindred soul.
From that moment on – a great partnership was forged. Always a true comrade in our struggle for justice, forever a passionate yet rational voice – particularly, in times of our dire need – she was always there for Bangladesh. She was always there for us, often as our inner voice of conscience.
Nora aunty made us wonder what it means to be a true Bangalee? Eminent Oxford historian Tapan Roy Chowdhury once wrote: “here in the West, we value humanity above all else, and in Bangladesh it is Love that we value most.”
With her dedication and work-ethic, compassion and humanity, love and affection for everyone around her I believe, Nora Aunty represented the best of both the worlds. And, that made her the unique person she was. And I believe I speak for everyone present in today’s memorial.
I never had the opportunity to tell her how special she was to all of us in ICSF.
Hope we never had let her down. Hope she saw in us something positive to be hopeful about in her final days, assured in the knowledge that our collective struggle will continue.
It had been a great privilege and honour to know her.
On this note, finally, on behalf of my colleagues at ICSF, I would like to make a proposal to keep Barrister Nora Shariff’s memory alive, something that will remind all activists of 1971 of her legacy. We are pleased to hear from the family members about the Trust that they are going to set up in Nora aunty’s memory. May we also humbly propose holding an ‘Annual Nora Shariff Memorial Lecture on Law, Justice and Human Rights of Bangladesh’?
This is something that can be arranged in collaboration with any London based academic institution. If this initiative is taken, we from ICSF, would like to work with the Trust.