Sumi Abedin can't work anymore. A fifteen-year-old is dying from wounds from her escape. They were among those broken by a Bangladeshi factory fire that killed at least 117 – and some small measure of justice may now be on its way.
The November 2012 blaze that consumed Tazreen Factory, coupled with a later massive factory collapse in the country's Rana Plaza, left lasting scars across a country that is the world's second-largest garment industry. But on Sunday, police in Bangladesh announced finally that it would take a stand against unsafe conditions, charging Tazreen's owners and 11 of its employees for culpable homicide.
The death and destruction at the Dhaka factory, which made clothes for international brands like Wal-Mart, Sears, and a company owned by Sean "Diddy" Combs, has drawn international attention to the Bangladesh's work environments. It has been revealed that the factory had no emergency fire exits and had lost its fire clearance before the tragic blaze; an owner later told The Daily Star that he didn't even know the factory had to have them. Some exit doors were locked and windows were barred to prevent theft. To escape, some leapt from windows.
The charges, if they are accepted by the courts by Dec. 31, would represent a stand against a $20-billion-a-year industry that critics say have gone unchecked in Bangladesh. Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, told The New York Times that it goes "virtually unchallenged by the government."
A government report last December found that the fire was "an act of sabotage" but was fed as a result of "gross negligence." It appears at this time that the aforementioned American retailers will emerge without sharing responsibility, including failing to contribute to the $5.7-million in compensation to the Tazreen workers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.