Shahjahan Bhuiya, the hangman turned TikTok star, dies in Bangladesh

Shahjahan Bhuiya, the hangman turned TikTok star, dies in Bangladesh
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Shahjahan Bhuiya, who became famous for executing some of Bangladesh’s most infamous criminals in exchange for reduced sentences for his crimes and later achieved brief fame on TikTok, died on Monday in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

The National Police announced Tuesday that the cause of his death, which occurred in hospital, has not yet been confirmed. Abul Kashem, Bhuiya’s landlord, said he took Bhuiya to the hospital on Sunday after Bhuiya experienced chest pains.

Last year, Bhuiya had claimed to be 74 years old in local media, but his national identity card, provided by Kashem, indicated he was 66 at the time of his death.

Bhuiya was initially sentenced to 42 years in prison for robbery and murder in 1991. However, thanks to good behavior and his role in the execution of other prisoners, he managed to reduce his sentence by a decade, which led to the his early release last year.

In his memoir, “What Life Was Like as an Executioner,” Bhuiya said he executed 60 inmates, although prison officials later corrected that number to 26. Among those he executed were individuals who had had a significant impact on Bangladesh’s history, including military officers convicted of assassinating the country’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1975, and Siddiqul Islam, the leader of an Islamic militant group implicated in the 2005 attacks.

Bhuiya also executed opposition leaders Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, convicted of war crimes during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

Bhuiya’s TikTok fame began after his release from prison. His videos often featured suggestive conversations with young women, garnering a lot of attention online.

Born on January 1, 1958, according to his identity card, Bhuiya came from a village in Narsingdi district of central Bangladesh and had three sisters. He briefly joined the Army but left after failing the training program. He later became president of the Narsingdi district branch of the Bangladesh Communist Party.

The details of his sentence for robbery and murder remain unclear, but he was released in June 2023, a decade early. Dhaka Central Jail’s warden, Mahbubul Islam, said Bhuiya’s sentence was reduced for good behavior and his role in the executions, resulting in a reduction of two months for each prisoner executed.

Prison official Suvas Kumar Ghose noted that prisoners could reduce their sentences by up to a quarter through activities such as executions. Executioners in Bangladesh, typically long-term prisoners, receive incentives such as improved prison accommodation.

Although Bangladesh sentences hundreds of people to death every year, only a few executions are carried out each year. According to Amnesty International, approximately 2,400 prisoners were on death row this year.

Apart from her TikTok activities, Bhuiya ran a tea stall. Her sister, Firoza Begum, said she had had minimal contact with him over the years and that their other siblings had died.

Bhuiya expressed mixed feelings about his role as an executioner, saying he felt some pity for those he executed but believed someone else would have done it if he hadn’t. After his release, he compared his newfound freedom to being “a baby out of my mother’s womb” and expressed a desire to live well.

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Kyle C. Garrison

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