By Shafiqul Alam and Kamrul Khan , AFP
SAVAR, Bangladesh–Thousands of Bangladeshis held emotional and violent protests on the one-year anniversary of the world’s worst garment factory disaster, as Western retailers faced pressure to hike aid for victims of the accident that cost 1,138 lives. Angry victims, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the now-infamous Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed last April 24 after a catastrophic structural failure. Chanting “We want compensation!” and “Death to Sohel Rana!,” the owner of the shoddy building, the demonstrators — who included injured survivors and families of the deceased — marched to the ruins of the nine-storey building outside Dhaka carrying flowers and wreaths. Relatives of the 140 workers still unaccounted for also joined in, calling on the government to help find their bodies. They included toddlers, holding photos of their missing mothers. “I want my daughter’s dead body. At least it would give us some consolation,” said crying mother Minu Begum, clutching a photo of her missing daughter Sumi Begum, who worked at one of Rana Plaza’s five factories.
For the first time since the disaster, when the site was sealed off, relatives of the dead and survivors were allowed inside. Some fell to the ground, sobbing and grabbing handfuls of dirt, while others prayed. Violent protests broke out in the capital where police fired tear gas at some 2,000 brick-throwing demonstrators demanding higher wages and compensation outside a small garment factory hub, police said. “More than 20 garment factories were forced to shut down for the day fearing unrest,” local police chief Moshiur Rahman told AFP. Global labor and rights groups marked the day by criticizing the Western retailers linked to the disaster, which include Spanish brand Mango,