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Cablegate: America Week 2009 - Telling America's Story On the Road In

VZCZCXRO0416
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0121/01 0411044
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101044Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0001
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 000121

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INSB, SCA/PPD, SCA/EX, AND R
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR ANE, FRANK YOUNG AND CAROLYN COLEMAN, COO,
ALONZO FULGHAM, AND DESK OFFICER CARRIE MITCHELL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL EAID SCUL KPAO SOCI BG
SUBJECT: AMERICA WEEK 2009 - TELLING AMERICA'S STORY ON THE ROAD IN
BANGLADESH

SUMMARY
--------

1. (SBU) Mission Dhaka made a splash in northwest Bangladesh with
America Week Rajshahi, highlighting the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership
and making key contacts outside the capital in this densely
populated Muslim-majority country. The three-day Mission-wide
outreach program included a cricket match, film screenings, student
advising events, visa information sessions, and a carnival-like
interactive booth area. America Week brought together Mission Dhaka
agencies and sections, USG development partners and American
businesses. Rajshahi is a divisional capital and the largest city
in the under-governed northwest of Bangladesh, an area bordering
India where the U.S. seeks to help the GOB counter human trafficking
and transnational terrorists. Mission Dhaka reached more than
17,000 local inhabitants through visits to educational institutions;
USG-funded development projects; and Mission-sponsored events
throughout the greater Rajshahi area. Our audience included
politicians, local business leaders, students, academics, religious
leaders, journalists, sports fans, development practitioners,
children and members of the general public.

ROAD SHOW TO RAJSHAHI
----------------------

2. (U) Over 50 members of Mission Dhaka, led by the Ambassador and
USAID Mission Director, participated in the December 8-10 America
Week program highlighting U.S.-Bangladesh cooperation in
development, trade, education, environment, and democracy. The
theme of this annual event was "Community," focusing on local and
global community service. This was the second America Week in
Rajshahi. The local population had fond memories of the last
America Week in 2004. Mission Dhaka has staged previous America
Week programs in Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, and Barisal.

HOME SWEET PARJATAN MOTEL
--------------------------

3. (U) The focal point of America Week was the GOB-owned Parjatan
Hotel, which has seen better days. However, staff transformed the
hotel, with its spacious lawn and accommodating staff, into a
welcoming red, white, and blue venue for over 50 information booths.
Booths featured USAID partners, American businesses currently
working in Bangladesh, and various Mission Dhaka offices and
agencies. The ever-popular characters from Sisimpur (the USG-funded
Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street) contributed to the festive
atmosphere. The Parjatan also accommodated briefing rooms for USAID
partners, the Embassy's Consular Section and the press.

RAJSHAHI'S HARD ROW TO HOE
--------------------------

4. (SBU) America Week's Chief Guest, Minister of Civil Aviation and
Tourism Ghulam M. Quader, is himself from Rajshahi division, an
impoverished area regularly hit by monga, or seasonal famine. He
advised the Ambassador how difficult it had been to promote economic
development in Rajshahi. Due to the lack of a gas pipeline,
Rajshahi does not have enough electricity to foster industrial
growth. After nudging from the Ambassador, Quader said the
government would look into expanding electricity generation by coal
in Rajshahi.

U.S. VISA OUTREACH POPULAR
--------------------------

5. (SBU) The Consular Section organized five diversity visa (DV)
presentations, three business visa presentations, and two student
visa presentations. Most presentations garnered thirty to eighty
attendees, with increasing attendance as America Week progressed.
An additional student visa presentation was added to meet high
demand. The student visa presentations and outreach events received
the highest numbers of attendees. Audiences displayed a mix of
enthusiasm and wariness; misinformation was rampant, and some
attendees expressed concern that the U.S. did not welcome Muslims.
For example, one attendee at a DV presentation said that a local
agent claimed that applicants with beards would be ineligible for
DV. The Consul General subsequently visited the alleged agent, who
denied providing false information to applicants.


ON THE ROAD AROUND RAJSHAHI
---------------------------

6. (U) The Mission reached various audiences throughout the district
of Rajshahi. Students were among the week's most enthusiastic
participants. The Public Affairs Section and the Consular Section
teamed up for three student outreach presentations, including a

DHAKA 00000121 002.2 OF 003


standing-room-only event by the Ambassador at Rajshahi University,
the second-largest university in Bangladesh. Overall, students
exhibited impressive English skills, a higher-than-expected level of
knowledge about U.S. higher education, and anxiety over the visa
process and the costs of education.

LEADERS OF INFLUENCE PROGRAM REVERBERATES
-----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador and Mrs. Moriarty had an extraordinary open
conversation with 30 alumni of the USAID's Leaders of Influence
program. Mrs. Moriarty gave a presentation on the role of religion
within American politics, stressing that, even though the United
States does not have a government-sponsored religion, it is a
religious country where our leader's personal religious, moral and
ethical beliefs guide their thoughts and decision-making. The
discussion period yielded a welcome frankness by all attendees. One
imam whose congregation consists entirely of police officers and
government employees said that, before participating in the Leaders
of Influence program, he would only discuss religious matters in his
Friday sermon. During the program, he realized that the secular and
the spiritual could not be separated, and he started telling his
parishioners they may get away with corruption in this world, but
God is watching and will punish you in the next. Policemen have
since come to him and told him that since he explained the religious
consequences of their wrong-doings, they have stopped demanding
bribes.

ENGLISH TRAINING FOR MADRASSA TEACHERS
--------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Ambassador inaugurated a State Department-funded
English training program for madrassa teachers and imams, which
trains educators in communicative English skills while introducing
them to American culture. This Post-initiated program has already
trained over 500 madrassa teachers and imams in Dhaka and
Chittagong, the country's two largest cities. The Rajshahi program
will reach religious leaders in an area known for conservative
ideology and a history of religious extremism.

ANTI-CORRUPTION MESSAGE
-----------------------

9. (U) Ambassador Moriarty and USAID Mission Director Rollins
participated in a USG-sponsored event in Rajshahi celebrating
International Anti-Corruption Day, along with the Chairman of the
Anti-Corruption Commission as Chief Guest. The USG-funded
organization Rupantar presented a folk music and dance performance
with anti-corruption themes, followed by rallies where USG partner
PROGATI distributed 10,000 red t-shirts bearing anti-corruption
messages to the general public.

CRICKET DIPLOMACY
-----------------

10. (U) National cricket stars joined the Ambassador for a cricket
exhibition sponsored by the local police and the U.S. Embassy. The
event helped build bonds between law enforcement officials and
average citizens. The Ambassador gave USG-donated cricket equipment
to fifteen local schools, watched a cricket exhibition featuring
police, students, and former and current National Cricket Team
members, and swung a bat himself. The Ambassador whiffed badly. In
addition to participating students and cricket stars, more than
6,500 spectators lined the cricket pitch to watch the exhibition.

HEALTH, ANTI-TRAFFICKING AND CULTURE
------------------------------------

11. (U) Other America Week highlights included a visit to clinics
providing basic medical care and shelter to populations at high risk
for HIV/AIDS; educational performances encouraging communities to
fight trafficking in persons; and programs focusing on family
planning and healthy living. Recognizing the region's rich cultural
heritage, the Ambassador visited the Varendra Research Museum, a
past Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation grantee, which
houses a priceless collection of Hindu, Islamic and pre-Islamic
statues, manuscripts, coins, and other artifacts that highlight the
rich history of North Bengal.

COMMENT
--------

12. (SBU) America Week participants - from local political and
business leaders to the throngs of students who packed student visa
presentations - welcomed the opportunity to meet Mission Dhaka staff
and partners and learn more about the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership.
America Week in Rajshahi and other cities around Bangladesh provides

DHAKA 00000121 003 OF 003


an opportunity for Mission staff to go on the road together to
directly engage the 140 million Bangladeshis who live outside the
capital. America Week demonstrates U.S. focus on engagement beyond
the Dhaka bubble, the locus of the over-centralization of
government, business, healthcare, and education that impedes
Bangladesh's development. Mission Dhaka appreciates the financial
support from the South Central Asia bureau that made America Week a
success.

MORIARTY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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