By Emran Hossain and Dave Jamieson
Friday, April 12
WASHINGTON — Sumi Abedin hasn’t worked a day since Nov. 24 of last year. That was when her workplace, Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh, went up in flames, killing at least 112 workers. Abedin, 24, was brave enough to jump from the factory’s third floor, having found no other clear route to safety.
Still recovering from a broken leg and hand from the fall, Abedin has traveled from Bangladesh to Capitol Hill, hoping to pressure U.S. garment buyers to commit themselves to improving safety standards at workplaces in her homeland. She’s also here to demand that Walmart, which, among other retailers, had clothes manufactured at the facility, pay compensation to victims like herself and the families of those who died at Tazreen.
“I have come here to ensure safety at readymade garment factories,” Abedin, who ran a machine sewing pockets onto pants, told HuffPost in Bengali.
The disaster at Tazreen was the worst garment factory fire in the history of Bangladesh. Many of the deceased were burned beyond recognition, and as many as 53 bodies were buried unclaimed, according to reports in Bangladesh.
The factory’s safety lapses have been well documented. The massive building didn’t have a staircase mounted to the outside for emergency exit, and each floor had windows securely bolted with iron frames, effectively turning the factory into a cage for workers. Even so, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attributed the fire’s consequences to an act of sabotage, rather than negligence on the part of factory owners.