Mohammed Ataur Rahman – Archives of Service Civil International

Mohammed Ataur Rahman

Mohammed Ataur Rahman (1942-2003) was born in pre-independence India in a part that became East Pakistan when Ataur was five years old. His paternal uncle was a government physician and an active social reformer and brought Ataur to Dhaka to live with his family for his secondary education. Ataur completed his M.A. degree at Dhaka University in 1964. As a student he was inspired to devote time and energy to the betterment of his young country and to combat poverty. He joined the Pakistan Workcamp Association while at university. In 1962, his friend Anowar Hussain, joined by Ataur and other like-minded friends, set up their own voluntary service group affiliated with SCI which became the East Pakistan SCI Branch. Ataur was active in the fledging branch and helped organise workcamps and cyclone relief work.

In 1966 Ataur became the Assistant Asian Secretary to focus on development in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, while the main office was in Singapore staffed by Sato. He joined the newly appointed Asian Secretary, Navam Appadurai, in the temporary office in Colombo in 1968, and moved with him to Singapore in 1970. When he returned to Dhaka for a visit in 1971, following the civil war that spawned an independent Bangaldesh, he was taken into military custody as a possible secessionist agent. Fortunately he was released the next day for lack of evidence. However, the experience solidified his resolve to stay and help rebuild the country and to promote peace and prosperity.

In 1972 Ataur joined the team of Quakers working in an area severely affected by the war, and soon became the main field coordinator. Together with fellow workers, Ataur formed his own organization, Gono Unnayan Prochesta – GUP (People’s Development Initiative) in 1973 with financial support from the Quakers. In 1976 Ataur married Sultana Begum (Dolly) who also was active in the GUP. The GUP became very successful and grew into a large organisation, employing several dozen full-time workers offering a wide range of rural development programmes with outreach to tens of thousand previously neglected and underserved people. Ataur also set up a peace centre (Shanti Kendra) which he had hoped to develop into a peace university.

Ataur suffered a major stroke while on GUP business in Britain, and died twenty months later in a Leeds nursing home. He is survived by his widow, Dolly, and their two sons, Ashique and Abeed.