Sunday, July 14

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

Shahjahan Bhuiya, who rose to fame by executing some of Bangladesh’s most notorious criminals in exchange for reduced sentences for his own crimes and later gained 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.

Bhuiya told local media last year that he was 74, but his national identity card, provided by Kashem, indicated that 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, Sheik 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, attracting considerable attention online.

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

Details of his conviction for robbery and murder remain unclear, but he was released in June 2023, ten years early. Dhaka Central Prison jailer Mahbubul Islam said Bhuiya’s sentence was reduced for good behavior and his role in the executions, resulting in a two-month reduction for each executed prisoner.

Senior prison officer Suvas Kumar Ghose noted that prisoners could reduce their sentences by up to a quarter through tasks such as executions. Executioners in Bangladesh, usually long-term prisoners, receive incentives such as improved prison accommodations.

Although Bangladesh sentences hundreds of people to death each year, only a handful of executions are carried out each year. According to Amnesty International, there were approximately 2,400 prisoners 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.