Garment factory owners marked the 40th day of the blockade in Bangladesh with a solemn and unique protest — a hunger strike — on Saturday.

As they sat together in protest, executives of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers Exporters Association (BGMEA) spoke about the need for business to be exempt from politics.

“Don’t take our hunger strike lightly,” said Atiqul Islam, president of the BGMEA, making an appeal to both sides: The ruling Awami League and the opposition parties led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). The personal rivalry between the leaders of the two parties — Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia — has been a driving force behind politics in the country.

“Please sit together and decide how you will resolve the crisis and create a business-friendly environment,” Islam said.

Other leaders of the two organizations, trade union leaders, and members of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) spoke about the way forward, and key ways in which politicians could be  persuaded to let business continue unhindered.

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