Shahjahan Bhuiya, executioner who became famous on TikTok, 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 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.

Last year, Bhuiya said he was 74 in local media, but his national identity card, provided by Kashem, indicated he was 66 at the time of his death.

Bhuiya was originally sentenced to 42 years in prison for robbery and murder in 1991. However, thanks to good behavior and his role in the executions of other prisoners, he managed to reduce his sentence by a decade, leading to 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, Sheikh 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, garnering a lot of attention online.

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

The 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 due to his good behavior and role in the executions, resulting in a two-month reduction for each executed prisoner.

Prison official Suvas Kumar Ghose noted that prisoners could reduce their sentences by up to a quarter through activities such as executions. Executioners in Bangladesh, typically long-term prisoners, receive incentives such as improved prison accommodation.

Although Bangladesh sentences hundreds of people to death each year, only a handful of executions are carried out each year. According to Amnesty International, around 2,400 prisoners were 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 done it. After his release, he compared his newfound freedom to being “a newborn baby out of my mother’s womb” and expressed a desire to live well.