This article was written in September 2017, and published in The New Age, but couldn’t be uploaded on ShahidulNews as a result of a series of cyberattacks on sites related to me. It is prescient now, given the protest in the streets by garment workers demanding minimum living wages. Ironically, I myself was arrested for my facebook comments, a year later.The building still stands tall.
The illegally built BGMEA building continues to block Dhaka city waterways, despite numerous orders by the court to demolish the building. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
In any other situation it would have been considered contempt of court, but common rules don’t apply to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. An organisation that boasts such a large number of lawmakers amongst its membership is unlikely to worry too much about court orders. Their actions (or rather inaction), certainly don’t suggest they are shivering with fear.
A behind the scenes glimpse at a remarkable media phenomenon:
The dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Md. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a western magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.
A group exhibition dedicated to the lost garment workers of Bangladesh.
Still haunted by the memories. When I close my eyes I see the procession of corpses, following me behind, taunting my sense of responsibility. 24th April, 2013, Rana Plaza collapses, 1134 lost to senseless greed, lives lost due to collective negligence. A dark day in the history of garments workers lives, a nightmare which will terrorize us for the rest of our lives.? Amongst the rubble, hidden beneath the stones, beams and bricks, thousands of workers lie enveloped in darkness, their dreams crushed under the weight of our negligence.
As far as Shahidul Alam is concerned, he does not live in the third world or the developing world. While the photographer’s home is in Bangladesh, a decidedly poor country, he thinks of himself as residing in “the majority world.”
Most people today do not live in Europe or North America, or have white skin. Yet the world’s economy and media are dominated by a handful of Western countries, and the reporting on developing nations is not always done by people who know their subjects well. Continue reading “Wresting the Narrative From the West”
By?JIM YARDLEY New York Times
DHAKA, Bangladesh ? Not even two months after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building claimed more than 1,100 lives, a team of engineers arrived to assess another factory in the center of the capital. It was named Al-Hamra Garments, and it was one of hundreds of factories undergoing post-disaster inspections as Bangladesh sought to prove that its critical apparel industry was safe.
The Al-Hamra Garments factory, with its exterior staircase, is one of many reported to have structural problems. But this inspection, conducted in mid-June, was startling. The two engineers discovered that the eight-story factory was partly propped up by temporary cast-iron pillars placed on the ground floor. Several original beams and columns were cracked or disintegrating. And the factory was open for business, with more than 1,000 workers producing clothing for a Bangladeshi apparel conglomerate whose customers include Walmart and Gap. Continue reading “After Disaster, Bangladesh Lags in Policing Its Maze of Factories”