As Bangladeshi individuals and organisations engaged in seeking justice for those subjected to violations of rights, we welcome the request of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor for a ruling by ICC judges on whether the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate the deportation of Rohingya people from Myanmar from 25 August 2017 onwards. We call on the Government to respond to the invitation from ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I to Bangladesh authorities to submit, by 11 June 2018, observations on the question and to support the Prosecutor’s request.
Awake, deep in the silence of the night
I dread the sound, I?ll hear your bleat tonight
Your tiny toes tied together with twine
Your tiny body weighed down by people fine
Children circling, some in fright, others in glee
Butcher man with knife, crouching on his knee
You?ll struggle in vain, your bleat a garbled cry
Blood will spurt, red floor, no questions why
Is someone there, another goat, a baby even?
Who wants you, regardless of who goes to heaven
What God needs blood, as evidence of love?
What sacrifice in swapping, money for life above?
A shopping spree, celebrations on TV
What?s one goat less or more for you and me?
It is quiet again, a respite from the heat
The sound remains, I?ll forever hear your bleat
12th September 2016
The long queue outside is nowadays usual. But I was unperturbed. I had come in early and there were the Hajj passengers to photograph. The cat strolling through the airport was somewhat amusing. A man, who could have been Chinese, gave it some food. The cat knew his way around the place. I had found cat pooh on several occasions before, but now I had the source file!
Alarm bells should have rung when I found no notice of the flight on the electronic board. The lack of people at the Biman counter was a bigger case for alarm. My friend Porimol, a journalist from the Daily Star, who was also going to Kathmandu was in the queue. At least I was in the right place! It could have just been “Biman Time” I convinced myself. When no one had turned up by 10:00 am, we all went off to the Biman Sales counter. At least there was a Biman employee there. “We have had nothing official” they said, but hear that the flight might be cancelled. They had no arrangements for rerouting, or any other arrangement. Their excuse for not letting passengers know had some logic. Since they themselves hadn’t been told, what could they tell us?
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. 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 magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.
My partner Rahnuma Ahmed often got roped in when we were short-staffed, which was often. That was 25 years ago. Little experience and zero cash rarely got in the way: we started publishing from day one. Postcards, bookmarks (often using offcuts from the press) and even a company calendar were produced by friendly printers who printed on credit. Residents of Bangladesh?s capital, Dhaka, used to seeing flowers, pretty women, mosques and waterfalls, suddenly woke up to social messages in black and white on their wall calendars. It worked, and we were able to sell them door-to-door and pay back the printers ? until there was a flood and half our stock got inundated. Tired of being pitied for our poverty, and do-gooder attempts to ?save? us, we had decided to become our own storytellers. And did we have stories to tell! Our agency Drik, grew, and we picked up many loyal friends and several powerful enemies along the way. Knowing we had to compete with better-resourced entities in the West, we set up the nation?s first email network using Fidonet. Banglarights, our human rights portal, annoyed the government; our telephone lines were switched off for 30 months. Mainstream galleries turned down exhibitions which were shamelessly political and often critical of the establishment, so we built our own. The government sent riot police to close down our shows on several occasions. Being stabbed in the street, arrested, and generally persecuted became some of the more troubling after-effects of our activism, but a nationwide campaign to reopen our gallery, and a court ruling in our favour, convinced us that the person on the street was on our side. That was all the ammunition we needed.
Along the way, we had set up a photo school, Pathshala, now recognized as being among the finest in the world. We also set up a photo festival, Chobi Mela. Again, a highlight of the Asian cultural calendar. Geed up by what we?d achieved in Bangladesh, we set our sights on challenging the global world order. Majority World was born, a platform for local photographers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with their own stories to tell. Activism didn?t pay the bills though and competing in the market place, often with professionals we ourselves had trained, required us to remain cutting edge. Clients cared less for ?good intentions? than they did for good delivery and value for money. It was comforting therefore when a prestigious international client, mentioned in the ?special instruction? section that she wanted the work to be ?As Drik as possible.?
As the organisation grew, we needed better management, stricter controls, increased efficiency and lower costs. This led to a culture shift which didn?t come easily to a group that had grown up like a family and had gotten used to working in a particular way. Our new CEO reminded us, that producing the perfect product was gratifying, but getting it to market on time and within budget, was just as important. Drik today is a role model for the majority world, but a world that is changing. Twenty five years ago, it made sense to start from the ground up. Today we tap into fine professionals we ourselves have groomed, and take them to the international arena. Long term strategy, succession plans and a more global vision are the concerns of the day. It?s a lean, agile and creative organisation run by a younger team, ready for tomorrow.
Drik?s ultimate strength however, has been the people who have rallied around us. This includes the people who work here, but goes way beyond it. People, all across the globe, across all conventional barriers, who have believed in us, and stood by us, in the many difficult moments we?ve shared, through many dark nights and days. We owe our very survival to them. Some we have lost forever. Others have stayed away from the limelight, happy to bask in our success from afar. While they have never wanted or expected anything in return, we shall remain indebted to them. This publication is a tribute to them all. See as slideshare
All credits and supplementary text available in Flickr page
All your armies, all your fighters,
All your tanks, and all your soldiers,
Against a boy holding a stone.
Standing there all alone,
In his eyes I see the sun.
In his smile I see the moon.
And I wonder, I only wonder.
Who is weak, and who is strong?
Who is right, and who is wrong?
And I wish, I only wish,
That the truth has a tongue!
Last year, I stopped travelling to Indonesia. I simply did? I just could not bear being there, anymore. It was making me unwell. I felt psychologically and physically sick. Indonesia has matured into perhaps the most corrupt country on Earth, and possibly into the most indoctrinated and compassionless place anywhere under the sun. Here, even the victims were not aware of their own conditions anymore. The victims felt shame, while the mass murderers were proudly bragging about all those horrendous killings and rapes they had committed. Genocidal cadres are all over the government.Continue reading “The Ruin of Indonesian Society”
Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)
They told me you were quiet. But I felt the rage in your silence. That when you spoke, they rose above themselves. But I felt their fear. That they held you amidst them. But I felt their loneliness. They pointed to the Koroi tree where you would all meet. The banyan tree under which you spoke. Ever so powerfully. They pointed to the mud floor, where you slept. I touched the mat that you had rested upon, and I knew I had found the vessel that must hold your image.
They had tried to erase you, your people, your memory. They had torched your homes and when coercion failed, when you remained defiant, they took you away, in the dead of night.
The leaves burned as the soldiers stood and watched. The same leaves they weave to make your mat. The same leaves I shall burn, to etch your image. Will the burning mat hold your pain? Will the charred leaves hold your anger? Will the image rising from the crisp ashen leaves reignite us? Will you return Kalpana?
For nineteen years I have waited, my unseen sister. For nineteen years they have waited, your warriors. Pahari, Bangali, men, women, young old. Was it what you said? What you stood for? Was it because you could see beyond the land, and language, the shape of one?s eyes and see what it meant to be a citizen of a free nation? For pahari, bangali, bihari, man, woman, hijra, rich, poor, destitute, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Animist.
You had reminded us that a nation that fought oppression, could not rule by oppressing. That a people that fought for a language, could not triumph by suppressing another?s. That the martyrs who died, so we might be free, did not shed their blood, so we could become tyrants. That we who overcame the bullets and bayonets of soldiers, must never again be ruled through the barrel of a gun.
That Kalpana is what binds us. That is why Kalpana, you are not a pahari, or a woman or a chakma or a buddhist, but each one of us. For there can be no freedom that is built on the pain of the other. No friendship that relies on fear. No peace at the muzzle of a gun.
These Kalpana are your warriors. They have engaged in different ways, at different levels, sometimes with different beliefs. Some have stayed with you from the beginning. Others have drifted. They have not always shared political beliefs. But for you Kalpana, my unseen sister, they fight as one.
The process involved in creating these images are rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Repeatedly, the interviewees talked of the bareness of Kalpana?s home. That there was no furniture, that Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat.
Rather than print on conventional photographic media, we decided we would use material that was part of pahari daily lives. The straw mat became our canvas. The fire that had been used to raze pahari homes, also needed to be represented, so a laser beam was used to burn the straw, etching with flames, the images of rebellion.
It was the politics of this interaction that determined the physicality of the process. The laser beam consisted of a binary pulse. A binary present on our politics. In order to render the image, the image had to be converted in various ways. From RGB to Greyscale to Bitmap, from 16 bit to 8 bit to 1 bit. To keep detail in the skin tone despite the high contrast, the red channel needed to be enhanced. The Resolution and intensity and duration of the laser beam needed to be brought down to levels that resulted in the straw being selectively charred but not burnt to cinders.
A screen ruling that separated charred pixels while maintaining gradation had to be carefully selected. And then, working backwards, a lighting mechanism needed to be found that broke up the image into a discrete grid of light and dark tones, providing the contrast, the segmentation and the gradation, necessary to simulate the entire range of tones one expects in a fine print. This combination of lighting, digital rendering, printing technique and choice of medium, has led to the unique one off prints you see in this exhibition. A tribute to a unique woman that had walked among us.
?The government can?t protect people in their bedrooms? the prime minister angrily retorted when questioned about the brutal murder of a young couple, both journalists, in their own home. Three years later the police have not made any progress in their investigation. No charges have been brought. After the murder of the bloggers it seems, the government is unable to protect you in the streets, at a book fair or even on the doorstep of your own home.
Intolerance appears to be the order of the day in Bangladesh, impunity the general rule and denial the default? response. Since the government and the entire state machinery have been so occupied with arresting, killing and or arranging for the disappearance of opposition activists, any citizen not directly linked to the power structures is a potential target not only for the state machinery, but also for a host of racketeers, extortionists, fundamentalists or plain opportunists.? The judiciary no longer allows anyone to challenge the government even more worryingly the police are demanding that torture be made legal. Continue reading “Citizen, Defend Thyself”