Chotomami: The last kiss

I would kiss her on the lips and she would perk up and say ?Ah, a real kiss?. Chotomami (little aunt) had always been special. Luise Morawetz-Rafique (1.1.1929 – 9.7.2013) was the only white person in our family, and we were naturally curious. My mama (mother?s brother) had many foreign friends, and I would occasionally be taken to the Dhaka Club, an old colonial club that I now avoid on principle. As a child, going to the swimming pool, having marshmallows and seeing naked white men changing in front of us, were all things that led to endless conversations amongst the rest of the kids. Chotomama and mami had two daughters Laila and Laeka and a son Akbar. We were all close in age, but Akbar and I, boys, mischievous and with boundless energy, were the closest of pals. We were also constantly fighting. The two girls were the heartthrobs of all the older boys, and I by being a close cousin and thus a stepping stone, got special treatment from the boys. They were fun days.

Chotomami and mama, in Rajarbagh. Dhaka
Chotomami and mama, in Rajarbagh. Dhaka

Continue reading “Chotomami: The last kiss”

Murder not tragedy

An exhibition of observations, both witnessed and imagined of the Rana Plaza collapse.

Suvra Kanti Das
Suvra Kanti Das

24th April, 2013. 1127 garment workers perished in the collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar. Excluding natural disasters this is the single largest cause of death, post-independence. Hundreds of workers have been injured. Hundreds still missing.
The rescue operation at Rana Plaza continued for 21 days. The loved ones of the victims held their vigil without respite, twenty four hours a day, scrambling from Odhor Chondro Park to Enam Clinic, to the morgue and back. As tiring bodies wore down, they slept in nearby coffins. It is of course a tragedy of enormous proportions, but by calling it a tragedy, we are shielding the guilt. Making it appear as if no one was to blame. That this is the destiny of the poor and the downtrodden. Is that how it was?
The history of the garment industry in Bangladesh is littered with incidents of fire and collapsed buildings. 27 workers were trampled to death in Sharaka Garments in 1990, while trying to flee a fire. There have been many deaths since, some through faulty construction, some due to the absence of fire exits. The fire in Lucas Garments took away 10 lives in 1995. 14 died in Suntex Garments in 1996. 22 in Rahman and Rahman Garments in 1997. Another 27 in Tamanna Garments the same year. We lost 53 in Chowdhury Knitwear Limited in 2000. It is a longer list including the recent fire in Tazreen Fashions, with Rana Plaza being the latest addition.
Drik had invited photographers, activists and other artists to submit work and register their protest. Their observations, recorded and imagined, form the basis of this exhibition. Murder, not tragedy. ??
The exhibition?“Tragedi Noi Hottakando”?will be opened at Drik Gallery tomorrow Friday, 31 May 2013 at 5 pm. The exhibition will continue till 5 June 2013. Please get your friends, family and clients to come and voice their support. This cannot, must not, go on.

Let me see the world just one more time

They said I would need a mask. ?The smell? they said. It was five days into the accident.
But it was no accident. A building built illegally, of faulty construction, showing signs of rupture, had been made their prison. It eventually became their grave. More money needed to be made.

Stitched image of Rana Plaza on the night of 29th April 2013. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Stitched image of Rana Plaza on the night of 29th April 2013. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

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Back from the grave

By?Syed Zain Al-Mahmood?Bangladesh?Dhaka Tribune

Factory executive returns unscathed after two days ?in hell?

  • Sabiha Sultana Mukta after her rescue on Friday
    Photo- Syed Zain Al-Mahmood
For two days, Sabiha Sultana Mukta lay pinned in the darkness – the lifeless body of a colleague to one side, a concrete pillar just above her head.
?It was like being in a grave. I just prayed,? she said. ?I knew I would die.? Continue reading “Back from the grave”

MASS MURDER AT SAVAR

The stench of rotting corpses
by rahnuma ahmed

It’s past midnight now, I took a shower after returning home but it refuses to go away.
I can smell it on my wet hair as strands blow over my face while the fan whirs above. I can smell it on my nightwear and, as I rest my chin on my clasped hands, I can smell the stench of rotting corpses and bloated bodies which stretches from Rana Plaza to Adhar Chandra school grounds in Savar ? rise up from my fingers.
It has not only come home with me, all that scrubbing as I showered has proven to be of little use.
It is not the dead workers who are to be blamed. The stench rises from, as Vijay Prasad puts it, the terror of capitalism.

Volunteers looking for corpses. Rana Plaza. Savar.   H. Asad
Volunteers looking for corpses. Rana Plaza. Savar. Photo: K M. Asad

Continue reading “MASS MURDER AT SAVAR”

Bangladesh death toll rises

Labels Primark and Mango found after factory collapse Bangladesh Labour Rights groups mourn senseless loss of life

Kazi Azizul from Linkedin group:?Bangladesh Business Discussion
Latest count 261 dead, 371 missing. bdnews24.com 4:00 am GMT.

Workers killed in Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, embrace in death. Photo Taslima Akhter
Workers killed in Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, embrace in death. Photo Taslima Akhter

Wednesday, 24 Apri: The Clean Clothes Campaign, along with trade unions and labour rights organisations in Bangladesh and around the world is calling for immediate action from international brands following today’s collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, in Dhaka Bangladesh. The collapse of the eight story building, covering three factories and a mall, cost the lives of at least 82 people and injured over 800.
Wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

Wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Monirul Islam
Wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Monirul Islam

Activists today managed to enter the ruins of ‘Rana Plaza’ and found labels linking major European retailers to this latest tragedy: Spanish high street brand Mango and British Primark. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known European and US brand names including C&A, KIK and Wal-Mart. These brands were also involved in the fire at the Tazreen factory, not far from Savar, where 112 workers died in a fire exactly five months ago. German costcutter KIK was also involved in the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan, where nearly 300 workers burned to death last September.
Blackboard lists number of dead and missing at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Blackboard lists number of dead and missing at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

Uncontrollable grief of survivors at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Uncontrollable grief of survivors at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

Woman grieves over a body at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Woman grieves over a body at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

Survivors grieve at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Survivors grieve at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

 
The killed and injured workers were producing garments for when their factory ? with allegedly illegally built floors – suddenly gave way with a loud sound, leaving only the ground floor intact. This latest collapse provides yet further evidence that voluntary company led monitoring has failed to protect workers? lives. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.
Shocked onlookers at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Shocked onlookers at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

Hundreds of people gather at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Hundreds of people gather at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

 
?It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,? says Tessel Pauli from Clean Clothes Campaign.
Bodies being excavated at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
Bodies being excavated at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

She adds: ?Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, are without income and without support. Immediate relief and longterm compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.?
Survivors searching for loved ones at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Survivors searching for loved ones at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

Survivors being taken for medical care at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Survivors being taken for medical care at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

Survivor in shock being given water at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Survivor in shock being given water at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

 
Makeshift medical centre at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter
Makeshift medical centre at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Taslima Akhter

 
To stop these collapses from happening, the Clean Clothes Campaign calls upon brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement immediately. The CCC, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations has developed a sector-wide program for action that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. It is transparent as well as practical, and unique in being supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.
A woman searches for missing family members at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad
A woman searches for missing family members at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo K M Asad

The agreement was already signed last year by the US company PVH Corp (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and the German retailer Tchibo. The labour signatories are now calling on all major brands sourcing in the industry to sign on to the initiative in order to ensure its rapid implementation. The programme has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers currently at risk in unsafe and illegally built factories.
The price of greed. A dismembered hand at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Monirul Islam
The price of greed. A dismembered hand at wreckage of Rana Plaza, a building which collapsed on 24th April in Savar Bangladesh, killing many. Photo Monirul Islam

CCC has been campaigning on safety issues in Bangladesh since the collapse of the Spectrum factory in 2005, which left 64 people dead and involved high street brand Zara.

NISHCHINTAPUR TRAGEDY: Letter from an unborn child

by Saydia Gulrukh

Honourable prime minister,
I AM an unborn citizen of Bangladesh. I was killed before I was born. My mother was twenty-two weeks and three days pregnant with me when fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions in Nischintapur.
I was killed before I was born.

Ultrasonic images of pregnant Mimi (pseudonym) taken less than a fortnight before fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012 burning to death 112 workers, according to the government and the BGMEA; the actual death toll, according to family members of missing workers, labour organisations and activists, is much higher.

Honourable prime minister,
My mother, Mimi (pseudonym) worked as an operator in the sewing section of Tazreen Fashions. My father, Rakibul (pseudonym), works as a helper in a local bus company. They had met and fallen in love in Nischintapur?s factory surroundings, they got married at a nearby Kazi office (marriage registrar?s office). These days, say neighbours, they had been very happy, their joy radiated as does that of expectant parents. But it was short-lived.
I was killed before I was born. Continue reading “NISHCHINTAPUR TRAGEDY: Letter from an unborn child”

The human price

Horrific Fire Revealed a Gap in Safety for Global Brands

By Jim Yardley The New York Times

Wal-Mart Nixed Paying Bangladesh Suppliers to Fight Fire

By Renee Dudley & Arun Devnath – Dec 5, 2012 Bloomberg

Abir Abdullah
People try to put out a fire at Sir Denim Limited garment factory in Mollartek, Dokkinkhan, outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Nov. 26, 2012.

At a meeting convened in 2011 to boost safety at Bangladesh garment factories, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) made a call: paying suppliers more to help them upgrade their manufacturing facilities was too costly. 

Low cost jeans are displayed at a discount clothing store in New York City. Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The comments from a Wal-Mart sourcing director appear in minutes of the meeting, which was attended by more than a dozen retailers including Gap Inc. (GPS), Target Corp. and JC Penney Co. Continue reading “Wal-Mart Nixed Paying Bangladesh Suppliers to Fight Fire”

The cost of cheap clothes

The burnt out corpses of the sewing machines all laid out in a grid, had the appearance of a graveyard. For many of the workers at Tazreen Fashions, that’s exactly what it was. Nischintopur. Savar. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 3rd December 2012. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Bales of cotton on either side of the stairs were in flames that workers had to go through to escape the fire. Nischintopur. Savar. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 3rd December 2012. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Stairs on either side of the huge hallway were the only exits to the factory. Nischintopur. Savar. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 3rd December 2012. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Continue reading “The cost of cheap clothes”