An Exodus of Pain

An old piece, but worth reminding us that the problem remains.

While Bangladesh, rightly prides itself in sheltering refugees from Myanmar, its human record towards its own citizens remains deeply troubling.

Photographs by Shahidul Alam, text by Lyndall Stein

An Exodus of Pain

Doing the Bhangra Down India Gate

Where’s your bicycle? The Uber driver asked me jokingly. Yes, I had been known in photography circles and it is true that I did know a few Nobel Laureates. Given that I am a public speaker, and wear several hats, I do also come across the odd head of state, or celebrity. I’d be overstating it if I said they all knew me well. I have featured prominently in a film produced by Sharon Stone, but the long conversation on the phone, after my release, was very much an exception. But now that I have Uber drivers recognizing me, and people stopping me in the streets for selfies, I need to be careful I don’t trip over my own ego. Maybe I should be thanking the same person that everyone else thanks for everything that ever happens in Bangladesh.

I flatly deny making payments to the Bangladesh government for running a media campaign on my behalf. Neither is it true that I deliberately planted the inconsistencies in their fake news, making it appear they can’t tell a Kaffiey from a tablecloth. Let’s not get too technical. It started with me being a Mossad agent and taking money from Israel. Now I’ve been placed in the Al Qaeda farm, and definitely anti Israel. Considering that Israel is the one country that my government does not have diplomatic relationships with, and the only country my passport is not valid for, being anti Israel should theoretically make me a pal. My enemy’s enemy is my friend and all that.

Screen shot of Arundhati Roy and Shahidul Alam in Blitz taken on December 19
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As Drik As Possible

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.

Climate_Migrants
Climate Migrants: “Our people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.” Alanis Obomsawin Photo Abir Abdullah from his series on Climate Change.

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Citizen, Defend Thyself

Originally published in Deutsche Welle

“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.

Protesters demonstrate against the killing of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh. Mr Das was hacked to death by masked assailants in the third such killing in the country in less than three months. Photograph: EPA/STR
Protesters demonstrate against the killing of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh. Mr Das was hacked to death by masked assailants in the third such killing in the country in less than three months. Photograph: EPA/STR

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.
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Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance

Another blogger. Ananta Bijoy Das, murdered today. Police too busy beating up students to notice:
Anonto blogger killed with text———————————————————————————————————-
Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance | Economic and Political Weekly.

COMMENTARY Economic & Political Weekly EPW MARCH 21, 2015 vol l no 12 11 by Shahidul Alam

The daylight murder of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka on 26 February reflects the culture of fear and intolerance that has built up in the country over the last few decades. As a result, the middle ground between the extremes has disappeared.

Returning home with your wife, from a book fair where you have been signing autographs, seems a peaceful enough activity. It was in the heart of the university area, and it was not late. The footpath next to Ramna Park, where the 1971 surrender document had been signed, was full of people. Shahbagh Police Thana was nearby, and a police barricade designed to keep visitors to the mela safe, was only a few yards away. Hardly the scene crime stories are made of.

Location of murder of Dr. Avijit Roy near Dhaka University Teachers Students Centre (TSC) roundabout. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World Continue reading “Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance”

How many more Avijit's must we mourn?

Mourning Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans
Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans

It was a few yards away from where Dr. Milon had been killed. Then it had been suspected the police were involved. This time, the police were a silent witness. Blogger and human rights activist Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Banna were returning home after visiting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Their ricksha was stopped, they were dragged out and Avijit was hacked to death. Banya was severely injured and lost a finger.
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Grand Shia cleric Sistani issues powerful statement to Shia Resistance defending Iraq

The original site: http://www.digital-resistance.com/insight/grand-shia-cleric-sistani-issues-powerful-statement-shia-resistance-defending-iraq/ appears to be down

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani of Iraq

Do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill an elder, a child, a woman. Pay heed to the example of Imam Ali and follow his path. He said: “set your sights on the Family of the Prophet. Make them proud.”

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Do not condemn others to heresy. Do not accuse them of blasphemy which could then lead to their death. Do not imitate the Kharijites. Never inflict harm on non-Muslims, regardless of their religion and sect. The non-Muslims are under the protection of the Muslims. In fact the Muslim must protect his non-Muslim neighbours in the same manner and vigour as he would when he protects his own family.
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Do not steal the money of others. Those who steal from others will find themselves seated in the flames of the fires of hell. Do not disrespect the corpse of the dead, and if you defeat the men of your enemies do not violate the sanctity of their women and houses. Do not enter their [defeated enemies] homes.
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Don’t take anything from their houses. Take only what you find in their military encampments. Do not verbally abuse their women. Do not insult their honour, even if your enemies abuse your women and insult your honour. Do not deprive any people, who do not fight you, of their rights.
Know that most of those who fight you are victims who have been led astray by others. Let your righteous actions, your just conduct, and your sound admonition, serve as an example for them. Do not resort to oppression.
Everyone must let go of sentiments which carry hatred and bigotry. Follow the noble manners. Do not be overcome by narrow-minded views.

Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?

Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.?American Anthropologist September, 2002 Vol.104(3): 783-790.

The main concern of the article is to determine if Muslim women do actually need saving. The focus is on the mandatory wearing of the veil, or burqa. The author discusses many groups that maintain that the Muslim women do need saving from the oppression that binds them to wear the burqa. The author also maintains that anthropologists, among others, should not be overly culturally relativistic but that they should recognize and respect cultural differences. Do those same petitioners that try and save the Muslim women also try and save the African women from genital mutilation or the Indian women from dowry deaths? No, they do not because they have been taught not to judge cultures based upon their own.

The basic argument of the author is that there should not be so much focus on the burqa, but on the other mandates that the women are forced to oblige. The burqa is not an imposition. The author states that should the women be released from this mandate, they would most likely choose another form of headcovering to wear. A headcovering is the appropriate form of dress for their community. The burqa symbolizes a woman’s modesty and respectability and provides protection from strange men in the public sphere. A burqa is a symbol of a “good woman” who is able to stay at home, not working outside with the public. The author refers to the burqa as a kind of “mobile home” in that the women would be in the “inviolable space of their homes, even though moving in the public realm”.

The author described the burqa and the practice of wearing one in Afghanistan and other Muslim societies. She also noted that the Taliban did not invent the burqa but they did impose the wearing of one on all women as being “religiously appropriate.” The author presented her arguments in a clear manner but also admits that she is not an expert on Afghanistan

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