Murder not tragedy

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

©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.

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”

Occupy BGMEA

Members of Rokeya Bahini during their Occupy BGMEA campaign

Rokeya Bahini in protest at BGMEA. Photo Monirul Alam

Rokeya Bahini in protest outside illegally constructed BGMEA building. Photo Monirul Alam

Members of Rokeya Bahini in front of the illegally constructed BGMEA building demand justice for workers of Tazreen Fashions. Despite court orders, the BGMEA building, which has been built by filling up part of a lake, remains untouched by the government. Photo Monirul Alam

Tazreen bilap short clip?(woman mourning, audio)
Please Retweet: #Bangladesh #Garments #Tazreen #BGMEA

Press statement: BGMEA is responsible for the deaths of Tazreen's workers

BGMEA is a giant propaganda machinery which protects killers

—————————————————————————————————

Organised by Rokeya Bahini

11:00 am, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In front of BGMEA Bhaban, Panthopoth Link Road, Karwan Bazar

Dear journalist brothers and sisters,
Many garment workers died on the evening of November 24th when fire broke out in Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia’s Nischintapur. The exact death toll is still unknown. According to the government, 112 workers had died but many family members were unable to identify their beloved ones as the flesh had burnt away leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons. Fifty three unidentified bodies have been buried in Jurain graveyard. But several investigative reports have concluded that the death toll is higher. Some of us have conducted preliminary research in Nischintapur’s Buripara at our own initiative, and, we too, have been forced to reach the same conclusion. The government and the BGMEA should immediately have launched a serious drive to ascertain the exact number of those who have died, but instead they displayed a callous indifference which amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence. Continue reading “Press statement: BGMEA is responsible for the deaths of Tazreen's workers”

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”

Not all lives are equal

The pain of loss for Hassan and Hossain on Ashura, is replicated as we mourn the 124 workers burned to death in the tragic fire at Tazreen Fashions.

Bodies of children who died in a fire in a garment factory as the exits were locked. 1990. Azizur Rahim Peu

That was the fire in number 10 she told me.
What happened?
What’s there to say. The owner took the bodies and dumped them in the drain at night.
How do you know?
Everyone knows.
What happened to the owner?
Nothing ever happens to owners. If I had a camera, I’d take his picture and put that guy in jail.
She was ten and believed with a camera, she could right a wrong. This was 1991.
Twenty years later, there are few child workers in garment factories, but garment workers remain dispensable.
Firefighters battle the blaze at the Tazreen Fashions plant in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hasan Raza/AP

Charred worker at Tazreen Fashion garment factory. Savar. Dhaka. Bangladesh. 25th November 2012. Abir Abdullah

I didn’t know her name or didn’t have time to wait for the relatives to identity her so that I could get her name. But she may be a mother , may be a wife or daughter and to me a human being. Her body was laid down on the floor of a under-constructed mosque. Some army soldiers cordoned her body along with some others. It was difficult for me to take the photograph, disfigured still beautiful, with a small ornament visible on her destroyed nose. I felt sad to take the photo at the same time I felt grief and anger inside me to show the gruesome portrait to understand and make the world realize, how much importance they get when dead but nothing when alive.
Earlier incidents:
Feet of worker killed at Garib & Garib Sweater Factory in Bhogra, Gazipur. Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 26, 2010. ??Taslima Akhter

Police beating up a young garment worker. Police fired teargas and used water cannon to disperse workers. Dhaka, Bangladesh. June 30, 2010

Najma Akhter, 23, a garment worker , is sleeping with entire family – her children, her parents and her siblings. Altogether, 11 family members share this one room. Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Related link: Fire in Tazreen Fashions Ltd.
Please Retweet: #garments #bangladesh

Bangladesh textile factory fire leaves more than 100 dead

Guardian Report?by Saad Hammadi
Firefighters battle the blaze at the Tazreen Fashions plant in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph: Hasan Raza/APFirefighters battle the blaze at the Tazreen Fashions plant in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph: Hasan Raza/AP

Sunday 25 November 2012

Blaze occured at Tazreen Fashions in Dhaka, which makes clothes for foreign clients including high-street chain C&A

Survivors have described how a fire tore through a multi-storey garment factory just outside Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, killing more than 100 of their colleagues in one of the worst such incidents in recent years. Continue reading “Bangladesh textile factory fire leaves more than 100 dead”

Death Traps: Tales of a Mega Community

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By Abir Abdullah

Vice Principal Pathshala

(Abir was a student of the first batch of students of Pathshala)

A fire broke out on 03 june 2010 night at about 9pm after the electrical transformer at Nawab Katra in Nimtali in Dhaka City burst into flames that raced through several apartment complexes, feeding on flammable chemicals and plastic goods in a string of small shops lining the street beneath, fire officials said. Dearh toll rose to 119 while many are struggling in the hospitals for life.


Fire is an ever present death threat for the entire community of Dhaka city. From homes and workplaces to shopping malls and public spaces, a lack of building codes and fire protection have created a situation where residents are living in a continual death trap. And due to lack of training and proper rescue equipment for the fire service authority, fire accidents are responsible for the destruction of assets and homes as well as lives. The widespread lack of equipment and protection means fire deaths affect nearly everyone, from working class to middle class, and even the elites.



I have been documenting the important issue of fire risks faced by residents of Dhaka for the last couple of years. Through my work, I have seen civilians risking their lives to save others in rescue operations. Firefighters with lack of training and proper rescue equipment are also part of the rescue operation, bringing injured and panicked victims of fire to safety. I believe my photo essay will raise awareness, and hope that it will act as a catalyst for the authorities to take prompt action to save the life and property of an entire community. I hope it will help the policy makers and administrations to consider how Dhaka city has become the ?second worst? livable city in the world. I want to show how reversing the trend of inefficiency and neglect by the authorities can help bring an end to the needless loss of many lives in the peaceful, beautiful city of Dhaka.




Abir Abdullah
Photographer
european pressphoto agency b.v. (epa)
Bangladesh Bureau
Mobile: 8801715105546
More pictures at: