As Mujib Watches Helplessly

I entered the giant graveyard. It was quiet except for my own footsteps but, in my head, I could hear the screams. Rows of blackened sewing machines, still in orderly lines, reinforced the sense that I was looking at tombstones. There were no flowers here. No epitaphs. No mourners.

Stitched photo of burnt remains of Tazreen Fashions. Photo Shahidul Alam

A fire had raged through the Tazreen Fashions garment factory in Ashulia on 24 November 2012. Workers stationed on the building’s third and fourth floors had rushed to the exits, only to find them locked, a regular practice in many Bangladeshi garment factories. Fires and worker deaths were, sadly, all-too-common. The owners justified the locking of the doors as a ‘security measure’ but workers were effectively prisoners during working hours. As the heat and smoke built up, the panic-stricken labourers, who were unable to break down the iron gates, rushed to the windows and somehow managed to remove the metal grills. It was a long way down, but one by one they jumped. Some screamed with pain as they fell; others were silent. Each landed with a dull thud, their bodies crumpled on the uneven ground below. Possible death was still a better choice than certain death. And some did survive.

Continue reading “As Mujib Watches Helplessly”

Statement of South Asian Independent Citizens on India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

Statement of South Asian Independent Citizens on India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

26 December 2019

We independent citizens of countries neighbouring India hereby register our reservations about the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted by India’s Parliament, which aims to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from three select countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The Act is discriminatory at the first instance because it is targeted against Muslims beyond the stated intent of the law. It is unacceptable for a country with a secular Constitution to distinguish between foreign citizens on the basis of religion. Further, the Act has the potential of deepening geopolitical schisms among the countries of South Asia, which should be striving for peace and mutual understanding.

We are further concerned that the announced India-wide National Register of Citizens or an adapted exercise, planned as follow-up to the CAA, will make vulnerable tens of millions of people. As observers of India, we had not understood citizenship to be a major problem in the country when compared to many other pressing issues of social justice. We fear that such a programme will have deadly fallout, particularly for the 200 million Muslims living under the umbrella of a secular Constitution of India.

The signatories believe that India’s plans for growth and equity is being hurt by ill-advised attempts at social engineering, and this in turn will impact the larger South Asian region. A weakened, insular India would not be able to take a stand on urgent matters confronting humanity, such as nuclear weaponisation, the climate crisis, hi-tech surveillance and runaway pollution.

We question the logic of the Indian Government wanting to extend citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians and Sikhs when there are also larger numbers of Muslims of different sects in the three selected countries enduring sectarian strife. These include Ahmedia and Shia, particularly Hazara, of Pakistan and Ahmediya of Bangladesh. What of the thousands of Tamil refugees of Sri Lanka, and the Rohingya who are so vulnerable in Myanmar and as refugees in Bangladesh?

If the authorities in New Delhi were seeking the well-being of religious minorities in the three selected countries, it should have engaged in sustained diplomatic effort to ensure their protection. We believe that with its action the Government of India has made religious minorities in the three countries more vulnerable than they were earlier.

The most logical approach for India is to join the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, and to be open to foreigners of any faith or persuasion who are in distress. To select non-citizens based on faith is in defiance of basic human values.

The rest of South Asia has long appreciated the spirit of inclusion and social justice that has marked modern India, a country that has stood for democracy, pluralism and freedom. We signatories of this statement are distressed by the decisive majoritarian turn in India, and the intolerance evident in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent.

A democratic, pluralist India that promotes solidarity, co-existence and mutual respect among diverse ethnic, religious and cultural communities of citizens within its borders is vital for a peaceful and stable South Asia.

Signatories:

Arif Hasan, Karachi
Beena Sarwar, Karachi
Hameeda Hossain, Dhaka
I.A. Rehman, Lahore
Jayadeva Uyangoda, Colombo
Kanak Mani Dixit, Lalitpur
Mahesh Maskey, Kathmandu
Mubashir Hasan, Lahore
NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, Lalitpur
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islamabad
Pratyoush Onta, Lalitpur
Serajul Islam Choudhury, Dhaka
Shahidul Alam, Dhaka
Sumathy Sivamohan, Peradeniya

Since this statement came out. Several others have also wanted to be signatories. It will be too complicated to change the sequence every time a new name is added, so new names will be added in the order in which they are received. If you want your name to be added, please say so in the comments section and I’ll add it as soon as I can.

Sultana Kamal, Dhaka
Khushi Kabir, Dhaka
Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan, Chattagram
Tanzim Wahab, Dhaka
Bikas Rauniar, Kathmandu
Faruq Faisel, Dhaka

Postdoctor in Photography, Photography and Human Rights

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 06.46.27

University of Gothenburg

Type of employment: Fixed-term employment, 2 years
Extent: 100 %
Location: Valand Academy, Gothenburg
First day of employment: 2016/9/1
Reference number: PER 2016/54
Valand Academy at the University of Gothenburg and the Hasselblad Foundation have a long-term partnership developing critical reflection on photography and its mediation. As part of this partnership, the Hasselblad Foundation is launching a research project on photography and human rights in Autumn 2016, and photo-based artists holding a PhD can apply to a two-year Post-Doctoral position at Valand Academy starting September 2016. The number of positions available is one.
Continue reading “Postdoctor in Photography, Photography and Human Rights”

Kalpana's Warriors in Delhi

Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening
Opening of “Kalpana’s Warriors” at Drik Gallery 12 June 2015 on the 19th anniversary of her abduction. Photo: Habibul Haque/Drik

Shahidul Alam has long been gripped by the life of a woman he has never met.

It’s been two decades since Kalpana Chakma was abducted, but Shahidul refuses to forget her. Standing at the threshold of his latest exhibition,Kalpana’s Warriors, the Bangladeshi photographer pauses for a moment.

In the room beyond is the third in a series of photo exhibitions that began with Searching for Kalpana Chakma in 2013, and was followed by 18 in 2014. The woman around whom these pictures revolve is notably absent from them. She was abducted at gunpoint in the early hours of 12 June 1996 from her home in Rangamati in Bangladesh. Her captors were a group of plain-clothed men who were recognised as being from a nearby army camp. Kalpana never returned home and her fate remains unknown.

When the exhibition first opened at the Drik Gallery in Dhaka, many of those who had been photographed could not risk coming out of hiding, yet the room was full of people who knew Kalpana’s story intimately. Some simply stood for a while before the portraits, others wept.
Continue reading “Kalpana's Warriors in Delhi”

Kalpana's Warriors opens in Delhi

Invitation-KW-final-20160119-1024x768
Kalpana Chakma, a young leader of the Bangladeshi Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted from her home by military personnel and civilian law enforcers at gunpoint on 12 June 1996. She remains missing. Through this work, part of Driks “No More” campaign, photographer “Shahidul Alam” has tried to break a silence that successive governments, whether civilian or military backed, have carefully nurtured. The exhibition uses laser etching on straw mats, an innovative technique developed specifically for this exhibition. The process involved in creating these images is rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Interviewees had repeatedly talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture. That Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat. The straw mats were burned by a laser beam much as the fire that had engulfed the pahari villages.
Shilpakala Award recipient Shahidul Alam, set up Drik and Majority World agencies, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and Chobi Mela festival. Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photography Society and visiting professor at Sunderland University. Alam has chaired the World Press Photo jury. Alam also introduced email to Bangladesh. His book my journey as a witness has been described as “the most important book ever written by a photographer” by legendary picture editor of Life Magazine, John Morris. He is an internationally acclaimed public speaker and has presented at Hollywood, National Geographic, re:publica, COP21 and POP Tech.
Reviews:
What’s Hot
Buzz in Town
Artslant
Blouinartinfo
Events High
The Statesman

Would-be Canadian citizens set to fight oath to Queen

A small group of landed immigrants with republican views who have refused Canadian citizenship because the ceremony involves swearing an oath to the Queen will be in a Toronto courtroom on Friday, facing off with the federal government in an attempt to have this citizenship requirement declared unconstitutional.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer raises his hand as a group of 60 people take the oath of citizenship during a special Canada Day citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday July 1, 2012. (DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press)
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer raises his hand as a group of 60 people take the oath of citizenship during a special Canada Day citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday July 1, 2012.
(DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press)

Your Wife Has Just Left the Country

Saudi Arabia Implements SMSTracking System

By??Nov. 24, 2012

?Saudi women board a taxi in Riyadh 14 Ju
HASSAN AMMAR / AFP / GETTY IMAGES?Saudi women have few travel choices: they either must take a taxi or have a male companion drive. But a new campaign encourages women to flout the ban.

Saudi Arabia has long been the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive. Now, there appears to be a new development in controlling the movements of its female population: the Kingdom has reportedly introduced an electronic tracking system alerting male guardians when a woman has left the country.
Map of the territory and area covered by prese...
Map of the territory and area covered by present-day Saudi Arabia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reports emerged of the system last week when?Manal al-Sherif, a women?s rights campaigner who has urged women to defy the driving ban, was alerted by a husband who received a message from the immigration authorities advising him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh. He happened to be traveling with her.
(MORE😕IKEA Edits Women Out of Saudi Arabian Catalog)
Women are treated as legal minors in the Saudi guardianship system, requiring permission from their male guardian if they want to work or study. Women who want to travel outside the country need their male guardian to sign what is known as a ?yellow sheet? at the airport or border.
Badriya al-Bishr a columnist critical of the Kingdom?s conservative interpretation of Islamic law,?said to the AFP?that women were being held under a ?state of slavery?,?adding?that ?this is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned.?
The system notifying male guardians that their dependents?which includes their wife, children and foreign workers sponsored by them?had left the country appears to have been in place for a couple of years now.?Ahmed Al Omran, a Saudi blogger, explains that?it appears that this service, which in the past was an opt-out service, is now reaching those who had previously registered their details with the Ministry of Interior.
?The problem is not that there is now an electronic system that sends an SMS when women travel,??writes Omran. ?The problem is that the government is enforcing rules of male guardianships even on the rest of us who don?t believe in such rules.?
There are signs that the Kingdom is slowly changing its approach to the rights of women. Last year King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in the 2015 municipal elections. What impact that will have on the guardianship system however is yet to be determined.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Crossfire ? Photographs by Shahidul Alam

Opening Reception & Forum:?Sunday, April 15, 6:00 pm ? 9:30 pm, 2012
Queens Museum of Art, NYC Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY 11368? DIRECTIONS

Forum & Opening Reception for Partnership Gallery Exhibition in Collaboration with Drik Picture Library, Dhaka.
Bangladeshi photographer and human rights activist Shahidul Alam?s Crossfire exhibition will open in the Partnership Gallery at the Queens Museum of Art on 15th April, 2012 and run until May 6th, 2012. The exhibition aims to gather international support for a campaign to end extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh by state forces, usually called ?crossfire.? Continue reading “Crossfire ? Photographs by Shahidul Alam”