We Protest

?Into Exile ? Tibet 1949 ? 2009,? an exhibition organised by the Bangladeshi chapter of Students for a Free Tibet, in partnership with Drik, was symbolically opened by Professor Muzaffer Ahmed, former chairman of Transparency International?Bangladesh, on 1 November 2009. Despite pressure on Drik to cancel the exhibition, first by officials of the Chinese embassy in Dhaka, and later by Bangladesh government officials, special branch, police, and members of parliament, the opening took place outside, on the street, as Drik’s premises had been locked up by the police. The police had insisted that we needed official permission to hold the exhibition but were unable to produce any written document to that effect.

Police enters Drik's premises even after exhibition is cancelledPolice insisted on entering the private premises of Drik even after they were unable to produce any documentation to show they were authorised to do so. A day after blocking the entrance to the gallery to prevent an exhibition on Tibet from taking place, police said they had orders from the Home Ministry to guard the place for seven days. Dhaka, Bangladesh. November 2, 2009. ? Shehab Uddin/DrikNews/Majority World

We went ahead with the opening as it is part of Drik’s struggle for the freedom of cultural expression. We are particularly affronted at being asked by officials of a foreign state, to cancel the exhibition. We strongly believe that governments should have the courage to present their views at cultural platforms and to try and convince people by arguing their case, in other words, acting democratically, rather than using intimidation and heavy-handed tactics.

Shahidul with police 7067 Tibet Exhibition SeriesShahidul Alam insisting that police leave the premises of Drik and not intimidate visitors to the gallery. Police positioned themselves outside the gate leaving some of their riot gear prominently displayed inside. Upon further resistance the riot gear was removed. 2nd November 2009. Dhaka. Bangladesh. ? Saikat Mojumder/DrikNews/Majority World

The forced closure of Drik affects many people, which includes members of the public, clients and those working at Drik. Public interest is our concern. We also want to continue working as an internationally acclaimed media organisation with both national and international commitments. Hence, having registered our indignance, at the actions of the Bangladesh government, and those of Chinese embassy officials we will be closing the exhibition 2 November 2009.
We express our thanks to members of the public and the media, for being present at the street opening, for demonstrating their deep disgust at governmental interference, and at their show of solidarity.

Stop Press: Police have been evicted from Drik and have positioned themselves outside the gate.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

17 thoughts on “We Protest”

  1. If you know nothing about tibet, then you are used by those SFT;
    If you know sth about tibet, you should put your hands on your heart, and ask yourself whether those pics are reflecting the truth and whether you should hold this exhibition.

  2. Such protests were done effectively during the Ershad regime when all newspapers stopped publishing in protest against government censorship. We also did it in Chobi Mela when the government wanted to censor our show at the National Museum. It is up to the public to demand why such a course of action was taken.
    As for the situation of Tibet, the point is one of free expression. There is no reason for everyone to agree with the point of view of the organisers, but to prevent them from saying so, cannot be a tenable position. I support China when it protests against external influence in its own country, but oppose it when it flaunts the same principle by bullying its neighbour because of what individuals who have nothing to do with the government of Bangladesh, choose to express.

  3. I don’t know how people did it during Ershad’s regime, but “all newspapers stopped publishing” has a bigger effect then “a photo exhibition stopped exhibiting(?)”.
    Anyway, closing down the exhibition was the right thing to do, under such circumstances, as far as these circumstances go. But closing down the exhibition *as a protest* probably won’t serve as much purpose as you (or I) might think will. Sure, there’ll be writings on blogs and maybe an editorial in the newspapers, but if you want publicity, that’s not the path I’d lead.

  4. Keeping the exhibition up would mean no visitors at all as the gate to Drik would be locked as it was on the first day. This would have been futile. It would also prevent us from uploading pictures. Editing footage, distributing images, and sending out press releases and updates, all of which we are continuing to do. Our strategy has made our empty gallery a seat of protest. This is where media is gathering and we have been giving regular interviews from. The sight of a gallery with empty walls where a show has been advertised, raises far more questions than a locked gate far removed from the gallery could possibly have done. There are also people at the gallery to explain what our protest is about. This is a much more effective strategy in our opinion than closing down all of Drik, including the exhibition on the first floor and the poster display on our walls, which people are still coming in to see.

  5. Free of expression is important, I agree with that. But, as a well-known artist, you should find out whether you are expressing the right imformation.
    Now, think about it, if there is someone come to you, want to have a exhibition about the independent of Chittagong, what will you do?
    As a Bangladeshi, you know the history of Chittagong, and you know how your government deal with the concerned issues. But you know nothing about tibet, you know nothing about the life and situation about tibet, and you know nothing about the real face of those groups which try their best to anti China. They just use you in the name of “free-expression”.

  6. To a chinese
    I will let them have the exhibition. I don’t care the independence of the chittagong. They definitely have the right to do that. I am happy to see the exhibition, I will celebrate the day they become independant. They are free as we are.

  7. Bangladesh is a free country and its not some totalitarian democracy.Its the people who are above the state and not other way around,something the chinese Govt will never relate to.At times we talk about the arrogance of the west how it wants to dictate rest of the world, but this is being done to a small (democratic) nation by the same power who flag march against Imperialism.
    More power to Drik!

  8. I’m not supporting the Chittagong hill tracts Shanti Bahini’s independence or autonomy expectation but will love to support the show or any activity .Whether you support or not let anything happen & let the consciousness decide not the police who are been used all the time for the government’s will .
    We cannot forget what China did for us during 71 & how they treat us in China

  9. I applaud the principled stand of DRIK against censorship of the state and opposition to the not-so-subtle pressure applied by Chinese functionaries.
    This protest has prompted me to learn more about Tibet and its problems.
    Isa Daudpota

  10. I salute Drik’s courage to carry the flame of free expression with so much tenacity. I am opposed to all forms of state oppression of cultural freedoms.
    Foqia Khan

  11. Thank you Drik. We hope someday Drik will visit Dharamshala to have a audience with His Holiness The DalaiLama and take photographs of Tibetan government in Exile. It will give the Bangladeshi people a rare chance of knowing Tibet in exile. Cheers.

  12. All friendly bangalis, you have been indepent democratic country for almost 40 years? 40 years ago, china was as poor as you were? but now, you see what? Even tibet is better than dhaka! Freedom, democracy, your people don’t have any good things from them. you are still one of the poorest the country in the world! Can your good people explain it with freedom or democracy? Wake up, my friend!

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