The ‘abduction’ of Farhad Mazhar. One lie too often

by Shahidul Alam | Published: 00:05, Jul 14,2017 | Updated: 00:31, Jul 14,2017

Farhad Mazhar — Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

THE cafeteria at Prabartana had an unusual rule. Men could only go if accompanied by a woman. While I disagree with discrimination of any form, given there is such a blatant bias against women, I thought this was an interesting way of at least reminding us, that such a bias exists. While there are areas where Farhad Mazhar and I don’t see eye to eye, but by and large, I have regard for many of his initiatives. Along with the environmentalist Bill McKibben, I had done a story for the Mother Jones Magazine, on Ubinig’s Nayakrishi (new agriculture) project, where farmers had set up their own seed banks and were growing organic crops, way before it had become fashionable to do so. I liked the fact that he did not strut around in a suit at every big occasion, as many Bangladeshi men feel they have to. While I didn’t agree with much of his political analysis, I appreciated the fact that he was not amongst the many sycophants who praised the government regardless of how badly it behaved. I admired the fact that he was so well read. His partner Farida Akhter is a friend, she’s part of a small citizen’s group that speaks out for freedom of expression, where I too am a member. Continue reading “The ‘abduction’ of Farhad Mazhar. One lie too often”

ROMEL CHAKMA. PART-I: Is custodial killing heroic?

by rahnuma ahmed

Romel Chakma, 20 year-old HSC examinee and student leader of Pahari Chatra Parishad,

was picked up by army personnel on April 5, 2017. Allegedly tortured, he died in hospital two weeks later.

Romel Chakma © Photographer not known.

How does one restore dignity to the memory of a youth who was picked up and tortured, who died of torture, whose body was not handed over to family members for cremation, but burnt after pouring petrol and kerosene? Continue reading “ROMEL CHAKMA. PART-I: Is custodial killing heroic?”

The Spiritual Shadows of Shahidul Alam


Thinker © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Half moon and prayer © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Majed in mosque © Shahidul Alam

Prayer and spots © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque © Shahidul Alam


Bait Ur Rouf, the Bangladeshi mosque of Dhaka where this photography was done, is a work of art. The sculptural quality, the use of light, the tranquility of the space, the intelligent use of geometry and the natural ventilation, are some of the features that probably contributed to the Bait Ur Rouf mosque winning the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2016. For me, the fact that a woman had donated the land and that her granddaughter designed and built it, are also exciting aspects. It is a mosque with no minarets. No air conditioning. No special altar for the imam. The conceptual similarity with Prophet’s mosque where salient features were, function–form relationships (the square and the cylinder); respect for the environment (use of natural light, non use of air conditioning); cleanliness (the mosque is spotless, with virtually no furniture); comprehensive excellence (the Aga Khan Award for design); promoting just social interactions (no hierarchical position for the imam), indigenous versus foreign influences (use of local bricks without plaster), increases its authenticity.

The current level of religious intolerance in the globe is part of a more general environment of intolerance and more specifically, suppression of dissent. The “War on Terror” and the imperialist warmongering that preceded it have stoked huge unrest in the non-western world, though much smaller violent incidents in the west, generally take up most of global media’s coverage. The average person and people living in Islamic regions in particular feel far less secure than they have done in recent times. Total disregard for human rights, greed, blatant hypocrisy, and an unabashed promotion of the military industrial complex has led to the crisis we are in.

The average Bangladeshis are God-fearing, religious and Muslim. They are neither fundamentalist nor inclined towards violence. The lumping of Islam with violence, and the inability of left leaning and secularist groups to engage with Islam has not only created distance, but also made it difficult to have conversations on common ground. On the other hand, Islam has always been a very pragmatic religion, and deals with almost every facet of one’s life from sex to business. The first urban element introduced by the Prophet to the city of Madinah was the mosque, which functioned as a community development center It was used as a centre for religious activities, as a learning centre, as the seat of the Prophet’s government, as a welfare and charity centre, as a detention and rehabilitation centre, as a place for medical treatment and nursing, as a place for leisure activities. The Prophet is even known to have made arrangements for women to sleep in the mosque, and for non-Muslims to pray there. It is this openness and the ability to reach out to the other, that appears to be missing today, in everyday life and in the mosque itself.

A common perception that photography is forbidden in Islam, is ludicrous as photography has only been in existence for less than two centuries. Islam does prohibit idolatry, but neither does that require photography, nor is the medium used specifically for that purpose.

In my numerous visits to the mosque, I of course saw people praying. I also saw people (invariably men), sleeping, eating, and conversing. I saw children running around. I even found a goat one day, and then a sparrow came in, trying to find a nesting place. As I walked through one afternoon, watching the shadows dance across the bricks, I came across a red cricket ball. It seemed to fit in with the bare brick floor. It was similar in colour and the inner curve of the cylinder complemented its shape. It was not what I was expecting. The following day, during the Jumma prayers (Friday, the holy day in Islam, day of obligatory public worship), another cricket ball, this one, newer and more brightly-coloured bounced in. I anticipated angry voices. I didn’t think the special prayer of the week being disturbed by playful children, would be taken lightly. I was surprised as one of the devotees in the front row, caught the ball, smiled, looked around and sent it back through the gap in the wall in the mehrab kept to mark the kebla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. This mosque I sensed was different. It was a lived, open space, forgiving, open and receptive, just as the Prophet had intended mosques to be.

The idea of this exhibition, who was held at the mosque on one single day (May 8, 2017), is to both remind the religious that Islam endorses a much more inclusive culture than is practiced either within or outside mosques, and remind secularists that religion was designed as a force for social cohesion, rather than division. At a personal level, I also want to be able to access the mosque for my art. Can you imagine a thousand mosques in Dhaka city suddenly becoming available to all?

If this show succeeds in bringing in people who would normally have never entered a mosque. If it challenges the devout by making them question their method of worship. If it helps the mosque become the inclusive community space all mosques were intended to be, it will be a major step forward for the young and the old, for men and for women, for believers and non believers alike.

Shahidul Alam

Shahidul Alam is photographer, writer, curator and activist, recipient of the Shilpakala Award, the highest national award given to Bangladeshi artists.

Drik’s 20th Anniversary

Zonezero would like to join the celebration of Bangladeshi photography on this landmark year that amounts to 20 years of Drik Picture Agency and 11 years of the Pathshala, South Asian Institute of Photography. We would like to specially congratulate the outstanding job that Shahidul Alam has done not only in organizing, teaching, and providing visibility to photographers in Bangladesh, but in doing it so successfully.

We know that accomplishing such a paramount task has been the result of collaboration. We would also like to congratulate Shahidul’s colleagues and staff at Drik and Pathsala for their vision and commitment.

We also thank Andy Levin and 100Eyes for sharing this magnificent selection of work done by Bangladeshi photographers portraying their own land and people.

Our best wishes on this anniversary of achievement and success
From all of us at


It was twenty years ago. A small group of people set up a picture agency in the unlikely location of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Named Drik, the Sanskrit word for vision, the agency set out to represent a group of media professionals that other agencies did not cater for, practitioners living and working in the majority world. In the years that have followed, many others from Asia, Africa and Latin America have joined the original group. All of them share a common vision; one that sees the majority world, not as fodder for disaster reporting, but as a vibrant source of human energy and a challenge to an exploitative global economic system.

Having pioneered the introduction of email into Bangladesh, Drik continues to take the lead in new media, through not only the launch of the nation’s first webzine Meghbarta, the web portal Orientation, and the country’s human rights portal Banglarights, but also through its broad band direct satellite link.

Drik’s social commitment is central to its work ethos. While its professional team making up the library, darkroom, studio, gallery and publication, multimedia and Internet departments provides state of the art media products for an international clientele, it also provides support for its network of creative individuals around the world who challenge western media hegemony. Its training programmes range from providing education for working class children to training the region’s brightest young photojournalists through Pathshala, its education wing, where top professionals from Magnum, National Geographic, Time, Contact Press Images and other leading media organisations make up the visiting faculty.

The launch of the first festival of photography in Asia, Chobi Mela, and Drik Partnership, a global conglomerate consisting of some of the most innovative organisations in Asia, Africa and Europe, will ensure that the majority world continues to carve out a space for itself in world media.

Shahidul Alam picture © Pedro Meyer 2009

Years of Pathshala

Breaking Ships, Broken Men © Saiful Huq Omi

Also the brainchild of Shahidul Alam, Pathsala’s school of photography. The name Pathshala comes from the ancient education system that prevailed in South Asia. It brings to mind classes held underneath a large tree; conjuring up learning spaces without walls, in the cool shade of its leaves. The South Asian Institute of Photography not only allows students to explore the world of image making but provides them opportunities to question beyond the confines of the discipline.

The conceptual absence of classroom walls enables 1st year students and 3rd year students to attend the same classes and work together on collaborative projects together with visiting faculty. This enhances and complements each student’s learning experience.

The institute started in 1998 as part of a three-year World Press Photo (WPP) educational initiative.It was launched to coincide with the Dhaka’s annual WPP exhibition. This exhibition was also replicated in other countries like Peru, Bosnia and Zimbabwe. This initiative of WPP and Drik Picture Library Ltd, was supported by The British Council, The Thomson Foundation and Panos South Asia. Since then, Pathshala has slowly grown to become a fully-fledged educational wing of Drik, a socially-conscious photo resource centre also based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The first group of six students is now among prominent photographers whose photographs have been published in some of the leading publications worldwide. From its modest beginnings Pathshala expanded attracting students from within Bangladesh as well as outside.

Breaking Ships, Broken Men © Saiful Huq Omi

Also an initiative of Drik, Majority World, is a platform for photographers and agencies from the majority world to gain fairer access to international image markets. Through the Majority World Image Library, image buyers can also easily find the wealth of fresh imagery emerging from talented majority world photographers.

100 Eyes magazine
Bangladesh x Bangladesh

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Video interview on Iranian TV not all of them me video on climate refugees’s_power reference to Pop Tech conference





Still Eurodac Express, migration review of “My journey as a witness” Queens Museum exhibit Interview at sodabottleopenerwalla presentation at Lagos (diary?) review of My Journey as a Witness article by me by Seshu review by Tewfic el-sawy library collection interview by Ronny Sen Press Release at Wilmotte Gallery profile author profile HRW review by Fariha on migration Best Years of My Life in Drik Gallery @ Panthapath BICC in Dhaka being prepared for BYOML speaker PAPA overview Footprint Modulation NYT piece on migration Footprint modulation on Climate refugees Metaceptive on Climate change description of climate change exhibition “Crossings: The Nexus of Migration and Culture” at QMC Letter from Bangladesh, on migration Interview on NPR refugees going to Malaysia by moonlight Oitijjo in London announcement of NEPN in Newcastle Salzburg panel democratization of photography,3722







Extra GFMD reference to exhibition Infrared photography curator news speaker profile profile profile profile of Rashid Talukder book sale low cost obituary on John Berger Pop Tech interview (audio) POP CAP judging panel news of KW show in Delhi archive of digital culture authors Migration PAPA






3 Nations Producing Most Refugees Were Targets Of US Intervention

Saturday, 24 June 2017

3 Nations Producing Most Refugees Were Targets Of US Intervention

A UN report has shown that more than 65 million people were forced to leave their home countries last year, becoming refugees due to deadly conflict. The top nations from which refugees fled have one thing in common, they were all targets of US intervention.

By Whitney Webb7 “Information Clearing House” –

CHILE – A United Nations report has shed light on the world’s burgeoning crisis of displaced peoples, finding that a record 65.6 million were forced to vacate their homes in 2016 alone. More than half of them were minors.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which drafted the report, put the figure into perspective, stating that increasing conflict and persecution worldwide have led to “one person being displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.”
UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi called the figure “unacceptable” and called for “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving the crisis.”

However, what the UN report failed to mention was the role of U.S. foreign intervention, indirect or direct, in fomenting the conflicts responsible for producing most of the world’s refugees.

According to the report, three of the nations producing the highest number of refugees are Syria (12 million refugees created in 2016), Afghanistan (4.7 million) and Iraq (4.2 million).

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are known to be the direct result of U.S. military invasions in the early 2000s, as well as the U.S.’ ongoing occupation of those nations. Decades after invading both countries, the U.S.’ destabilizing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has continued to increase in recent years, with the Trump administration most recently announcing plans to send thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan in the coming months. It is worth noting that each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $2.1 million.

While the U.S. has yet to directly invade Syria, the U.S. role in the conflict is clear and Syria’s destabilization and the overthrow of its current regime have long been planned by the U.S. government. The U.S. and its allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, have consistently funded “rebel” groups that have not only perpetuated the Syrian conflict for six long years, but have also committed atrocity after atrocity targeting civilians in Syrian cities, towns, and communities – a major factor in convincing Syrians to leave their homes.

The report ranks Colombia as the world’s second-largest producer of refugees, with 7.7 million Colombians displaced in 2016. Like Syria, the U.S. has not directly invaded Colombia, but is known to have extensively funded paramilitary groups, also known as “death squads,” in the country since the 1980s, when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared a “war on drugs” in Colombia.

U.S. efforts have long helped fuel the civil war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and pro-government, U.S.-funded paramilitary groups. This conflict has lasted for more than half a century.

In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton’s administration funded the disastrous “Plan Colombia” with $4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking and insurgents. Almost all of this money was used to fund the Colombian military and its weapon purchases. “Plan Colombia” ultimately intensified armed violence, military deployments, human rights abuses by the Colombian military, and – of course – the internal displacement of Colombians. The legacy of U.S. policy in Colombia and its continuing support of the nation’s right-wing, neo-liberal regime have ensured that the chaos continues into the present.

In addition to the above, U.S foreign policy is also to blame for the conflict in South Sudan, where the UN report found was home to the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. In 2011, the U.S. pushed South Sudan to secede from Sudan, as South Sudan holds the vast majority of Sudan’s oil reserves — the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The U.S.’ push for the creation of an independent South Sudan dislodged Chinese claims to Sudanese oil, as the Chinese had previously signed oil contracts with the (now Northern) Sudanese government.

But when nation-building efforts went awry and civil war broke out just two years later, some analysts suggested that the conflict only started when South Sudan’s president began to cozy up to China. According to the UN report, approximately 3.3 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes since the war began.

Grandi has called on the world’s nations to help prevent and resolve the global refugee crisis. But he would also do well to point out the common cause uniting many of the world’s worst conflicts – the U.S. military-industrial complex’s insatiable lust for conquest, power and profit.

Read the full UNHCR report:

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

This article was first published by Mint Press

DEATH OF ROMEL CHAKMA: NHRC seeks Army’s explanation


NHRC seeks Army’s explanation

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 00:23, Jun 24,2017 | Updated: 00:38, Jun 24,2017

The National Human Rights Commission has written to the defence ministry asking for a Bangladesh Army
explanation for the death of Romel Chakma as a commission investigation has observed that army personnel concerned cannot avoid the responsibility for the death.
Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque told New Age on Friday that a full commission meeting analysed the investigation report and sent a copy of the report to the defence ministry asking for the explanation from the army in the past week.
‘We did not get any version from army, so we wrote a letter to the defence ministry based on the recommendation made by the commission probe committee on the issue,’ he said.
He said the commission found circumstantial evidences against perpetrators and wanted to know the army’s explanation.
Commission officials said that the commission received the copy of a letter of the defence ministry to the army headquarters seeking their explanation.
The three-member probe body headed by commission member Banchita Chakma, also former Rangamati College principal, submitted the report to the commission on June 11.
Banchita Chakma said that they submitted the report without any version from the army.
She said that the witness accounts suggested that the visually challenged ethnic minority youth was in the custody of the army when he died at Chittagong Medical College Hospital on April 20.
Physicians at the hospital in the medical report observed that Romel Chakma died from kidney infection.
Probe committee members said there were two reasons for kidney infections – severe internal injuries caused by either torture or major accident.
‘We believed Romel was tortured,’ said a commission member.
The probe body recorded statements of 15 people including Romel’s family, local police and physicians to examine what happened to the youth but no version from army was available.
The probe concluded that the army in no way could avoid the responsibility for the death of Romel Chakma.
The committee included commission’s deputy director in Rangamati Gazi Md Salahuddin and executive magistrate Tapos Shil from Rangamati district administration.
Committee members said that had approached army zone commander at Nannerchar on May 24 during the inquiry but could got no response.
The field office of army told the probe committee that they would speak if their high ups allowed them to talk.
The probe committee recorded the statement from five police officials who narrated that Romel Chakma was brought to them in a critical condition and that was why the police did not receive him.
The police officials told the committee that Romel did not carry major mark of injuries but he was vomiting and the army personnel carrying him informed police that Romel met an accident.
It takes hardly 10 minutes from the police station to the nearby health complex.
The inquiry found that it took one hour and a half to take Romel Chakma from police station to the health complex. Romel was moved to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where he was admitted under security protection by army personnel.
‘We have collected the documents from police station and the hospital,’ said a probe body member.
Formed on April 24, the three-member probe body met with Romel’s family and local people at his village Purba Hatimara under Burighat union of Nannerchar on May 1.
On April 6, Romel’s father Binoy Kanti Chakma wrote to the commission chairman demanding justice for the ‘inhuman torture’ on his son by army personnel.
In a statement issued on April 24, commission Reazul termed it a serious violation of human rights to kill an innocent person in torture.
HSC examinee Romel, 20, was the general secretary of United Peoples’ Democratic Front-backed Pahari Chhatra Parishad’s Nannerchar upazila unit.
He was allegedly picked up by local army personnel on April 5 and taken to police station in the evening.
The next morning, police and army personnel admitted him to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital, where he died on April 20.
Romel’s father alleged that they were barred from meeting him at the camp as well as at the hospital.
According to media reports, the Inter Services Public Relations alleged that Romel had masterminded the attack in which two buses were robbed and a truck was set on fire in the area on January 23.
Different rights groups, student bodies and UPDF demanded a judicial inquiry into the death terming the detention and torture unjust.