Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy among writers, artists urging Bangladesh #FreeShahidul

FreeShahidul

Academics, writers, artists and journalists around the world , including Noam Chomsky, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, celebrated writers Arundhati Roy and Bapsi Sidhwa, artist and daughter of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz Salima Hashmi, historian Ayesha Jalal, Urvashi Butalia, and others from Harvard to UC San Diego, have urged the Bangladesh government to free the detained photojournalist Shahidul Alam, picked up on 5 August — see statement and endorsements below. See also eminent photographer Raghu Rai’s powerful open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. and the Change.org petition urging Dhaka police to drop charges and release him.

Shahidul Alam’s detention underlines the growing crackdown on dissenting voices in Bangladesh, in a pattern that is visible elsewhere too. The court denied him bail and gave the  police a seven-day remand. This was subsequently reduced and the court ordered that Shahidul be sent to a hospital and given an immediate medical exam and treatment. However, at the time of writing (Aug 7), he is still at the Detective Branch and has not been moved to hospital. (UPDATE Aug 8: He was moved to hospital amid tight security and a few medical tests conducted. His family was allowed to visit him before he was taken back to the DB Special Branch centre).
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Stifling dissent in Southasia

I earlier posted about resistance to the stifling of dissent in India, and why as a Pakistani it matters to me. The trend is visible in other parts of Southasia too, including of course Pakistan about which I’ve written a fair amount. Here’s an update from Bangladesh, where defamation, sedition cases and the attempts to silence the independent media are underway, as well as Chattisgarh, India.

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Smiles and sedition. Photo: Andrew Biraj, Reuters

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‘A Bangladesh tragedy with universal resonance’

Zara Hayes introducing "Clothes to Die For", with Jennifer Leaning and Ruth Barron.

Zara Hayes introducing “Clothes to Die For”, with Jennifer Leaning and Ruth Barron.

I wrote this piece recently for the Harvard South Asia Institute after attending the screening of a documentary film on the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, “Clothes to Die For”. The screening was followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Zara Hayes whom I’d assumed was Bangladeshi but turned out to be British – “I get that all the time,” she told me.  Continue reading

One Billion Rising: Global campaign against violence against women

Eve Ensler, founder of the One Billion Rising movement. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian.

The well known feminist activist, playwright and actor Eve Ensler has given a call for One Billion Rising campaign that aims to mobilise and bring out one billion people on streets across the world on February 14th, 2013 against violence against women, and in celebration of women’s power (One Billion Rising on Facebook).

Noted women activists from all over South Asia, including Kamla Bhasin of Sangat, OBR’s South Asian coordinator, were at the launch in Nepal. (Photo: WFS)

This, writes Ensler, “is a call to the billion women who have been violated and the men who love them, to the women who have been beaten and raped and mutilated and burned and sold and who know the destruction of the female species heralds the end of human kind. A call to walk out of your homes, your jobs, your schools and find your friends, your group, your place and music and dance” (‘One Billion Rising: Together we can end violence against women’, op-ed in The Guardian). Continue reading

Bengali “Crossfire” reaches U.S.

This is a slightly longer version of my interview of Bangladeshi photographer-activist Shahidul Alam published in Latitude News, May 4, 2012, with reference to his exhibition at Queen’s Museum in New York. The exhibition is an attempt to internationalise the issue of extra-judicial killings. Thousands have been killed in such ‘crossfire’, allegedly at the hands of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) that the U.S. and UK governments have been training and providing arms to.

Crossfire @ Queens

Crossfire launch at Queens Museum. Photo: Beena Sarwar

In “Crossfire,” an exhibition of photographs at the Queens Museum of Art in New York that closes on Sunday the 6th, acclaimed Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam chronicles the extra-judicial killings allegedly committed by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB.Over a thousand victims have been ‘cross-fired,’ or executed by police without trial, in the last four years in the South Asian country, human rights activists claim. Many more people, perhaps thousands in total, have suffered similar fates, they say. Continue reading

Acid survivors fight back: a story of hope amidst despair

'Saving Face' co-directors, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy: American-Pakistani cooperation wins

My report for IPS, featuring an interview with Dr Mohammad Jawad, published before ‘Saving Face’ premiered on HBO on March 8, International Womens Day

Acid survivors fight back: a story of hope amidst despair

Beena Sarwar

BOSTON, March 8:  When the Oscar-nominated film ‘Saving Face’ won an Academy Award in Hollywood Best Documentary (Short Subject), it was the triumph of several ‘firsts’: the first time ever that a Pakistani filmmaker had won an Oscar; Pakistan’s first Oscar winner was a woman; and it was the first time that an American and a Pakistani had co-directed an Oscar-winning film. Continue reading

On Dec 16, 2011, remembering Anthony Mascarenhas

Thank you Mark Dummett, for the report in BBC today paying tribute to Anthony Mascarenhas, the brilliant and courageous Pakistani journalist who had to flee abroad in order to be able to tell the truth – Bangladesh war: The article that changed history.

Mascarenhas

“Eight journalists, including Mascarenhas, were given a 10-day tour of the province (East Pakistan). When they returned home, seven of them duly wrote what they were told to,” writes Dummett.

“But one of them refused.”

That was Mascarenhas, who died in 1986 in London.

His wife Yvonne Mascarenhas told Dummett that she remembers him coming back distraught: “I’d never seen my husband looking in such a state. Continue reading

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