downtown eastside poem of resistance
by Bud Osborn
“…the myth of the frontier is an invention that rationalizes the violence of gentrification and displacement”
neil smith 1996
“these pioneers in the gradual gentrification of the downtown eastside say their hopes for a middle-class lifestyle are undermined by the tenderloin scene down the street”
doug ward 1997
“prominent amid the aspects of this story which have caught the imagination are the massacres of innocent peoples, the atrocities committed against them and, among other horrific excesses, the ways in which towns, provinces, and whole kingdoms have been entirely cleared of their native inhabitants”
bartolome de la casas 1542
there is a planetary resistance
against consequences of globalization
against poor people being driven from land they have occupied
and in community
for many years
Since the following news item was published in New Age, other prominent citizens have added themselves to the list: Nasrin Khandoker, Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Farida Akhter, Dr Amena Mohsin, Ashraf Kaiser, Shahnaz Huda, Lubna Marium, Nitra Samina, Seuty Sabur
January 6, 2015
Forty-four eminent citizens on Monday in a statement protested against the police raid on New Age office in the capital on December 28, 2014.
‘The operation was not a stray incident, rather it was done in a planned manner to frighten news media as the part of continuing repression on citizen rights,’ they said in the statement.
The statement read, ‘Without giving any reason, such a police action was serious threat to the objective journalism and the freedom of press.’
It said, ‘We also assume that the operation not only targeted a courageous and outspoken editor and his daily but also posed alarming message to the freedom of expression and citizen rights.’
They also demanded punishment of the police officials for the ‘censurable incident.’
‘We also demand the responsible authorities must apologise for the incident,’ they said.
The statement was signed, among others, by Dhaka University teachers CR Abrar, Asif Nazrul and Gitiara Nasreen, photographer Shahidul Alam, Jahangirnagar University teachers Anu Mohammad, Naseem Akhter Hussain, Enamul Haque Khan, ATM Atiqur Rahman and Arifa Sultana, United States’ Grand Valley State University teacher Azfar Hussain, Chittagong University teacher Sadaf Noor-e Islam, and right defenders Rahnuma Ahmed and Hana Shams Ahmed.
On December 28, 2014, a group of police led by Tejgaon industrial police station officer-in-charge Salahuddin stormed New Age premises in the peak hours of the newspaper at about 8:25pm without giving any reason.
Salahuddin said that he had ‘information of serious nature’ for which they needed to search the newspaper office. He also threatened the newsmen saying that they would need to face dire consequences.
Quiet moments, tender thoughts, wistful emptiness make up our love songs. Raindrops on misty windowpanes, the cool breeze of dusk, dry leaves, fill our odes to belonging. We pine. Almost inaudibly we whisper, I miss you. Intimacy is most intensely felt through absence. The warmth of togetherness, shared secrets, discovered moments remind us of how it had been. I miss you, we whisper again. Intimacy is personal. Bitter sweet. Painful. Exuberant. Wondrous. Continue reading →
We spot a lens peering at us from the corner of our eye. Immediately we straighten up, fix our hair, smooth the rough in our clothes, consciously make – or avoid – eye contact. Only the well trained is able to visibly avoid responding to the camera’s presence. The professional photographer prides in her ability to take ‘natural’ photographs, where her intervention is invisible. Yet, peering through family albums, wedding folders or a Facebook status we find ourselves actively inviting the portrayal of how we want to be seen. Whether we consider a photograph of ourselves to be ‘good’ largely depends on how well the photographer has represented us, as we would want it. As such the photographer’s success depends not so much on her aesthetic sense or insight, but on her ability to please the sitter. While this applies to the casual portraitist, it is much more true of the professional photographer. Her bread and butter depend on a satisfied client and as such, are driven by an external agenda. Whether it be a corporation, or an NGO or a newly wed couple, a good photographer is one who delivers what is required. Continue reading →
And yet she smiles. Gang raped numerous times as a child. Forced into pick pocketing. Caned till she was unconscious. Sold to a madame. Hajera Begum’s life has little that would give cause to smile. Yet she smiles. She cries too. Not because of the gang rapes, or the beating, or the many years she lives in the streets as a rag picker, but when she remembers that a man who worked in an NGO, refused to work in her team because she was a sex worker.
It was that moment that Hajera decided she would make sure it was different for others like her. She had earlier set up a self-help group for sex workers, but eventually, with the help of some university students and other friends and a generous journalist, set up an orphanage for abandoned kids. They are mostly children of sex workers. Some are children of drug addicts. A few are children of parents who simply couldn’t afford to keep them. Hajera and her thirty children live in five small rooms near Adabor Market 16, on the edge of Dhaka. Run entirely by volunteers, she has only one paid staff, the cook. “What will I do with a salary?” she says. We share what food we have. I have a roof over my head and I have my children.
Remarkably, Hajera is not bitter. While she remembers every detail of her nightmarish life, she also remembers the friends who believed in her, and helped her set up the orphanage. Instead of remembering that she is incapable of bearing children because of brutal unwanted sex, she basks in the warmth of the 30 children who now call her mother.
When I first met Hajera, back in 1996, she was a sex worker based in the grounds of the house of parliament. We became friends, and she and her friends would often visit us in our flat, an unacceptable act in most homes.
“You hugged me today when you saw me in the street, just like the old times. That’s something men will never do. They will have sex with me, grope me in the dark, rape me if they get the chance, but they will never hug me, as a sister, as a friend. That is what I want for my children. That they will grow up with dignity, in a world where they will be loved.”
As the kids get older, there is more need for money, particularly for schooling. Some of the students who support her have graduated and now have jobs. One works in a telecom company. With their help this February, they ran for the first time, a FaceBook campaign to raise money for the centre. The oldest girl Farzana is 13. The daughter of a mutual friend Hasna – who still works in the streets – she has just been admitted into the respectable boarding school, Bharoteshshori Homes. Two of the boys are also being sent to good schools. She has high hopes for the other kids too, though she worries about Shopon who is deaf and mentally ill. But she takes great pride in showing me the bunk beds she’s had made, so the kids no longer have to sleep on the floor.
As I look back at Hajera peering through the little window, bidding me goodbye, I realise how lucky the kids are, to have her as their mother.
AZIZUR RAHIM PEU, born 10th June 1964, died 14 October 2014
“If you let me go, I’ll kill myself.” I’d never given a job to anyone before. So this response to my suggestion that there was a better future for him elsewhere, was something I wasn’t prepared for. I had returned to Bangladesh after having been away for twelve years. Not having the capital myself, I had set up a photographic studio in partnership with a businessman cum photographer Khan Mohammad Ameer and his businessmen brothers. The studio “Fotoworld” was posh, and we photographed the glitterati. We also took pictures of factories, the odd milk powder tin, food, cigarette cartons and pretty much anything people would pay us (and sometimes not pay us) to shoot. Azizur Rahim Peu was my first recruit. I’d come to know him through the Bangladesh Photographic Society, where I was the general secretary and had taken an immediate liking to the young man. Continue reading →
While people across the world for the last three years have been watching the unbelievable resurgence in state- and non-state-actor-sponsored violence and terror across the Arab World – Libya, Egypt, Syria, Gaza, and of late, Iraq – the Obama Administration’s recent decision to ramp up its nuclear capability has almost remained unnoticed to most analysts, let alone the common people. Even if, very similar to what happened during the Cold War, America’s ramped up nuclear capability does not lead to a nuclear conflagration, this is going to signal further nuclear proliferation, arms race and a new cold war. Continue reading →
The dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.
The New Internationalist Magazine in Oxford, has been a long time friend and supporter. This two page spread was put together by them to commemorate Drik’s 25th anniversary. Thanks NI.Continue reading →
Topic: My Journey As A Witness
Date: August 26, 2014
Time: 6.30 PM
Venue: EMK Centre, Midas Centre, 9th floor, Plot: 5, Road 16 (old 27), Dhanmondi, Dhaka
Moderator: Tughlaq Azad
Ticket: 50 Taka only
Older than the mountains, it is a river that forces its way through the towering Himalayas. The Tibetans know it as the Yarlung Tsang Po (the purifier). In India, it is known as Brahmaputra. In Bangladesh, it is also known as the Jamuna, The Padma and finally the Meghna before it opens into the sea.
Photographer Shahidul Alam will share his journey towards Brahmaputra’s origin. Continue reading →
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