Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was detained by plainclothes police at his home on Aug. 5 after giving an interview to Al Jazeera about student demonstrations. (AFP/Getty Images

The arrest in Bangladesh of the celebrated photojournalist Shahidul Alam is personal for me. He’s been a friend for over 20 years through our work on media and South Asia. As in Bangladesh, the nascent democracy in my own country, Pakistan, is marred by censorship, illegal detentions and extrajudicial killings.

Our common problems notwithstanding, the dominant narratives of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are hostile to each other and suspicious of those who don’t follow the official script.

Shahidul, who is still in jail, has done more to promote a positive image of Bangladesh and counter stereotypes than those who ordered him to be arrested and are now charging him with ruining the country’s image through his social media posts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images Photojournalist Shahidul Alam arriving for a court appearance following his arrest after a student protest, Dhaka, August 6, 2018

The renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam is supposed to be in New York on October 28 to receive a humanitarian award from the Lucie Foundation, which honors photographers every year. Alam is a worthy recipient. His career goes back to the mid-1980s when he returned from Britain to his native Bangladesh with a doctorate in chemistry and, noticing his home in political turmoil, decided to record the democratic struggle to end General Hussain Muhammad Ershad’s autocratic rule with a camera.

Through his lens, he went on to capture the human drama around him—children growing up in poverty but displaying joy and resilience across the country; human rights defenders fighting for minorities, including the Chakmas and the stateless Rohingyas being driven out of Myanmar; and the spirit of Bangladeshi lives confronting great adversities—working in brick kilns, in garment factories, in makeshift ship-breaking facilities along the coast.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cerca de una limpieza étnica en la India

Setenta y un años después de la partición de la India, y 47 años después de que lo que antes era Pakistán Oriental se convirtiera en Bangladesh, uno de los legados de la caótica división del subcontinente vuelve a cernirse sobre el país. La crisis que se desarrolla en relación con la publicación, en el estado indio de Assam, de un “registro nacional de ciudadanos” (NRC, por la sigla en inglés) pone en duda la ciudadanía (y el futuro) de unos cuatro millones de personas y amenaza con debilitar la paz en la región.

Cuando en 1947 los británicos se fueron de la India, hicieron una partición basada en la religión, por la que con las provincias de mayoría musulmana en el oeste y el este de la India se creó un estado musulmán, Pakistán.…  Seguir leyendo »

Students block a road on Aug. 5 to protest recent traffic accidents that killed a boy and a girl in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)

Last month, a speeding bus lost control and killed two teenagers in Dhaka, and thousands of schoolchildren protested on the city’s streets, demanding safer roads.

University students soon joined the protests, and the police then cracked down on demonstrators. The students have since returned to school. But academics, journalists and analysts are calling this an unprecedented movement. Here is what you need to know:

On July 29, two buses raced across an overpass to pick up passengers. One bus ran over students waiting for transportation after school. Such accidents occur often in Bangladesh, where private bus companies operate unfit vehicles driven by underage and unlicensed drivers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arafat Kabir is a writer and a graduate student of political science at the University of Utah.

Student protests have a long tradition in Bangladesh. Yet the mass demonstrations that have swept across the country for the past week mark an intriguing departure from the past. This time around, the protesters aren’t airing political demands; they’re fighting for a better road and transport system. But the impact of their efforts might be far-reaching nonetheless, since their selfless activism is giving new hope to the country’s people.

The proximate cause of the protests was the death of two high school students who were killed after getting trapped between two city buses whose drivers were concentrating on competing for passengers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 25. (Clare Baldwin/Reuters)

The world’s largest refugee camp, a densely packed agglomeration of bamboo and tarp huts with 626,000 people, sits near this town in Bangladesh. It expanded rapidly and haphazardly following an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar last August.

“Our entire village came together and settled on this spot,” said a 19-year-old refugee who arrived in September. “At first this was a jungle, but we cleared it. Now there are no trees.”

Monsoon season is here, and high winds and flooding are happening now. For months, the refugees have been busily shoring up their huts, but the camp remains vulnerable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees rebuild their makeshift house, in preparation for the approaching monsoon season at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh. April 28, 2018. (A.M. Ahad/AP)

On my first visit to this immense refugee settlement on Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, I crossed a bamboo bridge that refugees had built. It spanned a stream and connected an old settlement, where Rohingya refugees from previous waves of forced displacement have lived for decades, to the new one, now a sprawling city where more than 600,000 have taken shelter.

The bridge is a vital artery for the refugees here. It allows them to carry jerrycans, blankets and solar lamps from a distribution point in the old settlement to their families in the much larger new settlement. The stream becomes a river when it rains; when the refugees first arrived, the only way across was to swim until they were able to suspend several stalks of bamboo just above water level.…  Seguir leyendo »

In August 2017, the flight of 700,000 Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar produced the world’s newest refugee crisis – and one of its worst. Now stuck in miserable camps in Bangladesh, the Rohingya have little prospect of returning to their homes any time soon.

Their suffering is primarily a grave humanitarian concern and the Bangladeshi government and its foreign partners should focus their response on protecting the well-being of those displaced and assisting host communities. But the Rohingya’s plight also raises a so far unspoken question: Will they wait patiently to return in a safe and dignified manner – for now an unrealistic goal – or will the main militant organization in their midst lead them to pursue their goals with violence?…  Seguir leyendo »

El empoderamiento de las trabajadoras del sector textil en Bangladesh

Durante cuatro décadas, el sector de las prendas de vestir ha impulsado la economía de Bangladesh y dado más trabajo que ningún otro. En particular, las mujeres se han beneficiado de este auge laboral y, hoy en día, la mayoría de los cuatro millones de empleados de esta industria son de sexo femenino.

Pero si bien la actividad textil ha dado dinero a la economía de las mujeres y desafiado a que esta sociedad patriarcal evolucione, el empoderamiento económico no ha mejorado mucho la igualdad de género y el bienestar femenino. Al contrario, las mujeres en el mayor sector industrial de Bangladesh se encuentran en peligro en dos frentes: en el hogar y en el trabajo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una fábrica textil en Dacca, Bangladés crédito Daniel Rodrigues para The New York Times

Mosammot Bulbuli es una joven que forma parte de los millones de trabajadores de las fábricas de Bangladés, unos establecimientos que abastecen de ropa al resto del mundo.

También es una de las miles de personas que estaban trabajando en el edificio Rana Plaza en Savar hace cinco años, cuando colapsó. Más de 1100 trabajadores perdieron la vida; más de 2000 resultaron heridos.

Los sobrevivientes narran el momento de la misma manera: la luz se fue durante los primeros minutos del turno de la mañana; a continuación, se activaron los generadores con mucho ruido; luego se sacudieron los muros; se empezó a desmoronar el techo, y se cayó.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Rohingya child at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on Jan. 25. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

As of February 2018, the United Nations estimates that almost 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled Burma’s violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Almost universally, they’ve moved into refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

That is straining Bangladesh, which has absorbed a remarkable number of people in just six months, leading to desperately cramped conditions in the camps. Bangladesh is small, low-lying, under-resourced and overcrowded. And its leaders and citizens are growing impatient with the fallout of Burma’s purge of the Rohingya. Here are five ways this massive number of refugees is straining their host nation.

Political impact

When the military of Burma, also called Myanmar, launched its mass violence campaign in late August 2017, Bangladesh was initially reluctant to open its border to Rohingya refugees.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estructuras fueron recientemente agregadas a lo largo de la costa de la isla en un intento por frenar la invasión del océano. Credit Thomas Nybo/Redux, para Unicef

Cualquiera que tenga dudas sobre el cambio climático debería venir a esta adorable isla baja, bañada por suaves olas y hogar de cerca de 100.000 personas.

Pero ha de venir pronto si aún quiere encontrarla aquí.

“Mi casa estaba ahí”, dijo Zainal Abedin, un agricultor, señalando las olas a aproximadamente 30 metros de la orilla. “Cuando la marea está baja, todavía podemos ver señales de nuestra casa”.

Gran parte de Kutubdia ya ha sido tragada por el creciente nivel del mar, dejando a incontables familias sin nada. Nurul Haque, un campesino que perdió todas sus tierras, pues quedaron cubiertas por el mar, me dijo que quizá tendrá que sacar a su hija, Munni Akter, de 13 años, de la escuela y casarla con un hombre mayor que busque una segunda o tercera esposa, pues a él le quedan pocas opciones económicas para mantenerla.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una receta bangladesí contra el cólera

A estas alturas, el cólera debería ser historia. Hace mucho que las autoridades sanitarias saben cómo prevenir la enfermedad, los médicos saben cómo tratarla y los expertos en desarrollo comprenden que allí donde hay saneamiento y agua potable, los brotes rara vez se convierten en epidemias. Por desgracia, el mundo no es tan simple y ordenado, y la pesadilla del cólera persiste.

En muchas partes del mundo, el cólera ya fue domado. Las enfermedades transmitidas por el agua casi no existen en las economías avanzadas. E incluso en países y regiones con escasez de recursos, donde el cólera sigue siendo un problema, la terapia de rehidratación oral (TRO) ayudó a prevenir incontables muertes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya children in a refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, this week. Bangladesh is expected to compile lists of refugees wanting to return to Myanmar on a voluntary basis. Credit Damir Sagolj/Reuters

On Nov. 23, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement to return the Rohingya refugees — more than 600,000 people who escaped from Rakhine state in western Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh — after ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar’s armed forces since August.

Bangladesh is expected to compile lists of refugees wanting to return on a voluntary basis. Myanmar intends to verify each application to establish whether a refugee is eligible for repatriation. The returnees must provide copies of identity cards and documents certifying the address of their residence in Myanmar.

It might create the illusion of a policy decision by two governments moving toward addressing a shared refugee crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why is Burma attacking only the Rohingya?

As the Burmese military drives out upward of 600,000 Rohingya in what one United Nations official called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” most media analyses correctly highlight ethno-religious discrimination and economic motives.

But that leaves us with the question: Why only the Rohingya? Burma, also known as Myanmar, has other hated ethnic groups. Since the country first gained independence from the British in 1948, its government has been fighting the Karen, the Karenni, the Kachin, the Shan and the Mon. Those ethnic groups have had armed militias for decades. The Rohingya only recently spawned a small armed group — and most Rohingya disapprove of their methods.…  Seguir leyendo »

They may be out of harm’s way, for now, but their ordeal continues. Over the past two months, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border from Burma, also known as Myanmar, to seek shelter in Bangladesh. Not since the Rwandan genocide has a humanitarian crisis unfolded so fast and on such a scale. If one counts the hundreds of thousands who were already based here, driven out by earlier waves of violence in Rakhine state, there are now more than a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

At first, the new arrivals were welcomed. Across Bangladesh, there is an outpouring of sympathy for the persecuted minority who have been driven from their homes by a harrowing campaign of torture, rape, killings, arson and other human rights violations.…  Seguir leyendo »

More than half a million Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar since late August, escaping what U.N. officials have described as a classic case of ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s army launched comprehensive attacks on Rohingya villages in the country’s Rakhine state after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — a Rohingya militant group — attacked Myanmar’s police. The country’s 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are essentially stateless. Their government claims they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya say they have lived in Myanmar for generations. Accounts of their origin vary — some historians trace them back to 15th century Arab, Turkish, or Mongol migrants, while others claim they have come from Bangladesh in phases.…  Seguir leyendo »

Close to one million Rohingya from Myanmar are said to be living in Bangladesh at the moment, nearly half of them having fled since late August. The exodus is one of the world’s worst refugee crises in decades, and so far Bangladesh, already a very poor country, has borne much of the burden.

The sudden influx of so many refugees has created a major humanitarian emergency and raises security concerns. There’s also a less-well-understood effect: The Rohingya refugee crisis is shaking Bangladesh’s body politic to the core, and in ways that may hasten the country’s ongoing slide toward authoritarianism.

Many Bangladeshis, the great majority of whom also are Muslim, support their government’s decision to shelter the refugees, despite the costs and the risks.…  Seguir leyendo »

The harrowing scenes of human suffering on the Myanmar–Bangladesh border have provoked outpourings of sympathy and some firm statements by international politicians. At least half a million people have been brutally expelled from their homes and are now living in miserable conditions in muddy refugee camps and storm-drenched shanty towns. As the international community debates how to respond, it needs to take a clear-eyed view of the situation and recognise a brutal truth: the refugees are almost certainly not going home.

Consequently, policymakers must not hide behind the fiction that Bangladesh is only temporarily hosting the refugees in preparation for their rapid return home.…  Seguir leyendo »

La crise des Rohingyas est-elle vraiment un sujet d’actualité ? La question peut surprendre alors que plus de 400 000 personnes viennent de fuir vers le Bangladesh dans des conditions épouvantables et que la mystérieuse Armée arakanaise du salut Rohingyas (Arsa) a fait très récemment son apparition médiatique. Il ne s’agit pourtant là que de l’écume d’une crise qui dure depuis l’indépendance de la Birmanie et semble condamnée à s’aggraver toujours davantage.

En préface à la deuxième édition d’un livre sur cette minorité, paru il y a un peu moins d’un an (1), je notais qu’au cours de la dernière décennie la situation de cette population musulmane d’Arakhan (province la plus occidentale du pays) ne s’était absolument pas améliorée.…  Seguir leyendo »