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Photojournalist Jibon Ahmed still faces the heat in aiding Avijit Roy who was murdered in Bangladesh

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Photojournalist Jibon Ahmed returns to the spot where militants killed Avijit Roy and attacked his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed. Photo: http://www.benarnews.org

One year back, on Feb, 25, 2015, Avijit Roy was killed in Bangladesh by Islamic fanatics. His crime? He was a champion of free speech and a rationalist and had founded Mukto Mona- a community of rationalists, atheists and free thinkers. Here we bring an account of the tale of sorrows and intimidation that a photojournalist Jibon Ahmed faces for he helped the wounded Avijit. – NewsGram

For an act of humanity – taking fatally injured blogger Avijit Roy and his wounded wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed to a hospital – photojournalist Jibon Ahmed lost his job, faced censure from colleagues, and endured repeated questioning by police.

A year after the Feb. 26, 2015, machete attack outside the Ekushey Book Fair that killed Roy and caused Bonya to lose her thumb, Ahmed still recalls the feel of Roy’s blood.

“I did not know that the human blood is so warm. I still feel the heat,” Ahmed said, recalling the night when hundreds of people including on-duty police watched Roy struggle to survive while Bonya screamed for help.

The couple came to Dhaka to attend Bangladesh’s annual book fair that attracts intellectuals from all over the world. While returning home from the Dhaka University campus, suspected Islamic militants stopped their rickshaw, hacked them with machetes and fled the scene, leaving them in pool of blood.

The U.S-based engineer and writer ran the Mukto-Mona (Free Thinker) blog that raised questions about religions, especially Islam.

On that day, the photo agency Ahmed worked for sent him to cover the book fair. He was talking with fellow photojournalists about 10 meters from the spot where Avijit and Bonya were hacked.

Screams

“It was around 7:30 p.m. We suddenly heard a woman screaming. I immediately rushed to the spot,” he said. “There I saw a woman was lying near a parked motorcycle with her head directed toward the ground.”

He twice patted her, but got no response. After his third touch, Bonya responded.

“She gave me a witch’s look like you see in a horror movie: blood was oozing out of her shoulder and her eyes. She thought I was one of the attackers,” Ahmed said.

He told her that she must go with him to a hospital for treatment. Traumatized, Bonya asked, “What happened here?”

A few yards away, Ahmed saw people encircling another injured person, who was shaking on the ground. Bonya rushed to the spot, calling, “Avi, avi” (still alive).

She hugged Roy and stood up, asking someone to take him to a hospital.

“Then I opened my camera and snapped shots showing a blood-soaked Bonya calling for help,” he said.

Frantic trip

Ahmed said he stopped a three-seated three-wheeler and took the extreme right seat, holding Roy’s injured head while Bonya sat next to him holding her husband’s body.

“Suddenly I felt that his brain was on my finger where the machete had cut the skull. I removed the finger and gently pushed the skull to stop the brain from coming out of his head,” Ahmed said.

As the three-wheeler headed toward the hospital south of the crime scene, Bonya panicked, thinking Ahmed was abducting them.

“She started asking me to let them go in exchange for as much money as I wanted. I brought out my camera and was repeatedly assuring her that I was a photojournalist, not an attacker. But she did not believe me,” he said.

The vehicle got stuck in a traffic jam created by a police check post.

“Watching the police, Bonya started screaming for help. She was telling the police that I was abducting them. Now, I was in fear lest I face lynching or police action,” Ahmed said.

“Suddenly, I saw a policeman who was following our scooter from behind. He witnessed everything. As he gestured, the police barricade was removed and I took them to the hospital,” he said.

Ethical quandry

Fellow photographers at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital scolded him, saying he had violated journalistic ethics.

“I should not have taken them to the hospital, they said. ‘Now, you will face the police music,’ some of my colleagues taunted,” he said.

While at the hospital, Ahmed removed his blood stained T-shirt and put on a clean one, then left for his office in Motijheel, another part of Dhaka.

“I immediately came to my office in Motijheel and released the photos. I did not know them. Suddenly I saw breaking news on TV that the persons I took to the hospital were Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed,” he said.

His boss told him to go into hiding and to stay away from the office.

“By that time I was totally upset. I could not figure out what I should do. But later on I decided that I must not hide,” he said.

His photo of the event spread quickly on Facebook, where hundreds of people posted negative comments about him for taking pictures instead of helping the victims.

Meanwhile, police began questioning him to determine if he was linked to the killers. “They quizzed me at least five times,” Ahmed said.

‘Nobody cared’

Ahmed said he lost his job due to his unwitting role in the tragic evening.

“I have no relatives in Dhaka. I come from Khulna. Losing my job, I had to sell camera to survive,” he said.

“But I finally got relief as Bonya confirmed that I was not one of the killers, I was the rescuer.”

Ahmed is now a freelance photographer.

“I still remember the events even one year after the incident. My headache problem has worsened since then. I cannot talk for long. Now, I try to remain isolated,” he told BenarNews.

He said he would not talk to the media about Roy’s murder anymore.

“Nobody cared about me and the issue. What is the meaning of doing a story after one year?” he asked. Used with the permission of BenarNews.

Next Story

Bangladesh’s Second Nuclear Plant, Chinese Companies Look Up For The Contract

“Currently, we have been working on site selection,” he said, adding that the officials of the Chinese companies formally expressed their intent through letters sent to the ministry of science and technology and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

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Construction workers use heavy equipment while building Bangladesh’s first nuclear plant in Rooppur in northwestern Pabna district, about 160 km (100 miles) from Dhaka, in this undated handout photo. VAO

Three Chinese companies have started lobbying Bangladesh for a contract to build the nation’s second nuclear power plant, officials said, as the government pushed to finish its first multibillion-dollar Russian-backed nuclear reactor within five years.

Mahbubul Hoq, chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, that officials of three Chinese companies met with him during the past few months and expressed interest in building the second nuclear plant, which is expected to cost 1.5 trillion taka (U.S. $18 billion).

“The project is at the formative stage,” Hoq said Wednesday. “We are yet to decide who would build the plant.”

“But the officials of Chinese companies came to my office and did show their interest in building the second nuclear power plant,” he said.

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“The influence of Chinese companies has been on the rise,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, an economist and former commerce adviser. “Now they want to implement nuclear power project in Bangladesh.” Pixabay

In November 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated construction of the first nuclear plant – estimated to cost more than 1 trillion taka (U.S. $13 billion) – in Rooppur in northwestern Pabna district, about 160 km (100 miles) from Dhaka.

Officials expect it to become operational by 2024, about a year from its original target date of completion. Previously, officials said the two reactors would be expected to produce a combined output of 2,400 megawatts per day.

“Hopefully, we will start producing electricity by December 2024,” Hoq said, referring to the first power plant.

He said representatives of the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) handed him brochures about the state-owned company during their meeting at his office in Dhaka.

“Besides, two more representatives of the Chinese companies saw me in this regard. They assured us that they could build the nuclear plant using state-of-the-art technology,” Hoq said while declining to name the other companies.

The Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not respond to BenarNews emails seeking comments.

Hoq said Hasina, during a recent public event, pledged to build the second plant in the southern coastal districts.

“In line with her announcement, the authorities last year tasked us to find a suitable place to build the second nuclear power plant,” Hoq said.

Project director Mizanur Rahman confirmed to BenarNews that the government had approved plans to build the second plant in one of the country’s southern coastal districts.

“Currently, we have been working on site selection,” he said, adding that the officials of the Chinese companies formally expressed their intent through letters sent to the ministry of science and technology and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Bangladesh has not decided on how it would finance the construction of the second plant. Officials previously told BenarNews that Russia was providing 90 percent of the funds for the first plant through soft loans, while the Bangladeshi government would shoulder the remaining 10 percent of the construction cost.

Getting dragged in China-India regional power play

China is one of Bangladesh’s largest trading partners, with bilateral trade reaching about U.S. $18 billion, with imbalance tilted heavily in Beijing’s favor. The Bangladeshi Army has been equipped with Chinese tanks, its navy uses Chinese frigates and its air force flies Chinese fighter jets.

There are 400 Chinese companies in Bangladesh, according to Chinese envoy Zhang Zuo during a speech at a Dhaka business event last month.

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Officials expect it to become operational by 2024, about a year from its original target date of completion. Previously, officials said the two reactors would be expected to produce a combined output of 2,400 megawatts per day. Pixabay

Bangladesh officially joined China’s massive One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative in 2016 when it signed agreements for implementing 27 projects, including 10 infrastructure initiatives that would be financed by Beijing, according to documents from the Bangladesh finance ministry.

“Of the total 27 projects, 10 are Belt-and-Road initiative projects,” a ministry official told BenarNews on the condition of anonymity. “But we do not mention in official papers due to political sensitivity about the BRI.”

OBOR, also known in other countries as Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI), is Beijing’s globe-spanning project with a price tag of at least U.S. $1 trillion. It stretches across 70 countries and aims to become a 21st Century Silk Road by weaving a network of railways, ports and bridges, linking China with Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Also Read: Amazon Accused of Violating Kids’ Privacy with Alexa

But involving Beijing in the construction of nuclear plants in Bangladesh may drag Hasina’s government into the power tussle between Beijing and New Delhi over dominance in South Asia, an analyst told BenarNews.

“The influence of Chinese companies has been on the rise,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, an economist and former commerce adviser. “Now they want to implement nuclear power project in Bangladesh.” (RFA)