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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.

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Bangladesh Turns to Fill Ever-Growing Gap Between Energy Consumption and Supply by FDI

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe

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A Bangladeshi man works on the tangled electric cables hanging above a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA

Bangladesh has long struggled with power outages, with the nation experiencing its worst electricity crises in 2008 and 2009. Reports said one blackout, in 2014, affected as many as 100 million people — more than 60% of the population.

With a growing economy and a large population, the country always runs the risk of hampering its development process, which could cause instability. To counteract this, Bangladesh has turned to courting foreign direct investment to fill its ever-growing gap between energy consumption and supply. Companies from Britain, China, India and the United States have invested in the energy industry in Bangladesh.

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, talks about how a developing country like Bangladesh is taking initiatives to bring power to the entire population by 2021 that will include an increase in green energy alternatives.

energy industry, bangladesh
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, June 29, 2018. VOA

VOA: In your address during during Bangladesh Energy and Power Summit 2018, you said investment and development of innovative technologies are the two major issues that need to be given more priority to meet the power generation targets. What steps have you taken so far to achieve this?

Chowdhury: Since 2009, we have mobilized $20 billion of investment in the power sector projects, which has been approved and are being implemented. Half of this $20 billion investment will come from the private sector. We are encouraging foreign private investors to come and invest in the power sector.

Moving away from a policy of relying on domestic investment or investments from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, our government went out to the market and involved the private sector, in particular the foreign companies who have made bids for various power projects, to raise funds on their own.

In terms of development of innovative technologies, we have established the Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council to develop technological solutions, which are environmentally friendly. The council also aims to promote research and innovation in sustainable renewable energy.

VOA: As of 2018, Bangladesh had a capacity of generating power of 18,000 megawatts and your goal is to generate 60,000 megawatts by 2041. But how much of this 60,000 would be renewable energy?

Chowdhury: I would say 10% is a good target. We are building a nuclear power plant with 1,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity that can be upgraded to generating up to 2,400 megawatts.

energy industry, bangladesh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019. VOA

We are also exploring possibilities of using wind energy turbines in five or six areas of the country, and invited proposals from interested companies.

We have the largest [coverage of] solar home systems in the world, [amounting to] over 6 million homes. Multiply this [by] five [members] in each home, and you have 30 million people who have access to renewable energy via solar home systems.

These are stand-alone solar home systems, small solar panels for individual households, not connected to a national grid. So they have their limitations, and I think we have reached as far as we can go through this route.

We are exploring the possibilities of connecting our national grid to national grids of other South Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. … Nepal and Bhutan have great potential in developing hydropower projects that would produce renewable energy in enormous quantity that can be imported to Bangladesh by connecting our national grids with the national grids of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

VOA: In an interview with Voice of America, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. M.A. Momen said that in his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, the U.S. investment or the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership in exploration [of hydrocarbon reserves in offshore blocks] did come up, so where are we on that?

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

energy industry, bangladesh
FILE – The logo of General Electric is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. VOA

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology.

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

ALSO READ: Trump Administration Commits to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner, Says Energy Secretary

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology. (VOA)