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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
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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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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)