Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Last month Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on Human Rights, said that recent developments in Myanmar’s Rakhine state were the latest in a ‘long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya Muslim community which could amount to crimes against humanity’, and that the Myanmar government’s decision not to allow Rohingya Muslims to register their ethnicity in the March census meant that the population tally was not in accordance with international standards. Over the years hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have taken refuge in Bangladesh to escape the deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar

Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh 7 year old Shumiakter helps her 5 year old sister Rubiata swing on a rope outside their home in the Shamalapur Rohingya refugee settlement in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. 15 years ago after their grandparents were killed in the sectarian violence in Myanmar their parents fled to Bangladesh.

Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh Rajama sits in the doorway of her home in the Shamalapur Rohingya refugee settlement in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. She fled to Bangladesh 5 months ago from the Dhuachopara village in the Rachidhong district of Myanmar. The Chakma people came on a Friday during prayer time in a giant mob and started burning houses and burning people alive. They beat her father and brother, and then they opened fired and started shooting and killing people at random. A group of people fled to the mosque and the Chakma followed, opening fire inside. Her father fled to the ocean and escaped to Bangladesh by boat. Rajama came to Bangladesh 3 days after the riot to find her father. When she arrived in the port of Teknaf the dock workers held her captive for 3 days with no food or water. They beat her and abused her before letting her go. She has 7 siblings back in Myanmar who were not able to escape. ‘I miss my family, but how can I miss them? I want to live.’ she says.

Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees push a boat to land in the Shamalapur Rohingya refugee settlement

Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh 32 year old Mahada Khatum, 5 year old Hasan Sharif, and 9 year old Umma Kulsum are seen outside their home in the Shamalapur Rohingya refugee settlement on April 11, 2014 in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. 12 years ago the family escaped violence and discrimination from the Zomgara Baharchara village in the Meherulla district of Myanmar.

Rohinga Refugees In Bangladesh

Surfing beach vendors in Bangladesh

This might be one of my favorite assignments ever. Remember the surf club from a few months ago that I blogged about? I’ve stayed in touch with them since and when one of the members mentioned that he was mentoring young beach vendors to surf in preparation for an upcoming surf contest, I emailed my editor and headed down. I came out the first afternoon to shoot their surf lessons and we were fast friends. I ended up staying almost three weeks, most of the time just hanging out with them. Every afternoon they would pound on my hotel door, kick off their shoes and hop onto my bed to watch Bollywood videos and do their hair and makeup. Me and another girlfriend took them shopping, for lunch, went swimming. The language barrier didn’t seem to matter too much.

They’re only 10-12 years old and most of them dropped out of school long ago have been working on the beach for at least 4 years. Each morning they leave their villages and walk 2-3 miles to the main beach by themselves and spend the afternoon selling their handmade jewelry or chips in the hot sun. For their age they’re already so tough and street smart but once they get in the water on their surfboards or those Bollywood songs come on you can instantly see their youth.

Their surf teacher Rashed is such a positive influence in their lives. Every time they saw him or heard his name their faces would light up. (I think they all have a little crush actually!) If they had a problem with a boy or a friend, or at home with their parents Rashed would go and try to help as much as he could. He’s very successful now and he dropped out of school to work on the beach when he was very young just like them. It was great to see how much they admired and looked up to him.

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 10 year old Jahanara, 10 year old Aisha, and 12 year old Shuma sell items on the beach April, 2014 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

A group of 10-12 year old female beach vendors, most of whom have dropped out of school to help support their families, have been learning to surf for the past three months in preparation for the annual Cox’s Bazar surf competition. 24 year old surfer, lifeguard and beach worker Rashed Alam, has been teaching and mentoring the girls for 3 months. Like the girls, Alam dropped out of school and started working on the beach to help support his family at a young age. He started surfing when he was 16. He says that his way of giving back is by ensuring that girls get a good future through surfing.

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition  Beach vendors buy chips to sell on the beach

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 10 year old Aisha, who has been working for 4 years, sits in the shade on the beach

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition Rashed Alam teaches beach vendors to surf in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition Rashed Alam teaches 12 year old Shobhemeheraj to surf

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition Rashed Alam talks with girls after surfing Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 12 year old Shumi counts her chips for her vendor

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition2 year old Maisha laughs in her home as she and her friends make jewelry to sell on the beach

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 12 year old Rifa, who has been working for 4 years, surfs

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 12 year old Shuma, 10 year old Jahanara, and 12 year old Shumi are seen with other surfers after posing for a group photo at the Cox’s Bazar annual surf competition

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 12 year old Shuma competes during the annual Cox’s Bazar surf competition

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 10 year old Jahanara laughs as she is called to accept an award during the annual Cox’s Bazar surf competition

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition 12 year old Shuma and 10 year old Jahanara smile as they poses for photos with their awards during the annual Cox’s Bazar surf competition

Bangladeshi Beach Vendors Compete In Coxs Bazar Surf Competition12 year old Shumi dances with 12 year old Shobhemeheraj during the annual Cox’s Bazar surf competition

Lalon Shah festival in Bangladesh

This was a really unique assignment. It felt a little bit like the Woodstock of Bangladesh!

The Lalon Shah festival is an annual festival celebrating the life and death of Fakir Lalon Shah, who was a Bangladeshi mystic, baul, philosopher, musician, writer and advocate of religious tolerance. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims follow his teachings and attend the festival, which comprises of 3 days of music, dance, and consumption of marijuana, which is referred to as ‘siddhi’, or enlightenment.

Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival blog3_BANGLADESH17 Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival blog3_BANGLADESH20 Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims celebrate the the 124th Lalon Shah festival

Rampal power plant and shrimp farming in the Sundarbans

In February I spent a few weeks working in my favorite part of Bangladesh, the Sundarbans, on a story about the Rampal power plant and labor exploitation in the shrimp industry.

Sundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power Plant A man pulls a boat towards the Sundarbans mangrove forest from Joymuni village February, 2014 in Khulna Division, Bangladesh. The Rampal Power plant, a 1,320-MW coal-fired power plant, is being constructed 14 kilometers away from the worlds largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. The government is insistent that the project is needed to supply power to the country and that the plant is safe for the environment, but activists say that it will destroy the forest. About 50 to 60 thousand people depend on the Sundarbans, collecting crabs, fish, firewood and honey to earn a living.

Sundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power Plant The sun sets behind Joymuni village, at the edge of the SundarbansSundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power Plant 7-year old Joy Sharko holds a candle in his home, which has no electricity, February 18, 2014 in the Joymuni village at the edge of the Sundarbans in Khulna Division, Bangladesh.

Sundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power PlantPeople play volleyball in Bodomari village on the edge of the Sundarbans

Sundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power Plant A woman carries firewood from the Sundarbans mangrove forest across the river to her home in Bodomari village in Khulna Division, Bangladesh

Sundarban's Ecosystem And Residents Threatened By Rampal Power PlantBangladesh's Shrimp Industry Accused Of Worker ExploitationShrimp and other fish are sold in a market in Shyamnagar February, 2014 in the Satkhira District, Bangladesh. A recent report by the Environmental Justice Foundation titled ‘Impossibly cheap: abuse and injustice in Bangladesh’s shrimp industry’ uncovered labor exploitation practices, excessively low wages and numerous other violations in Bangladesh’s shrimp industry. An estimated 1.2 million people are employed in the industry, which is the second largest foreign currency earner after the garment industry.
Bangladesh's Shrimp Industry Accused Of Worker Exploitation Bangladesh's Shrimp Industry Accused Of Worker Exploitation Bangladesh's Shrimp Industry Accused Of Worker Exploitation

Rana Plaza and the Bangladesh film industry, Dhallywood

The movie titled ‘Rana Plaza’ is filmed February, 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The movie tells the love story of a male garment worker and Reshma, the woman who survived 17 days in the rubble, against the backdrop of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster. In 2011 the Bangladesh government lifted the ban on Bollywood movies being shown in country, but it only lasted 6 months since it was financially hurting the Dhallywood film industry. Since then there’s been on going chatter about lifting the ban again. The industry is growing rapidly, in 2012 there were 30 films released, 51 in 2013, and 180 films scheduled to be released in 2014.

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Gang rape during the Muzaffarnagar Riots in India

Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots Samia, 25, (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) is seven-months pregnant as she sits for a photo January 22, 2014 in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh, India. According to her, on September 8, 2013, during the riot, three of her neighbors who she had known for eight years barged into her home, locked the door, and took turns raping her. When she went to the police to file a case they asked her questions, such as ‘What were you wearing?’ and ‘Where did you keep your hands while they were raping you?’ They took her phone and examined her calls from 30 days up until the attack and questioned why she called each person and what her relation was to them. Riots between Muslims and Jat Hindus broke out at the end of August and lasted until the beginning of September, 2013. More than 55 people were killed, hundreds were injured, at least six women were reportedly gang raped, and almost 50,000 people fled to relief camps in the immediate aftermath. The cold winter has led to the death of over 34 children in the relief camps.

Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots  Alishba, 25, (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) covers her face while sitting for a photo, January 22, 2014 in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh, India. According to her, she was gang raped by two men during the riots on September 8, 2013. Four of her neighbors that she had known for 10 years broke down the door of her home, two guarded the door while the other two raped her. They released her when her mother-in-law heard the commotion and came down the stairs shouting that the police were on their way. Her and her husband filed a case with the police, but so far no arrests have been made. The police have offered her money to drop the case, and her rapists have threatened her family. Riots between Muslims and Jat Hindus broke out at the end of August and lasted until the beginning of September, 2013. More than 55 people were killed, hundreds were injured, at least six women were reportedly gang raped, and almost 50,000 people fled to relief camps in the immediate aftermath. The cold winter has led to the death of over 34 children in the relief camps.

Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots  Safa, 30, (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) covers her face with her shawl while she sits for a photo January 22, 2014 in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh, India. According to her, on September 8, 2013, during a riot while her husband was away at work, four of her neighbors broke into her home and took turns raping her for an hour and a half. They finally left when they heard people shouting outside that the police were on their way. After the rape she was sick with an infection for one month. She filed a report with the police, but no arrests have been made, and her rapists have been threatening her and her family to drop the case. Riots between Muslims and Jat Hindus broke out at the end of August and lasted until the beginning of September, 2013. More than 55 people were killed, hundreds were injured, at least six women were reportedly gang raped, and almost 50,000 people fled to relief camps in the immediate aftermath. The cold winter has led to the death of over 34 children in the relief camps.

Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash Riots Rape Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Religious Clash RiotsAisha, 45, (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) covers her face while she sits for a photo January 22, 2014 in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh, India. According to her, on September 8, 2013, she heard shouts outside her door after the riots started and sent her kids out to flee from the home. Before she could leave, five men that she used to work for in the sugarcane fields grabbed her and took her into another home. They each took turns raping her until she passed out. It took her 10 days to recover from her injuries. She filed a case with the police and they have been offering her money to drop the case. The men who raped her are still walking free, when she goes to the local market they follow her and threaten her. Local muslims have given her a place to live since the attacks. ‘Until the case is settled I am living on Allah’s grace’ she says. Riots between Muslims and Jat Hindus broke out at the end of August and lasted until the beginning of September, 2013. More than 55 people were killed, hundreds were injured, at least six women were reportedly gang raped, and almost 50,000 people fled to relief camps in the immediate aftermath. The cold winter has led to the death of over 34 children in the relief camps.

Shamli relief camps

Riots between Muslims and Jat Hindus broke out at the end of August and lasted until the beginning of September, 2013. More than 55 people were killed, hundreds were injured, at least 6 women were gang raped, and almost 50,000 people fled to relief camps in the immediate aftermath. The cold winter has led to the death of over 34 children in the relief camps.Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes Rain falls over the Jhola relief camp in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh, India.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes Goulista, who says she is 18 years old, holds her daughter Raymon, who is 3 days old in the Jhola relief camp.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes 40 year old Ruksana looks out of the tent that she shares with her husband and three children in the Malakpur relief camp.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes The body of 7 month old Shubnam is prepared before burial in the Malakpur relief camp January 23, 2014 in the Shamli District of Uttar Pradesh, India. They had been living in the camp for 5 month since the riots came to their village of Lawk Bawdi. Shubnam was sick and on medicine for a week with pneumonia but died in the early morning of January 23, 2014.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes  Children attend a makeshift Islamic school in the Barnavi relief camp.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes  Saina, 10, holds her 2 year old brother, Mouskan in the Bibipurhaty relief camp.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes A boy holds an umbrella over his mother while she cooks during a rainstorm in the Jhola relief camp.

Death Toll Rises In Uttar Pradesh Refugee Camps Following Religious Clashes A child sits outside his tent while his mother cooks in the Malakpur relief camp

Ramu celebrates Probarona Purnima one year after attacks

The Probarona Purnima festival in Bangladesh celebrates the conclusion of the three-month long seclusion of the monks inside their monasteries for self-edification. Last year, on September 29th 2012 a muslim mob attacked and destroyed temples and homes of Buddhists after an anonymous person posted a photograph of a desecrated Quran on a local Buddhist boy’s facebook wall. The community did not participate in Probarona Purnima last year in protest of the attacks.

ablog169 ablog170 ablog171 13 year old Mong Sanu, who is training to become a monk, is seen inside his monastary before the Probarona Purnima festival in Ramu, Bangladesh.

ablog172 A desecrated idol that was damaged during last years attack lays in disrepair on the day of Probarona Purnima on October 19, 2013 in Ramu, Bangladesh.

ablog173 Bangladeshi Buddhists light a large paper balloon into the sky during Probarona Purnima

ablog174 Bangladeshi Buddhists light a large paper balloon into the sky during Probarona Purnima

ablog175 Bangladeshi Buddhists cheer after lighting a large paper balloon into the sky during Probarona Purnima

ablog176 Bangladeshi Buddhists celebrate their annual boat festival during Probarona Purnima

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Surf club in Cox’s Bazar

In October I had a blast hanging out with the Cox’s Bazar Lifesaving Surfing Club. They’re a great group of guys and gal who surf together and teach other residents and underprivileged kids to surf and save lives.

ablog181 Shahadat Hosen poses for a photograph in his home on October 23, 2013 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is the world’s longest natural sandy sea beach. The Cox’s Bazar Lifesaving Surfing Club, founded in 2010 by Shahadat Hosen, is comprised of 8 good friends who hang out and surf together. They give surfing and swimming lessons to foreigners and local residents, including underpriviliged children. Once a year they train local residents and the Bangladeshi Coast Guard on lifeguarding and CPR. ‘We do it because we see potential to give back to the community’ says Hosen.

ablog182 Shahadat Hosen high fives a friend while eating dinner with member of the Cox’s Bazar Lifesaving Surfing Club in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

ablog183 ablog184 Shahadat Hosen, 12 year old Yonus Ali, and Kamrul Hasan sit on the beach before surfing in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

ablog185 12 year old Yonus Ali walks into the water on October 22, 2013 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 12 year old Yonus Ali was taken in by the surf club’s founder’s family, Shahadat Hosen, because his mother is no longer able to take care of him. He met the surfers after he dropped out of school and started hanging out at the beach. They saw his talent and excitment for surfing and took him in as part of their group.

ablog186 ablog187 Nassima Akter (L) , Kamal Alamin, and 12 year old Yonus Ali (R) are seen on the beach after surfing on October 22, 2013 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. When Nassima was 13 years old she was homeless, sleeping on the beach at night. She saw people surfind in the water and quickly joined them, learning the sport very quickly. As she got older, locals in the conservative community gave her and her friends a hard time, saying that it was inappropriate and against the muslim religion for women to surf. She is recently seperated from her husband, who was beating her during their constant arguments over her surfing. 12 year old Yonus Ali was taken in by the surf club’s founder’s family, Shahadat Hosen, because his mother is no longer able to take care of him. He met the surfers after he dropped out of school and started hanging out at the beach. They saw his talent and excitment for surfing and took him in as part of their group.

ablog188 Members of the The Cox’s Bazar Lifesaving Surfing Club play pool in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

ablog189Kamrul Hasan repairs his surfboard in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Hazaribagh, Dhaka

In November I spent two days shooting in the 5th most polluted place on earth, Hazaribagh, Dhaka. There are no words to adequately describe the smell of the place. Dead animal parts and fat and skin everywhere, being boiled into soap and other things.. I don’t think the smell will ever come out of my shoes.

Hazaribagh was just listed in a report by Green Cross Switzerland and Blacksmith Institute as the 5th most polluted place on earth. It houses 95% of Bangladesh’s leather tanneries, and every day they dump 22,000 cubic liters of toxic waste, including the cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, into the capital city’s main river and key water supply, the Burgiganga. Most of the laborers work with the hazardous chemicals without any safety precautions, and there have been reports of horrific workplace accidents in the factories. Residents of the neighborhood slums are exposed to the extreme air, water and soil pollution. The tanneries export millions of dollars of leather good around the world, including the US and Europe.

blog145 blog146blog147Hazaribagh's Tanneries Contribute To Its Status As One Of World's Most Polluted Places blog148 blog149 blog150 blog151 blog152