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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