Free Shahidul, Free Hassan

Shahidul Alam
who grew up in London returned to his native Bangladesh and has become its leading photographer as well as setting up a number of related major organisatins there, including Drik and Majority World photographic agencies and Pathshala which is now arguably the world’s leading photojournalism school. His work has made Bangaldesh an important centre in Asia and the world for photography.

His gallery at the Drik Agency has several times attracted the attention of police. A show on Tibet was closed down after China had put pressure on the Bangladesh government, and the show ‘Crossfire‘ dealing with extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh was also raided and closed down by a police raid.

On 5th August, shortly after Alam had been interviewed on Al Jazeera over Skype about the student protests on road safety that had been taking place in Dhaka, police raided his home and arrested him. A week later he appeared in court after having been badly beaten and despite various court appearances he remained in jail – until a few days ago when he was finally released on bail, possibly as a result of a special section about him in a resolution on the human rights situation in Bangladesh adopted by the European Parliament and the publication of an open letter about him by Indian writer Arundhati Roy both coming 48 hours before his release.

After his arrest, there were petitions and letters from photographers, academics and others around the world, including several I signed, as well as protests. The protest at the Bangladesh embassy in London was attended by a number of his friends and relatives and several well-known photographers.

I’ve written a number of times about Shahidul, both here and elsewhere; one of the longer pieces still available on line is From the Lions Point Of View.

Earlier in the day I had been at another protest calling for freedom, this time outside the Bahrain embassy, where Ali Mushaima was on the 10th day of a hunger strike demanding that his 70-year-old father immediately receives the medical care he needs, as well as access to books and family visits.

Hassan Mushaima was one of the leaders of the 2011 mass movement that peacefully called for human rights and democratic reforms in Bahrain, which was brutally crushed by the ruling Khalifa dictatorship aided by Saudi forces, killing dozens and imprisoning thousands. Around 5000 are said to still be held in Bahraini jails and Islamic Human Rights organisation who organised the solidarity protest calls for all of them to be released.

Ali Mushaima’s hunger strike has not led to his father’s release, but it did result in him being given a cancer scan and access to vital medicine and following many requests from his friends in September after 44 days he moved to a liquid diet that would keep him alive, though still resolved to keep fighting for other medical treatment and better conditions for his father, and if necessary to renew his hunger strike.

More from both protests:
Free Shahidul Alam
Free Bahraini Human Rights activist


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