imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for March, 2008

Friday
Mar 28,2008

Yesterday the UN unveiled “ten stories” it thinks the world should know more about. Statelessness is one issue on the list. The blurb, which is illustrated by an image from Bangladesh, says:

Statelessness is a corrosive, soul-destroying condition that can colour almost every aspect of a person’s life. People who are not recognized as citizens of any state may be unable to go to school, work legally, own property, get married, or travel. They may find it difficult to enter hospital, and impossible to open a bank account or receive a pension. If someone robs or rapes them, they may not be able to lodge a complaint, because legally they do not exist.

Ishurdi showings of Swapnabhumi

  • Filed under: Bihari
Tuesday
Mar 25,2008

As you know our documentary, Swapnabhumi- The Promised Land, is doing the rounds of “bihari camps” in Bangladesh. Here is a report direct from the field about the latest showings in Ishurdi.

Shafi bhai - the Ishurdi programme was really tremendous. The sound was perfect. Present among the packed crowd were some journalists, human rights activists… and the Union secretary also turned up to watch the documentary. After the viewing, they really appreciated the film and some said that we should be screening the film in different Bus stations and crowded places! The Union secretary also informed us that they had received 36 lac TK. for a sanitation programme of Ishurdi camp 1 or 2 from Care Bangladesh. Shafi Bhai the programme was a success! Next in Chittagong on 28 March. Khalid.

The enthusiastic report is let down by the somewhat crude photographs below…but it gives you a flavour. And before a certain FH points out the lack of women…..they were most certainly there!…its just that the ‘photographer’ didn’t have the bottle to approach them…..
Ishurdi

Ishurdi 2

Monday
Mar 24,2008

Mobile phone jammers

After today’s news, I have identified a niche in the market.  Please contact me if you would like to buy one of these wonderful devices. Designed specifically to save you a lot of embarassment. I will do you a good deal on bulk orders of these portable mobile phone jamming devices.

Saturday
Mar 22,2008

Rohingya 1

Rohingya 2

ROHINGYA 3

Eddy Van Wessel, a dutch photographer, shot these photos last year.  If you go to his site, you will see Sidr related photographs too.

The pictures show Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Special Raporteur reported to the Human Rights Council last week. In his report (about Burma/Myanmar) he highlighted :

(the)continuous deterioration in the economic and social sectors, which further aggravated the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country. The increased militarization in rural areas had contributed to the impoverishment of villagers and to the increase in the number of internally displaced persons.

He further noted that

humanitarian assistance should not be hostage of politics and the population of Myanmar had the right to the same level of assistance from the international community that other countries in the region received

Burma rejected the report for its lack of impartiality and objectivity. And, oh yes, they didn’t even let the man come into the country citing some feeble excuse.

And the camps in Bangladesh? Two years ago, Janet Lim of the UNHCR thought that the camps were among the worst she had seen in her career with the agency. However “Two years down the line things have changed quite a lot,” she says in reference to Nayapara.

I must say its not often one encounters positive news like this. I hope its not the UNHCR just talking up its successes?

The freer, livelier atmosphere in Nayapara and nearby Kutupalong Camp – together home to more than 27,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar – reflects a new spirit of cooperation between the Bangladeshi government and the UN refugee agency.

The visit

Thursday
Mar 20,2008

Brown and Fakhruddin

CA: What shall we talk about?
PM: Usual stuff about extremism and terrorism ok with you?
CA: With respect, I would like to talk about a Catering Institute in Sylhet.
PM: What??
CA: Yes my friends in Jago Bangladesh have told me to. You have put new restrictions on chefs visas and they don’t like it.
PM: Look can we not talk about more urgent things like democracy?
CA: You mean like what you are promoting in Iraq?
PM: Erm..well, hmm. But why do so many of you chaps want to come here in the first place? Its giving me a bloody headache.
CA: Well the country is sinking under the sea for a start. And you like lamb vindaloos and chicken rogan josh.
PM: Fine! Great idea to link it with something green. We will have a couple of conferences on global warming stuff. Junkets for your civil servants and so-called experts. That should do it?
CA: Human rights. You need to make me look good on that..
PM: Oh yes that old crap. I guess we owe you on that one. Yes, lets trot out something about institutional reforms of the caretaker Government, the mandate of the Anti-Corruption, Election and Public Service Commissions and the Human Rights Commission?
CA: Cool. What about some money for English lessons?
PM: Eh? You went to Princeton for god’s sake!
CA: You don’t want illiterate mullah types to come and be a pain in your backside do you? We always come with a begging bowl. Its our tradition. I can’t go back empty handed can I?
PM: You are right. You will get £50 million for an “English in Action” programme. That will fit in nicely with our new language requirements also for UK nationality.
CA: £50 million for 25 million intendeded beneficiaries of that programme? But, Gordon, that adds up to £2 per person. A miserable 250 takas ….
PM: What do you expect? I am a thrifty Scot after all.

Iraq - 5th Anniversary

Wednesday
Mar 19,2008

“I would like to remind myself and others in the United States and Britain that agressors have no rights, they have only responsibilities.The first responsibility is to pay massive reparations for the crimes they have carried out. That extends in the case of Iraq to include support for Saddam through his worst atrocities after the war with Iran.

After the savage first Gulf War when George Bush authorised the crushing of the rebellions that might have overthrown him, the murderous sanctions and of course the war and its aftermath.

And their second responsibility is to hold the perpetrators accountable. And finally, and crucially, to attend to the voices of the victims, which are not a secret. The Pentagon has just released its latest study of opinions in Iraq. It was optimistic, it said. Iraqis have shared beliefs, so there’s hope for reconciliation.

The shared beliefs turn out to be that the United States and Britain are responsible for the Sectarian warfare and all of its horrors and they should leave Iraq to Iraqis.

And we should finally resolve to ensure that we are never again responsible for such terrible crimes.”

Noam Chomsky

Sunday
Mar 16,2008

Mymensingh shows of Swapnabhumi

The Association of the Young Generation of the Urdu-speaking Community ( AYGUSC) together with “Chalachitranachal” are holding public viewings of Swapnabhumi - The Promised Land in the “bihari camps” throughout Bangladesh. The first shows were held on Friday (14th) in Mymensingh. Photos are from two different showings there. My thanks go to Sarwar, Nahar, Khalid, Hasan and many others for taking this initiative to take our documentary to the very community the film depicts. There are voices in Bangladesh who are not swallowing the usual story and want change, and this documentary is part of that.

Mymensingh open air

Mymensingh open air

Saturday
Mar 15,2008

Comic Relief Khulna

Khulna street children. “Countless Bangladeshi girls are being sold into prostitution in India”
Last night I was watching Comic Relief ( an annual charity fund raising initiative) with my wife and son. We like Top Gear comic shenanigans and that is why we were watching it. Suddenly one of the “charity  causes” was aired. Most of you know my views on middle-class charity things…and I was about to hit the un-green standby button when a picture of a Dhaka slum appeared on the screen. ÂThe focus of the report was on street children and prostitution in Bangladesh. I decided to watch. Even though these video reports always end cheerfully and with hope, what was shown was very disturbing. My eight year old son was shooting me glances all the time to see my reaction and waiting for an explanation. He has been exposed to a lot over the years and takes a keen interest in the subject matter of the documentaries I am involved in ( which of course contain very difficult themes). I didn’t say anything last night…what could I say? And this morning when he comes downstairs  he will see the Independent and will find more of the same on his way to the concise crossword puzzle. Here is a very “difficult” article by the Independent’s respected Johann Hari about Bangladeshi sex slaves.

This is the story of the 21st century’s trade in slave-children. My journey into their underworld took place where its alleys and brothels are most dense - Asia, where the United Nations calculates 1 million children are being traded every day. It took me to places I did not think existed, today, now. To a dungeon in the lawless Bangladeshi borderlands where children are padlocked and prison-barred in transit to Indian brothels; to an iron whore-house where grown women have spent their entire lives being raped; to a clinic that treat syphilitic 11-year-olds.

Read the rest of it HERE 

Friday
Mar 14,2008

Ah finally some good news for Bangladeshis….Tahmima Alam has won the regional Commonwealth best book prize ( Europe and South Asia) with her book “A Golden Age.” It is on my ever expanding reading list for this year… Well done her and I wonder what she will do with the 1000 smackeroos?

It is said that ex-PM Hasina’s stomach has become a pharmacy in the last three months….perhaps that is why  5 members of the 7 panel team of doctors looking after her have been replaced? The CTG says they were partisan doctors ( …as well as being relatives of various Awami Leaguers). We have a partisan judiciary ( or has that really ended??) - so why not partisan doctors? The hosptial is keeping schtum ( they have most to gain after all if they treat her…) with John Gomes, the General Manager of the hospital, declaring he knows nothing. Would someone please tell the man that as General Manager its his damn business to know? The “dodgy 5″ believed that she was in danger of going deaf among other things. There might be some truth in that. Instead of pumping her with medication, has anyone tried telling Hasina to stop shouting? It might do her hearing and her party a lot of good?

And then we have this editorial. It is disheartening news that after announcing a radical set of measures concerning women’s property rights, the government climbed down after pressure from the great guardians of koranic truth. So what the hell is this editorial doing painting a rosy picture and ignoring the vociferous objections to the proposed law? What have I missed?

Calling Beebs of Asherville

Thursday
Mar 13,2008

If there is a remote chance that you read this blog ( sadly not as entertaining as that other one written with the benefit of cancer) -  I have an urgent and desperate message for you. Sorry to be so public about this request but i have no other means of contact and I hope the disguised version of your name is sufficient to minimise the distress that this difficult and direct request will no doubt cause. Could I please have the recipe for your mum’s garam masala powder??? I have had that stuff for 8 years now…and I am about to run out of it.  You could post the recipe for the world to see in the comments box or you can use the contact page to send me the instructions. Gracias companera.

Wednesday
Mar 12,2008

The man from down under spouts selective nonsense about Moudud Ahmed in an article melodramatically entitled “The Prisoner of Dhaka.”

Tuesday
Mar 11,2008

Swapnabhumi on Amazon

Our documentary on the plight of the stateless urdu-speaking people of Bangladesh is now available on Amazon.

Bangladesh in Texas

Monday
Mar 10,2008

Powderburn and Bangladesh Fans

Yes you have come to the right place my faithful readers. Surprised by the photo above? Don’t be. They are Bangladesh and Powderburn fans at a recent concert in Rock City Icehouse, Texas . When I say “Bangladesh” I refer to a heavy metal band which has recently entered the scene in that most bohemian of US states. Do they play bangla heavy metal you ask? No. Lets just say that it is not quite the sort of music you turn to soothe your troubled soul. Even the graphics are enough to make you wonder what the hell is going on in that part of America. Check this:

Graphics

Having trouble believing all this? Go to their home page here. (Cotton plugs advised). But before you react with nationalist contempt take a look at their spiel…their raison d’etre for the selection of the name:

The message of Bangladesh is simple….Rise up against, and separate yourself from, everything that keeps you from reaching your fullest potential. Everything about Bangladesh embodies this concept. It is heartfelt, hardcore sincerity served up with an intensity that simply cannot be matched.

Enough to warm your nationalist cockles? Some one should invite them to Bangladesh’s premier venue for Heavy Metal (which is sadly across the road from me in Road No 35). Here are the tone-deaf bunch of nutters musicians themselves:

Bangladesh Heavy Metal

Sunday
Mar 9,2008

This is quite awesome news. It seems that this caretaker government has pulled off an interesting development.

Bangladesh has fixed a new minimum wage for unskilled workers in Saudi Arabia which will take effect from July 1.

Last week I was wondering what was going on when Mohammed Yunus, our roving diplomat, made some rather obsequious statements when he was in Saudi. He basically said that Bangladeshis are as law abiding as any other foreign worker. He went on to say, rather unnecessarily given his previous statement, that Bengali workers should abide by Saudi rules and regulations. That is easy for him to say so. He does not have to suffer the same atrocious wages and conditions. I was going to blog about it but I thought I had blogged enough about the grinning saviour of Bangladesh and the planet’s poor. He also had a chair named after him with some 15 scholarships attached to it. Here is a report about how well Yunus’ speeches went down during this critical time for Bangladeshis in Saudi. Then came a Daily Star report about the BD government exhorting Bangladeshi workers to behave in the Kingdom. This was followed by a further report about how the Bangladesh government is going to deal with Rohingyas who have been “abusing” Bangladeshi passports and creating trouble in Saudi. So it was interesting that all this was happening - as if it was a lead up to something. And it seems that matters have come to a head and there is some kind of deal.

What kind of deal has been hatched with Yunus’ help? No idea yet apart from the meagre details above. Which sectors are involved? What about other issues? Passport retention? Amnesty? If you are interested take a look at what the Indian government are facing in the UAE.