June 16, 2021

No Business With Genocide

A Coalition to End Genocide

33 prominent figures, organizations call for release of photographer Abul Kalam

File photo of Rohingya photographer Abul Kalam Courtesy

This appeared in the Dhaka Tribune.

Abul Kalam was apprehended while taking photographs of buses departing the Kutupalong camps for Bhashan Char

Well-known Bangladeshi and international human rights figures, lawyers, academics, filmmakers, photographers, journalists and human rights organizations have called for the release of Rohingya photographer Abul Kalam. 

Thirty-three of them signed a press release and called upon the authorities to release Abul Kalam unconditionally and without further delay.

On Tuesday morning, Abul Kalam, an award-winning photographer and Rohingya refugee, set out to take photographs of buses departing the Kutupalong camps for Bhashan Char.

He was apprehended and then taken to the camp-in-charge in Camp 2W Block D5 of Kutupalong, and subsequently to the camp-in-charge of Kutupalong Registered Camp. He was reportedly beaten when he was apprehended, the press release says.

Abul Kalam was detained at the Kutupalong police barracks until late afternoon of Wednesday. 

Among the 33 signatories are: Dr CR Abrar, executive director of Dhaka University’s Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU); photojournalist Shahidul Alam; Barrister Sara Hossain, honorary executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST); Shireen Pervin Huq, coordinator, Standing with Rohingya Women and founder member of Naripokkho; Laetitia van den Assum, diplomatic expert and former Netherlands ambassador; and Simon Billenness of the International Campaign for the Rohingya, USA.

According to Bangladeshi law, a person in custody should be brought before the courts within 24 hours. This was not the case for Abul Kalam and, at the time of writing, he has been detained for more than 60 hours, the press statement says.

This is a clear violation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the directives of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court in Blast v Bangladesh (55 DLR 363), it further adds.

The relocation to Bhashan Char is a widely publicized program of the Bangladesh government. It is by no means a secret and has been extensively covered in the media, the statement says.

Abul Kalam, 35, has been a refugee himself for 28 years. He originally came from Borgozbil, Maungdaw, Myanmar. He is a prolific photographer and has documented refugee life in recent years. 

His images have appeared in many publications, and he recently won two prizes in the Rohingya Photography Competition.