81 int'l personalities demand release of Shahidul

Joseph Stiglitz, Binayak Sen, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and other write an open letter

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:05, Aug 21,2018 | Updated: 23:55, Aug 20,2018


A file photo shows, acclaimed photographer and activist Shahidul Alam waves to people after police take him to a Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court. — Sony Ramany

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Indian scholars Binayak Sen, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and 78 international personalities in an open letter on Monday demanded release of acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam.
In the open letter they condemned the arbitrary arrest and unjust treatment of Shahidul Alam in serious breach of human rights.
Shahidul Alam, 63, was picked up by plainclothes police from his home on August 5 after he spoke about the recent school children’s protests in an interview with Al Jazeera.
The arbitrary police action against Shahidul Alam took also after he documented school children’s demonstrations demanding safe roads and discussed the matter on Facebook Live.
Shahidul Alam was interrogated in remand by the Detective Branch for seven days and later a magistrate in the capital on August 12 sent Shahidul Alam to jail after he was produced before him.
His arbitrary arrest outraged the world community said the open letter which demanded the action must be rectified immediately.
This arrest is in ‘serious breach’ of conventions of international human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international covenant on civil and political rights, and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the letter says.
‘Shahidul Alam’s arrest must be seen in the context of the ‘ongoing commission of illegal and violent acts perpetrated against demonstrators’ by the government and its extra-governmental actors’.
‘These acts include the use of rubber bullets fired indiscriminatingly into crowds, alleged rapes, and killings’.
The Unicef and the Amnesty International issued statements condemning this, and others will surely follow suit, said the letter.
‘A free press is a fundamental and essential element of all democracies. Its repression cannot be taken as anything but the efforts of authoritarian regimes to deny the world insight into its operations and policies. The attack on Alam at once brutalises this person and destroys the right to a free press. We condemn his unjust treatment unequivocally,’ says the letter.
The signatories are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Singapore, India and Nepal.
The signatories of the letter include economics Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, People’s Civil Liberties Union’s national vice president of India Binayak Sen, University professor of Columbia University Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, professor emerita, history of consciousness and feminist studies, University of California Angela Y Davis and Professor, Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Tata Institute for Social Studies, Mumbai Ilina Sen
It also included Maxine Elliot professor, University of California, Berkeley Judith Butler, Louise Hewlett Nixon professor, Stanford University David Palumbo-Liu, writers Antjie Krog and Gioconda Belli, Photothek des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz- Max-Planck-Institut director Costanza Caraffa, Akkash: Center for Photography, Abu Dhabi director Shamoon Zamir, Illinois State University history professor Nassar Issam, Columbia University anthropology professor Rosalind C Morris and independent academic of United Kingdom Shapan Adnan.
Shahidul Alam’s arrest drew world-wide condemnation by 10 Nobel laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tawakkol Karman, Malread Maguire, Betty Williams, Oscar Arias, Sir Richard J Roberts, Jose Ramos Horta, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, and Muhammad Yunus.
His arrest was also condemned by American philosopher Noam Chomsky, Indian writer Arundhati Roy, Canadian author Naomi Klein and Indian intellectual Vijay Prasad and several hundred nationally and internationally acclaimed personalities, rights activists and three UN human right experts.
Shahidul is a recipient of multiple awards, including Shilpakala Padak (2014); the Lucie Foundation announced in 2018 that he would be receiving the distinguished Humanitarian Award 2018.
Shahidul is a photographer, academic, human rights activist, and founder of Drik Picture Library and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute which has trained hundreds of photographers.
The Chobi Mela photo festival, which he started in 1999, brings photographers from around the world to Bangladesh.

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