Riots, Curfew, Media Blackouts – Oh my!

Bangladesh Curfew - Rush To Get Home

There is no universal language like the language of a man holding a gun. Even though I don’t speak the local language very well, I knew exactly what the man in military fatigues was telling me as he pointed to my empty camera bag with one hand and holding his AK-47 in the other. My camera promptly returned to its bag and I was allowed to leave….

After riots broke out in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the military government imposed a curfew: 8 pm. The photo above was taken with less than an hour before curfew. Those that were not home already were walking, taking rickshaws, and driving to get home before the military clamped down. Perhaps to keep people from organizing or maybe to stop them from finding out just how bad things are – cellphone lines have all been shut down. The local media has also been instructed to no longer discuss the current situation. Foreign media is also having a tough time reporting as their welcome here will be no more warm than when I tried to photograph some of this.

The BBC has done a good job of reporting the situation in Dhaka. But after the cars have stopped burning, after the protesters have gone home, and after the reason for the riot has long been forgotten – the real damage will remain. It’s instability like this that makes Bangladesh a hard place to work, live, and invest. As the curfew was announced, store owners were left scrambling to close early. Wage labourers have lost out on full day’s labour. Goods that were to be exported remain in warehouses. The service industry, a growing industry here in Bangladesh, shuts down as waiters, barbers, rickshaw drivers, and cooks all rush home to avoid trouble.

Economic hardship maybe a reason this riot started – but it’s riots that keep the promise of prosperity out of reach.

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