Archive for the 'Violence' Category

From Riots to Aid: The Impact of the Social Lens

Nathan Kotylak - Water Polo All Star

Meet Nathan Kotylak. A few weeks ago Nathan was a rising star. He was the best water polo player in his school, he was training with the Canadian national water polo team, he earned a scholarship to one of Canada’s best universities, and he was on track to be one of Canada’s Olympic athletes in a few years time.

But that all changed in about the time it takes to make a tweet.

Continue reading ‘From Riots to Aid: The Impact of the Social Lens’

Why I Made a Video about “Eve Teasing”

My dad probably forgets saying this – but I never did. Years back, he confessed to me that one of the reasons he left Bangladesh and settled elsewhere is because he never wanted my mother to be mistreated. Until I heard what these women had to say, I never knew how real my dad’s concern was:

Eve teasing is a euphemism to describe forms of verbal and physical abuse by men against women. Verbally it can range from simple cat calls and overzealous wooing to really nasty and sexually explicit and derogatory comments. Physically it can range from grabbing a girl’s hand to groping and molesting them in public.

What got me is that – despite this being well known amongst aid and development professionals – no one has really done a decent job of covering this issue on YouTube or other “social media”. I don’t mean to say there aren’t videos with tons of views about this issue.

But most of what is online is usually G-rated re-enactments of eve teasing which make it seem like childish flirting. There are also heavy handed PSAs by police and local media which makes it seem like it’s being treated with prejudice and zero-tolerance… which would be nice but doesn’t reflect reality.

Despite all these videos online about eve teasing, I really didn’t find one where women could just talk about this problem and share their opinions. And it’s not like Bangladeshi women are a homogeneous group – as you can see in the video – there is a diversity of thought on this problem.

Right now, this video has about 3,500 views. That may not seem like much but that’s nearly twice the views that UNICEF was able to gather on this issue over the past eight months. Maybe this issue won’t go viral – but at least I could give this issue a slightly bigger platform than it had yesterday.

A Family Traumatized By Bangladesh

I am probably the last person in the world who should be trying to do a project in Bangladesh.

I realized this from talking to Mikey Leung – a fellow Canadian in Bangladesh. Like me, Mikey is here to try and make a difference in Bangladesh. He works for a charity, raises money for flood victims, and is working as an IT professional in Bangladesh. But, unlike me, he has no extended family in Bangladesh. For me, having family has made this project feasible – I don’t have to worry about spending money for a place to stay, I get great home cooked meals, and I can even bum a ride most of the time. But, more often than not – it means I’m restricted in where I can go and what I can do.

As a kid, I used to resent this overprotectiveness. As an adult, I now realize that this overprotectiveness comes from a family traumatized by their experience in Bangladesh…. Continue reading ‘A Family Traumatized By Bangladesh’

South Bend Couldn’t Be Farther Away

“We can’t discuss this over the phone” is something I’ve been hearing a lot lately while in Bangladesh. Whether it’s openly talking about the military government, the curfew they have imposed, or the riots that instigated the curfew – people are scared to even talk. I’ve been to Bangladesh many times before – but I’ve never seen people this scared before.

There have been riots, strikes, and curfews in the country before – but there are a few things which make this time different. First, there is no longer a democratically elected government. In the past, one political party topples another (either by force or political pressure) – elections usually follow. But what happens when you topple a military government? No one is really sure.

This time is also different because journalists and foreigners are being targeted. Typically, democratic political parties would want cameras rolling – hoping that the media will sympathize with them and vilify the enemy instead. But, now even the BBC isn’t even safe from being caught by the army. Local journalists haven’t been as lucky – with many being detained and reporting beatings (source).

No one seems to be safe from the government’s eye here. The government’s have accused democratic politicians, foreigners, NGOs, or simply “evil forces” as being responsible for the riots and as justification for continued curfews.

It’s times like this that I’d rather be in South Bend. Aren’t we playing against Georgia Tech this weekend?

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.