© Shahidul Alam
Six years ago this week, the Bangladesh government formed the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to crack down on criminals. Human rights organizations report that RAB has killed more than 1,000 citizens. “Crossfire,” a new photo exhibition by Shahidul Alam that opened in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 22, examines sites where the extrajudicial killings took place, often before dawn.
I decided that all the photographs would be taken when most of the killings had taken place,” Alam told PDN in an interview. “Since there were many references to the flashlights that RAB used … I decided to use a torch as the primary source of light for all the images. This also allowed me to carefully position the light to work with available light. Most of the images involved long exposures. The feelings I hoped people would go away with were fear, foreboding, but also a sense of belonging. A sense that this was a scary manifestation of places and things that were familiar.”
Police tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the exhibition’s opening on Monday. “I believe the only space for a journalist is at the edge, and it is only when you are feeling the heat that you can hope to be effective, so yes, there is an element of fear, both for me and for my colleagues, and I have discussed it with my colleagues,” Alam told PDN. “My colleagues have asked me to stop cycling and be driven to places, but I found that too restrictive, but am being careful when I’m moving about.”
More on “Crossfire” and the history of the RAB can be found on Shahidul Alam’s web site: www.shahidulnews.com/crossfire/