GMB Akash Captures The Most Powerful And Painful Images Of Rohingya Refugees So Far
- IWB Post
- June 20, 2019
Some time back, we spoke to multimedia journalist GMB Akash from Bangladesh, discussing his award-winning project ‘Heroes of Life,’ through which he introduced the world to the beauty of the LGBTQ community, the vulnerability of the oppressed classes, and the dilemma of the women who are forced into prostitution due to poverty.
He told us, “I continue to knock at the door of every deprived soul I meet on my way. Everyone has a story, and some people have extraordinary stories. I pour my heart and soul to bring out those extraordinary chapters of human life from those people who are very ordinary to the world.”
The artist who’s worked for publications like National Geographic, Vogue, Time, The Guardian, and Marie Claire among others, has now come up with another soul-stirring series called ‘Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,’ narrating nine painful stories of Rohingya refugees from his country.
Akash writes on his website, “Refugees didn’t just escape a place. They had to escape a thousand memories until they’d put enough time and distance between them and their misery to wake to a better day. There are about 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.”
Read some of these stories here:
The military came and burned our home. They burned everything. They killed my son, and I lost my husband as we were fleeing. I came alone, traveling with others leaving their villages.
For the last seven days, I have been walking day and night. I’m not able to move any longer. I am so tired, so exhausted! I have eaten nothing for the past two days, only drinking pond water.
We lost everything in Myanmar. I had gold and jewelry. We had domestic animals – six cows and 10 goats. We had lots of chickens, but they were all burned when the military set fire to our house. I miss my son, my husband, our house, our animals, and the lives we had together. I have many wonderful memories.
If peace can be restored to Myanmar, and we can be safe and secure, my people will return.
My son, Sahed, continuously cries for milk, but I’m not able to breastfeed him. I have not eaten anything for three days. There is nothing coming from my breasts. I have survived only by drinking water from the roadside ponds.
I delivered my only child in the jungle three days ago. My contraction pains started while fleeing from our house. Shouting from the pain, I collapsed on the roadside. Three women who were also running came forward to help me. They covered me with banana leaves and helped me give birth to my baby.
For the past two days, we have been sitting in a rough, muddy road that runs through a rice field. We become wet from the rain and dry by the hot sun of the day. There are children and old people everywhere, screaming for food and water. There is nothing to eat. We’ve slept under the open sky for the last nine nights.
When our house was burned to ashes by the Myanmar military, I walked mile after mile with my nine-month pregnancy. Everything we carried was taken from us for the river crossing to Bangladesh. I lost track of my husband, Abdul Noor, when we fled. I have no idea if he is alive or not. Maybe he has already been killed by the Myanmar army, and my son has already lost his father; just like he has lost his country.
For the last seven days, I have been moving with my children from one place to another. I was not able to feed them. Without food and water, they became ill and collapsed. Sometimes along the way, people would throw biscuits, but among such a crowd I was not able to catch them.
My son has had a fever for the last two nights. Before the fever, he cried continuously, but now he neither cries nor opens his eyes.
It rained heavily in the night. We were soaking wet. We had to sit in the water all night long. This is no place to be.
If you want to learn Akash’s trick to capture human lives in such a peculiar manner, here’s his answer – “The person I will be photographing isn’t just a subject. They have their say; they have their emotions. Their consent is equally important to allow me to be their storyteller. I never take out my camera at the beginning. Time is the most precious thing of all to build relationships, and it works silently. Time helps to take away anxiety, fill up gaps, and bring validation. I would say that I am an excellent listener.”
Beautiful man, beautiful work. Agree?
[The stories were first featured on GMB Akash’s website. To read all nine of them, head to his website.]