Poster of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, founding father of Bangladesh & father of current Prime Minister
“We are extremely mournful for this black night. We esteem the great heroes who died for our country and saved all happiness by giving blood on the street. Happy Independence Day.”
—Text message received from a friend moments after I made this exposure
This years official Independence Day ceremonies were cancelled, the first time in the country’s history, because of what happened on Feburary 25th. I was in Old Dhaka and saw a larger number of security forces present. The only other thing I noticed that was different were the bull horns strung up on utility poles blasting patriotic speeches (pre-recorded?) with what sounded like the national athem in the background.
Women in Dhaka wait in line to cast their vote, Dhaka
Postscript: Having been here barely five months it can get complicated understanding the mindset of people in another culture. I was very cynical seeing absolutely no alternative between the two candidates but after talking with friends these past few days my opinion has shifted. I didn’t quite realize the historical significance of the elections. Bangladeshi’s have experienced so much turmoil , corruption and political unrest since their independence in 1971. The fact that Sheik Hasina and her constituents won by such a large margin gives people tremendous hope. It’s a fragile situation and things can ignite at any time but the important thing was that the people kept their cool and a credible election took place. It’s a first step.
The people of Bangladesh have waited seven years to vote for their next Prime Minister. The mood in my neighborhood- and all over the city was very up beat and festive. Everything was very well organized as people patiently waited in long lines to cast their votes. One third of the people at the polls are first time voters. Part of the reason for the jubilation is a return to democracy following a two year period of a “caretaker” government.
Jamaat-e-Islami Party Rally, Kurigram
After close to two years of a military-backed interim government, the state of emergency was lifted last week and elections are due to take place on December 29th. During the past few days there have been lively demonstrations and rallies throughout the country but hardly any coverage from the western press. Better to take a look over at The Third World View, an excellent blog by Rezwan, a Bangladeshi living in Berlin.