Lost Faces Lost Lives...
a male dominated world the manifestation of hierarchy is
found in its many different, at times disturbing, shades.
But when the unrestraint advances of the male is obstructed
or being ignored, the male responses with such vengefulness
that it even put his fellow man to shame. Acid throwing
is one such act of the male that over the years has turned
into a social scourge, which plainly reveals the measure
of cruelty to which a male can resort.
In our social milieu, the ground for this kind of extreme
form of offence is stoked by the way we look at women. We
live in a country where many forms of afflictions suffered
by women are categorically ignored. Here it is not only
interconnected with sexism but also with a definite power
structure that promotes oppression as a means to keep the
women folk in submission based on a certain kind of false
theology that thrived under the cloak of religion that perpetuates
the myth of women being easy prey to shaitan (evil). Keeping
this context in mind, if one only adds the brew of the total
political and social chaos and vandalism in the grip of
which we as a nation find ourselves, we are able to see
the consequences in myriads of social maladies born out
of perverse assertion of maleness. One of the most hateful
ones is certainly acid throwing.
Photographer Anisur Rahman felt the need of addressing this
heinous crime. It was a visit to the burn unit of Dhaka
medical College that sparred him to start recording the
victims of a social atrocity that makes us all think twice
about the well-being of the society we live in.
Anisur has been the staff photojournalist for the Daily
Star since its inception. He writes in the brochure of the
show that the idea of this exhibition occurred to him the
day he saw the poor victims in dire conditions. He was moved
when he found that there were victims who were unable to
pay for their treatment. From that day on his mind was made
up that in future he would do something for the victims.
This is the event that he envisaged and, now that the idea
has materialised with the help of City Bank, who sponsored
the show, he has accomplished a part of his dream.
This show is the record that Anisur kept not only of the
victims, but also the rehabilitation work encompassing activism
to raise awareness among the people to struggle to get back
to the mainstream life. The works that this man has produced
during the last four years is displayed in the seminar of
the Press Club.
Primarily, Anisur wanted to provide a glimpse of what becomes
of the women who remains, in many respect, always at the
receiving end. As women they fell prey to vicious perpetrators,
as victims they are seen as helpless creatures. The pity
with which they are treated also is one element that does
nothing but harm. Secondly, Anisur's photos chart the struggle
that they put in to retract to the mainstream life that
they all lost.
The world revolves around able-bodied, physically attractive
humans ready to be engulfed in the whirlpool that we named
society. Where fair skin and beauty is given priority, and
where even a woman with dark skin is seen as second grader
as candidate for social status even in the lower middle
class domain, the women who lost their faces to acid burn
is sure to provoke a negative attitude. Anisur wanted to
show that with effort the social condition could also be
changed. He showed a keen interest in depicting how with
the help of Acid Survival foundation and different women
organisations the victims are endeavouring to change the
This show stemmed from the idea to raise fund for the affected.
The photographer recalls an incident which incite him to
decide on this venture. “Four years ago I was confronted
by a patient who gave me TK 30 and a slip while asking to
fetch him medicines. But I later found out that the cost
of the medicine he needed was valued around TK 400. I decided
to do something for them.
As a photographer Anisur combined his intention to raise
money with his willingness to send a message to the Dhakaites.
His show titled “No More Acid Victims” raised TK 60,000,
which he has donated to the DMCH. And it also drew the crowed
to the press club where he held this two-day long exhibition
that started on the morning of July 4, 2003.
Among the photographs that were put on display, there was
one of the first highly publicised case of Majida. She fell
victim to her ruthless husband. Her husband was pressing
her for dowry, and she was unable to acquiesce, and this
led to acid throwing that had impaired the women for life.
Anisur Rahman has brought into view many other victims and
their struggle to live a normal life. The EPZ garment worker
named Nupur rejected the advances of a suitor that turned
her life upside down. This incident is all too familiar
to us. We have been hearing about this kind of incident
repeatedly. Stories of suitors resorting to villainous acts
after being refused or ignored by the girl abound in the
lower income stratum of our society.
What seems most alarming that the rage of the male has led
him to such extremes that the babies were not even spared.
In quite a few pictures, acid-burned babies are shown. They
were either in the lap of their mother while the criminal
resorted to acid throwing, or were handpicked as victims
to take the anger out on them, to set scores with the parents.
There is one picture in this show of a mother and her child
with their fresh burns that forces the onlookers to avert
their gaze. Certainly the acid burn cases, even after recovery,
presented in rows of photos is not a subject a human with
a timid soul would be able to stomach. Yet there are few
pictures that surely make even the most strong-hearted one
to wonder about what sort of human has this ability to inflict
such brutal a blow to another fellow human being.
Faces and bodies that bear the signs of an extreme form
of crime, are not sights that one may look at the way he
or she as a viewer usually looks at all the other genre
of photography. Document of this sort is sure to jolt the
eye of the majority. But Anisur's works have their definite
functions. They are a record of a social scourge.
The photographer believes that these pictures heighten the
awareness about the sufferings of others. Empathy is the
keynote inspiration behind this amassing of photographs
that openly shows wounds and scars. They are not there to
intimidate but to mediate to the public on behalf of the
sufferers; to annex them to the world of the struggling
women. Otherwise these very people may have been unaware
of the struggle that these women put in to go on living
as normal humans. And, most importantly, this show would
be instrumental in rousing the public who might be inspired
to lend a hand.
Anisur has added to his oeuvre one anomalous picture of
two teen-aged boys caught red-handed while trying to throw
acid on a girl who was a garment worker. This particular
picture is incriminating enough, the evidence against the
perpetrators is recorded for the future.
Had Anisur Rahman made an effort to add a series of portraits
of the criminals providing an index stating their crime
and status --- delineating whether they all were tried and
handed down the penalty that they disserved or whether they
were even captured in the first place --- it would have
brought into the light an untold though a seamy aspect of
the atrocity like acid throwing. It is impossible for one
man to cover a wide range of cases, but a few might have
added to the show a legal dimension.