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British Cultural Figures Call for Release of Photographer and Educator Shahidul Alam

Above: Renowned Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam (front third from left), 63, is seen in a hospital in Dhaka on August 8, 2018. Photo courtesy AFP/Getty Images.
Above: Renowned Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam (front third from left), 63, is seen in a hospital in Dhaka on August 8, 2018. Photo courtesy AFP/Getty Images.

LONDON, ENGLAND—Prominent cultural figures in the United Kingdom have signed an open letter demanding the release of Shahidul Alam, the Bangladeshi photographer, educator, and human rights activist detained since August 6 by Bangladeshi authorities after criticizing the government’s response to student protests. Signatories to the letter include artists Lubaina Himid, Mark Wallinger, Anish Kapoor, and the collective Assemble, as well as curators and directors of British cultural institutions, such as Iwona Blazwick of Whitechapel Gallery and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of Serpentine Gallery, Ben Davis reports for Artnet News.

The letter was organized Sofia Karim, Alam’s niece and UK-based architect, following a similar statement issued by Indian photographers condemning Alam’s imprisonment. The letter was also posted to the Free Shahidul Facebook page.

“Dr. Alam’s entire career has been devoted to combatting abuse of power. As a curator, artists, and photographer, he has used images as the vehicle for decades of fearless truth-telling about subjects that include the genocide of the 1971 War of Liberation, the employment of state death squads, and the plight of the Rohingya refugees,” the letter states. “As the founder of picture agencies Drik and Majority World, and the photography school Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dr. Alam has also pioneered the wider practice of photo reportage in the region.”

“We now add our voices to the hundreds of other from Nobel Laureates to Dr. Alam’s own photography students, who in the last weeks have called for his immediate and unconditional release. We also urge the Bangladesh government to respect the right to freedom of speech and expression for all citizens and to release call other prisoners detained on similar grounds.”

The letter and list of signatories can be found, in full, here. Protests and vigils are planned in London and New York on Friday, September 7.

September 4, 2018