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Photograph © AM Ahad

Demonstration against women's rights legislation, Kanchpur, Bangladesh - A.M. Ahad, 2011

1 February 2012

When a number of Islamic political groups staged a nationwide strike in Bangladesh to protest against government approval of women’s rights legislation in April 2011, my job as a photojournalist was to produce a photograph that illustrated the division in society.

On the day of the strike I heard that demonstrators had blocked a junction on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway at Kanchpur, where there are several Madrassas – educational institutes linked to the Islamic political organizations. I went to investigate.

When I arrived the demonstrators were shouting and waving sticks and the police and Rapid Action Battalions (RAB) were already taking up their positions in preparation for clearing the road.

I was working for a newspaper, and newspapers like a single strong image to explain the story to their readers. After taking a few shots I stepped back to review my options and noticed the billboard with the independent woman on her bicycle. I realised that if I could get myself in a position where the poster of the liberated woman was behind the demonstrators, then my photographs could explain visually what the demonstration was all about.

As a group of protesters surged towards the billboard, I ran in front of them and managed to fire off three frames at 1/800 second on my NIKON D700.

I planned to take more pictures, but there was no chance as the police and RAB were moving in fast, causing the protesters to run for safety. I did get pictures of the police action, but this photograph of Islamic protesters demonstrating against women’s rights legislation in front of a billboard of a modern Bangladeshi woman, illustrates Bangladesh in the twenty-first century better than any other photograph I took in Kanchpur that day.

A.M. Ahad works as a freelance photojournalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After graduating in Media Studies and Journalism at Stamford University, Bangladesh, Ahad began contributing work to The Daily Sun, The Daily New Nation and The Shokaler Khobor. He has also worked for the news photo agency DrikNEWS. In 2010 he won a prize in the IUCN’s Biodiversity In Focus environmental photography competition. He has participated in photo workshops and training in Bangladesh, and recently participated in the sixth Angkor workshop in Cambodia, and the first Master Class on Asia organized by Streem Photo Asia.

Photographer since 2006, EPUK member since 2012.

See more work by A.M. Ahad

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