A Bangladeshi photographer took a photo of a couple kissing in the rain. He was beaten up and fired by his colleagues

A 'twisted sense of morality cannot dictate an artist's work,' maintains Jibon Ahmed

Annie Gowen
Saturday 28 July 2018 23:15
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A viral photo of two lovers kissing in a monsoon downpour has sparked a debate about public morality in Bangladesh.

The image in question, posted by photojournalist Jibon Ahmed, was received positively by the couple – as well as by thousands of social media users. Within an hour, the photo had been shared 5,000 times.

However, just as many Bangladeshis feel the photo was indecent.

Bangladesh is a majority-Muslim country where extremism is deepening. Three conservative students at the University of Dhaka – where Mr Ahmed took the photograph – were suspended this month for allegedly assaulting two students for holding hands.

According to the Bangladesh News 18 website, one conservative blogger wrote: "Lovers are getting more audacious by the day. Earlier these things were done in secret. Now they are doing it in broad daylight. The day is not far when they will be making love in public."

Mr Ahmed said he would not tolerate this type of moral policing, telling the website that a "twisted sense of morality cannot dictate an artist's work."

He said in an interview with The Washington Post that seeing the couple "lip kissing" in the rain filled him with delight.

Mr Ahmed also told the Post he was disappointed when his editors decided not to run the photo, saying it would prompt a negative response.

Bangladesh attack raises security questions

"I said, no, you cannot portray this photo negatively, because I found it a symbol of pure love," said Mr Ahmed.

The next day, he said, some of his fellow photographers roughed him up, and on Wednesday, his boss asked him to turn in his ID and laptop, without giving him a reason.

But his editor said that when Mr Ahmed told his employers about the attack, they supported him and vowed to take legal action.

"The attack was not related to the professional duties. These attacks were the result of his personal transactions," Khujista Nur-e-Naharin, editor of the news portal Purboposhchimbd, claimed in an email to The Post.

The editor said Mr Ahmed did not come to a meeting to discuss the attack further and has been "absent from office from 24th July."

"Everyone at the editorial level congratulates him for taking this picture," the editor wrote.

Mr Ahmed added he was "disheartened" at how the matter was handled.

"The couple had a spontaneous lip kiss; I found nothing wrong in them or no obscenity," Ahmed said. "Of course I am disheartened. Some people in our country became educated only in papers, but they are not educated in a real sense. They failed to realise the underlying meaning of my photograph. I am also a bit worried about myself."

The Washington Post

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