On Monday, a young Bangladeshi photographer, Jibon Ahmed, posted a picture of a couple kissing gently as a monsoon shower hit. The location is Dhaka University and behind the couple seemingly in love, people go about their business. A man checks his phone under an umbrella and a couple of tea vendors remain busy.
Ahmed posted the picture with the caption, “This is a poem of the blessed rains, let love be free.” The photo immediately went viral. Some people appreciated it for the beauty it conveyed, others assigned to it a political sentiment, which is always close at hand in a country where secular Bengali nationalism and Islamism have long battled each other, and bitterly.
Soon, however, the matter jumped from the internet into the real world. Barely hours after he had posted the photo, Ahmed was assaulted by other photographers at Dhaka University. Some reports on social media claim Ahmed has been fired from his job as a photojournalist with a news website.
The attack on Ahmed sparked outrage. Fahima Durrat, a professor at Dhaka University, wrote that only people “who are used to molestation feel ill when seeing a photo of love or friendship”.
Memes have since appeared, pointing out the hypocrisy of attacking a sign of love in a country with so many problems.
This is not the first time Ahmed has taken on Bangladesh’s Islamists. In 2015, he photographed the murderous attack on Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger Avijit Roy and then helped Roy and his wife reach the hospital. The bloodied photo of Roy’s wife pleading for help from the crowd bought global attention to the targeting of freethinkers and rationalists in Bangladesh.