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  • Anwar Ehtesham

ECHOES OF EXILE: STORIES FROM GENEVA CAMP'S HEART

WRITTEN BY ANWAR EHTESHAM


The Geneva Camp, also called Bihari Camp, bears historical and cultural weight. The Biharis, labeled "Stranded Pakistanis," migrated from India to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) after the 1947 partition. When Bangladesh sought independence from West Pakistan (now Pakistan) in 1971, the Biharis faced violence due to their perceived loyalty, leading many to take refuge in Geneva Camp.


Conditions in these camps were tough, marked by overcrowding and limited resources. Despite challenges, the Bihari community retained their cultural identity and Urdu language, grappling with citizenship and integration issues.


In the aftermath of independence, the door to return to Pakistan remained closed, resulting in the Bihari community's prolonged stay in refugee camps. As time passed, they encountered challenges spanning citizenship, education, employment, and healthcare. The Geneva Camp became a powerful symbol of their ongoing struggles.


In the scope of my photo documentary, I place a strong emphasis on portraying the intricacies of their daily lives, shedding light on the conditions they inhabit day to day, and delving into the diverse range of professions they engage in to make their livelihoods.


However, a particularly noteworthy aspect of my project centers around casting a spotlight on the children residing within the camp. These young individuals, who are the children of Bihari parents yet born as citizens of Bangladesh, hold a unique position that intricately weaves together their historical background and their present circumstances.

By focusing on these children, I aim to provide a multifaceted and comprehensive narrative that captures the essence of their experiences and the broader context of their lives within the camp.


Geneva refugee camp in Bangladesh

In the shadows of the Geneva refugee camp, a moving scene unfolds: a grandfather tenderly holds his newborn grandson. Both gaze into the distance, their expressions mirroring a mixture of reflection and determination. The grandfather's story traces back to his journey as a refugee from Bangladesh, seeking refuge and opportunity. Now, as he cradles his grandson, who is a citizen by birth, their bond transcends generations, bridging their shared heritage and lived experiences. Despite the trials they've encountered, their resilience radiates through this moment. Together, they epitomize hope and perseverance, a testament to the indomitable human spirit amidst adversity.



Refugee kid in Bangladesh

In the dim confines of the narrow alley, a lone boy stands, bathed in a soft glow from a small opening where slivers of sky peek through. Confined to the camp, his childhood has unfolded within these shadowed walls. As he gazes upwards, his eyes betray a longing, a yearning for a world beyond the constraints of his current reality. Lost in thought, his blank stare hints at dreams of freedom and a future yet to be realized. In this fleeting moment, in the darkness, his spirit reaches for the boundless expanse of the sky above.



Refugee camp in Bangladesh

Within the confines of the Geneva camp, where opportunities for formal employment are scarce, the residents have ingeniously turned to various trades to sustain themselves. Among these endeavors, the art of cooking traditional Pakistani dishes has emerged as a livelihood for many. In the heart of the camp, a refugee is captured in the midst of preparing a large bowl of fragrant biryani, a culinary delight that resonates with the flavors of their homeland. The aroma of spices fills the air as the bubbling pot symbolizes resilience amidst adversity, offering not just sustenance but also a connection to their cultural roots. Through these humble yet flavorful offerings, the refugees carve out a semblance of home in their unfamiliar surroundings, sharing a taste of their heritage with those both within and beyond the camp's borders.



Refugee camp in Bangladesh

In the refugee camp, where formal education is a distant dream for many, a heartening scene unfolds. A young girl sits outside her dimly lit shelter, immersed in self-guided study. With no electricity, she positions herself by the doorway, where daylight offers just enough illumination for her textbook. Despite the stifling heat, she remains focused, clad in half pants for relief. Her commitment to learning is unwavering, a beacon of hope amidst the challenges of her environment.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Khandaker Anwar Ehtesham

Khandaker Anwar Ehtesham, hailing from Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a self-taught enthusiast in the realms of street and documentary photography. His passionate drive to encapsulate profound moments led him to embark on this captivating photographic journey. It was in late 2019 when he acutely realized the imperative need to take action, prompting him to procure his very first camera.

Ehtesham's photographic vision orbits around the nuances of human emotions within diverse settings, where the environment significantly shapes behaviors.

The interplay between surroundings and mood holds a profound fascination for him. His artistic compositions predominantly revolve around the human element — a seamless fusion of spontaneous moments intertwined with their respective environments. This artistic odyssey stands as a heartfelt tribute to the profound relationship existing between humanity and the spaces they inhabit.


His photographic ventures have garnered recognition and prestigious publication in esteemed international photography magazines, including The Pictorial List, Spectaculum Magazine, ProgressivE-zine, F-Stop Magazine, Street Photography Magazine, The Daily Sun, The Business Standard, among several others. Beyond the realm of photography, Khandaker Anwar Ehtesham wears the hat of a marketing and communications specialist.



 

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Guest
May 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautifully done.

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Guest
May 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love the story as well the photos are so powerful. Good job mate!

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Guest
May 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

excellent!

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Guest
May 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you very much for featuring my photo story! Your support means a lot to me 😊. If anyone is interested in viewing more of my work, please visit my website at https://anwarehtesham.com.

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