In 2019, Doha Debates teamed up with Fortify Rights to equip and support these three talented photographers and give the world an inside look at the lives within the world’s largest refugee camp. Omal Khair dreamed of becoming a professional photographer – a forbidden occupation in her indigenous homeland. Azimul Hasson used to study and play football back at home, and he still dreams of pursuing higher education there. Dil Kayas is a mother of three. Like Omal, she harbored a passion for photography, but the Myanmar government denied her the right to pursue it. These three Rohingya photographers are talented, creative and hard-working and this exhibition celebrates their vital and ongoing storytelling. The photographers kindly ask for your support by following them on Instagram, and continuing to see the stories of Rohingya lives. @Omalkha; @Dilkayas, @AzimulHass.
A Chance To Breathe presents the remarkable photographs of Omal Khair, Dil Kayas and Azimul Hasson, who have been documenting their lives and those in their Rohingya refugee community living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh since 2018. By telling visual stories of life, resilience and hope, their photographs help reframe the prevailing narratives of violence, death and victimhood that often describe Rohingya refugees’ experiences.
“ I'm a mighty tiger / My happiness is in the jungle / But I'm locked in the zoo / without freedom / I'm a clever fox / My happiness is at night / I'm waiting for the darkness of night / I hide in the den ”
“ I'm a little bird with wings / My happiness is flying in the air / But I'm in the cage, still struggling / to go out to fly / I'm a perfect human being / My happiness is like the others / But I was born to suffer / Like you, give me a chance to breathe ”
“ O' refugee life / Homeless life in a foreign country / Abundant in all kinds of troubles / Donations are not enough / Having meals with only drinking water, without curry / I don't enjoy living and not getting enough sleep / In the makeshift huts / No job, no money ”
“ It's uncertain when to return home / Homeowners are also worried / They watch us with hatred / And they come to find fault / O' Lord! / We Rohingyas / No kitchen utensil, no house, no dignity / Stateless life / How long do we have to live in another country? ”
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
The Myanmar government passed a discriminatory law in 1982 to deny the Rohingya people access to citizenship and the rights that come with it. To this day, the Myanmar military and its henchmen confine upwards of half a million Rohingya to their impoverished villages, denying them freedom of movement, access to health, education and livelihoods. Beyond those effectively trapped in their villages, at least 125,000 other Rohingya are, at the time of writing, detained in upwards of 20 modern-day concentration camps located in five townships in Rakhine State. The Rohingya people suffered the worst attacks in 2016 and 2017, when the Myanmar military planned and carried out horrendous “clearance operations” against them. In the span of just a few weeks, soldiers slit throats, raped, and killed their way through Rohingya territories, forcing more than 700,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The refugee camps in Bangladesh are more than a massive tent-city of victims, and through the photographs shown here, you will see the lived experience of Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar through Rohingya lenses.
The Media Fellowships
Omal Khair, Dil Kayas and Azimul Hasson are inaugural graduates of a Media Fellowship supported by Fortify Rights and Doha Debates. They were equipped with mobile phones and trained in photography and Instagram, and they have since been documenting Rohingya lives in the world’s largest refugee camp. As working photographers, Tasweer is extending their Media Fellowship during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, when Omal Khair, Dil Kayas and Azimul Hasson will be photographing Rohingya fashion portraits, creating new work that is in conversation with their exhibition partners, Doha Fashion Fridays. Their photographs will be presented in a pop-up display at M7 and on the Media Fellows’ Instagram accounts during Tasweer 2023. Doha Debates, Fortify Rights and Tasweer are committed to continue the model of the Media Fellowships, working with talented photographers in communities refugee communities.
Through live events and debates, short films and podcasts, Doha Debates strives to elevate and amplify the voices of those most affected by the world’s greatest challenges. Their ethos centres on the belief that positive, meaningful change only happens when we make room to listen to diverse viewpoints and challenge ourselves to see the world through other peoples’ eyes. War and conflict marginalize many voices, leaving communities too focused on their own survival to take part in global discussions. But we must include these voices in order to meaningfully advance toward peace and justice.
Fortify Rights is an award-winning human rights organization that works to ensure human rights for all. It bring laws, policies, and practices in line with human rights standards by combining three commonly separate strategies of the international human rights movement: (1) investigating human rights violations; (2) engaging people with power on potential solutions; and (3) strengthening human rights defenders and communities through technical support. Fortify Rights work has exposed genocide and mass atrocity crimes, ensured justice for survivors of human trafficking, prevented the arbitrary detention and forced return of refugees, and improved protections for at-risk human rights defenders.
FotoEvidence, publisher of the A Chance To Breathe book is a platform for documentary photographers whose work focuses on human rights and social justice. FotoEvidence books focus on the most pressing social and environmental justice issues of our time—from genocide to global warming. They are published to inspire social change, to expose injustice, to create enduring evidence and call for accountability.
“ Till the end of the world, Myanmar! / Since she is the true inheritance / from our forefathers / we love and value her / We will fight / and give our lives for the union / This is the country / and land of our own / For her prosperity / we will responsibly shoulder the task / Standing as one in duty / to our precious land ”