When Jibon Ahmed posted a photograph on his Facebook page of two lovers kissing in monsoon rain on the steps of the Dhaka University campus he opened a can of worms in the Muslim-majority country.
After the photo, captioned “Songs of rains – let love be free”, went viral, conservative Muslims blasted Ahmed for promoting “indecency” – and he was “roughed up” by fellow photographers working for the Purboposhchimbd news portal, which later sacked him.
According to this report, Jibon Ahmed was deemed “not fit” to work for the company because of doubts about whether the image was staged.
Ahmed protested his innocence, insisted he has proof the image was spontaneous and said he has been roughed up by other photographers because of the image.
In a Facebook post, Ahmed said he had been “exposed to unwanted cruelty” due to the “powerful” photo.
I never ever believed that one click would create so many stories. Today due to this photo, the social and mainstream media are flooded with false and true stories about me.
Ahmed — who captured the harrowing aftermath of an attack on a Bangladesh-born US writer hacked to death by Islamist extremists on the Dhaka campus three years ago – said other photographers confronted him over the kiss image.
They asked me why did I shoot the photo. One of them slapped me during the quarrel. I said it was a symbol of pure love.
After publishing the photo, Purboposhchimbd later wrote an article saying it believed the photo was “pre-planned” and the photographer had “apologised”.
The editor, Khujista Nur-e-Naharin, said the company asked Ahmed to take legal action against the photographers who allegedly beat him but he did not turn up for a meeting to discuss the issue.
We have asked him many times to come and explain why he was roughed up and why he had said sorry to the photographers and whether models were used for the photo. He did not communicate with me. He dented our honour.
Ahmed, who said he was sacked, rejected the employer’s criticism, and insisted he has proof that that the image was “natural”. He said his conscience would not let him sue his fellow journalists.
The couple in the photo have not made any public comment.
One conservative blogger, according to this report, 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.
Ahmed said he would not tolerate this type of moral policing, saying 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.
Ahmed also told the Post he was disappointed when his editors decided not to run the photo, saying it would prompt a negative response.
I said, no, you cannot portray this photo negatively, because I found it a symbol of pure love.
The couple had a spontaneous lip kiss; I found nothing wrong in them or no obscenity. 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.