In the Light of a Far-Away World:

the Bangladeshi Struggle in Rome


Chosen as Photo of the Day, October 11, 2012, in American Fotovisura magazine

Selected in Fotografia Festival Internazionale di Roma 2009, Dimensione Massima  10x12 project, Rome, Italy, 2009
                                                                                                                                              Under an almost complete news-media silence, in January 2008 a different season of a political struggle in Rome started by the Bangladeshi community. Unique among the others foreign communities, Bangladeshi came out after various demonstrations with five days and nights of a big Hunger and Thirst Strike, attended by hundreds and hundreds of Bangladeshi in famous San Giovanni in Laterano's square. The goal: getting attention about immigrants conditions in Rome and Italy, often here with no Visa but working hardly anyway, and at same time easily at risk of expulsion by the –in that years- harsh Italian law about immigration of Center-Right party government (Bossi-Fini's law of 2002).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Leaded by the small but dynamic Dhuumcatu association of Rome, the Bangladeshi went out in a burning political moment in Italy and Europe in general, but with the motto: "this is a fight for dignity and democracy", as written in one association's statement during the Strike. From a beautiful, proud country but constantly plagued by natural disasters (as right in that previous summer), and one of the most populated but poor in the World, they looked first to the right to stay legally in Italy, with a Visa which permits jobs under better contract conditions. Many other political actions followed then the Strike: sit-ins, demonstrations, ‘squat’ of abandoned building, in protest about another chapter of the struggle: the right for a home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I was living at that time not far from the Dhuumcatu center, and I was told of the Strike by some Bangladeshi friends I used to work with. Touched by the demonstration's not-violent spirit and by their brave character, they were linked in my eyes with 2005 French banlieues events (when in suburbs of many cities of France started various immigrants, or youngs from immigrant families, riots) and then with the similar 2011 London facts in Tottenham. If in the past century it was the old Working Class fighting for their rights in Europe, today (also in these years where immigration issues are about new dramatic topics and caueas), they are the new Europeans, denouncing their own condition. Despite the media silence, one result arrives later the Strike: a special Temporary Humanitarian Residence Permit by the Ministry of Interior of Italy for all the many Bangladeshi in Rome already waiting for that. A police receipt is the victory. It stops the immigrants expulsion for one year, but it is not a full permit. Battle, not war, has been won.


 The Nobel prize Bangladeshi poet Rabindranath Tagore in one of his poems from 'The Fugitive' (1921) writes: "I think I shall stop startled if ever we meet after our next birth, walking in the light of a far-away world..". He spoke about the girl he loved. But he makes me think about his people too, met again and fighting under the light of a far-away continent.