Search
  • Documentary Filmmaker
  • MAYALOK Filmproduktion
Search Menu

Death on purpose

After a factory building in Bangladesh collapsed and buried several thousand people, the filmmaker Shaheen Dill-Riaz watched the catastrophe unfold from far-away Berlin. He was not able to stand the sight and boarded a plane for his native country. He shared his experience with SPIEGEL ONLINE.

“Yes, it’s me. But don’t worry, I am still alive” said Kutti on the other end of the line. “It’s nice of you to get in touch again. If the garment factory hadn’t collapsed you probably wouldn’t have called.”

She was referring to the collapse of the factory on April 24 that cost the lives of over a thousand people: “Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d been at that factory too. The government is paying 700.000 Taka (ca. 7000 Euros) to every victim’s family. And the foreign companies are also paying. My death would have given my husband some means of existence. Our two children would have had a secure future. And maybe you could have shot another film, winning you a lot of prizes.”

Kutti laughed after her last sentence, as if she could see me and was enjoying the look on my face.

Kutti was one of the three protagonists portrayed in my 2003 film “The Happiest People”. At the time, she was working in a garment factory in Dhaka, just like the 3,000 women who were working in the five factories of the Rana Plaza high-rise that collapsed in Savar. Crammed into rooms situated between the third and eighth floors, they mostly produced clothing for western companies.

“They don’t even have a ladder”

I was in Berlin when the rescue work was underway in Savar, a small suburb of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. I sat in front of my computer, paralyzed by the steady stream of video clips, photos and comments posted by friends, photographers and journalists on Facebook and Twitter.

“Screw the pictures,” wrote one photographer. “All hands are needed here. We desperately need people to donate blood”. He and other photographers were among the first to make their way from Dhaka to Savar.

I felt the desperation in the text messages people were posting on the Internet via their mobile phones.

“How will we get through the concrete roof? It will take ages with hammers!” a boy posted from Savar.

“Get jackhammers, concrete saws“ someone from Finland replied.

“Where will we get this stuff here?” the boy wanted to know.

“The fire brigade has to have this kind of gear, goddammit!” someone else commented from South Africa.

“But they don’t. They don’t even have a ladder to get onto the roof!”

“My God, it’s taking forever to evacuate the casualties. They’ll bleed to death!” someone wrote from the scene of the accident.

“Take a roll of heavy fabric from one of the neighboring factories and turn it into a slide. Then let the injured slide down” someone from somewhere on this planet recommended.

It felt as if people from next door were crying for help. The feeling was so real that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I took a flight the very next day.

Provocation, Screams, Silence

I stood at the scene of the accident and saw only a pile of rubble. It was hot and humid. The smell of decaying bodies filled the air, it was difficult to breathe. The rescue effort had officially been called off. The area was being cleared with heavy machinery.

But Shahedol, one of the volunteers who had spent days digging out survivors from the rubble, remained. He and the others had been told to leave the vicinity.

“I get it. You Bengals from abroad show up when it’s all over,” the 40-year-old said. “You won’t even get the right pictures now!” Without rising to his provocation, I asked whether he thought any more survivors would be found.

“The people down there were treated like the scum of the earth while they were alive,” he replied with a calm voice. “Why should it be any different now? If they’re dead they’ll really be treated like nothing more than rubbish that needs to be disposed of.”

Babul, a young man in his 20s butted in: “The government should at least try to keep the rescue efforts going for a few more days. The British and the UN offered their help. They would have provided better machinery and experienced rescue workers free of charge. But the government declined the offer? Why?”

“Because it came too late!” Shahedul shouted. Suddenly there was quiet. He gazed at Babul for a long time and then turned his eyes on me. After a short pause he continued: “What if the British actually put their companies on a leash so subcontractors can’t send workers into these death traps in the first place? What if they tried to save workers before buildings collapse?”

Shahedul took a deep breath, came up close to me and said: “I hope they find even more bodies in the rubble. I hope even more photos of the dead are printed in European newspapers and are shown on TV. Until people finally realize what’s going on here.”

Difficult Identification

At a nearby school, hundreds of people waited for the bodies of their mothers and fathers, of their daughters and sons. They all carried photos of their relatives. A van pulled up, with a new load of bodies that were just laid out on the bare concrete floor. The crowd rushed towards them but most of the faces could no longer be recognized. Sometimes, the photos helped identify the corpses.

Ruhul Amin, who was about 60 years old, thought he had recognized his daughter Fatema because of an item of clothing. However, it turned out that the body in question had already been identified by another family. There were many such cases. Without ID, which most of the victims didn’t have on them, it was almost impossible to verify someone’s identity.

In the neighboring village of Jurain, graves where the unidentified bodies would be put to rest were being prepared. The death toll had already reached over 1,000. Nobody knew how many more bodies would be pulled from the rubble in the next few days.

I really wanted to be with those people but I also felt I had come too late.

I touched down in Germany at the end of last week and the next day I received the news that another fire had broken out in a garment factory in Dhaka. Eight people had lost their lives. There was also some good news – a woman had been found alive in the rubble in Savar, almost unharmed.

Factory owners in Bangladesh always claim that safety standards in their facilities are high. But why are there so many accidents? Why do so many people die time and again?

While shooting my documentary film “Ironeaters” I asked a worker at a shipwrecking yard this very question. His answer shut me up fast: “Sometimes we die on purpose, so you realize that we’re still alive over here. Otherwise you would never have come to see how we live.”

SPIEGEL ONLINE has granted the right to translate the original article and post it on this blog.

120 Comments Write a comment

  1. …Click here for or more Information

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink in your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  2. …Awesome website

    […] What host are you using? Can I am getting your associate link on your host? I want site loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  3. Look here for more:

    […]Nice weblog right here! Additionally your site quite a bit up very fast![…]

  4. Find more there:

    […] What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link on your host? I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  5. …Recommended websites

    […]you made running a blog glance[…]

  6. …Trackback: More Informations on that topic

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  7. …Websites you should visit

    […] What web host are you using? Can I get affiliate hyperlink in your host? I want site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  8. …Recommended websites

    […]Excellent weblog right here! Additionally your website rather a lot up very fast![…]

  9. …Additional Information ca be found here

    […] What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link for your host? I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  10. …Recommended websites

    […]I am now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic.[…]

  11. …A Friend recommended your blog

    […]The whole glance of your web site is fantastic, let well as the content![…]

  12. …Recent Blogroll Additions

    […]Very good blog here! Also your website lots up fast![…]

  13. …A Friend recommended your blog

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink to your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  14. …Check this out

    […] What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link for your host? I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  15. …Recent Blogroll Additions

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink in your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  16. …For further Information click here

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  17. …[Trackback]

    […]Wow, fantastic weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for?[…]

  18. …Check this out

    […]The full look of your website is magnificent, let neatly as the content material![…]

  19. …Recent Blogroll Additions

    […]Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  20. Trackback

    […]The whole look of your web site is fantastic, let well as the content material![…]

  21. …Click here for or more Information

    […]Nice weblog right here! Additionally your site quite a bit up very fast![…]

  22. …Click here for or more Information

    […]Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  23. …Visitor recommendations

    […]Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  24. …[Trackback]

    […]Wow, incredible weblog format! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for?[…]

  25. …Websites you should visit

    […]Great weblog right here! Additionally your website loads up very fast![…]

  26. …Take a look for more Information on that topic

    […]I am not positive where you are getting your info, however good topic.[…]

  27. …Websites you should visit

    […] What web host are you the usage of? Can I get affiliate hyperlink in your host? I wish web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  28. …Take a look for more Information on that topic

    […]The overall look of your website is excellent, let neatly as the content material![…]

  29. …Take a look for more Information on that topic

    […]you made running a blog glance[…]

  30. …Check this out

    […]The total glance of your site is great, let smartly as the content![…]

  31. …Websites you should visit

    […] What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link for your host? I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  32. …Check this out

    […]Nice weblog right here! Additionally your site quite a bit up very fast![…]

  33. …Trackback: More Informations on that topic

    […]The overall look of your website is excellent, let neatly as the content material![…]

  34. …Awesome website

    […]Wow, superb weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for?[…]

  35. …Visitor recommendations

    […]Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  36. …Additional Information ca be found here

    […]Wow, awesome blog format! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  37. Trackback

    […] What web host are you using? Can I get affiliate hyperlink in your host? I want site loaded up as quickly as yours lol[…]

  38. Look there for more:

    […]Good blog here! Also your website a lot up fast![…]

  39. …Trackback: More Informations on that topic

    […]Nice weblog right here! Additionally your site quite a bit up very fast![…]

  40. …Additional Information ca be found here

    […] What host are you using? Can I am getting your associate link on your host? I want site loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  41. …Trackback: More Informations on that topic

    […]Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  42. …Additional Information ca be found here

    […]Good blog here! Also your website a lot up fast![…]

  43. …Take a look for more Information on that topic

    […]you make blogging glance[…]

  44. …Click here for or more Information

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  45. …Recommended websites

    […]Wow, awesome blog format! How long have you been blogging for?[…]

  46. …Trackback: More Informations on that topic

    […]Nice blog here! Also your site so much up fast![…]

  47. …Links

    […]I am not positive where you are getting your info, however good topic.[…]

  48. Trackback

    […]Great weblog right here! Additionally your website rather a lot up very fast![…]

  49. …Additional Information ca be found here

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  50. …Take a look for more Information on that topic

    […] What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link on your host? I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol[…]

  51. …Visitor recommendations

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  52. …Awesome website

    […]I am now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic.[…]

  53. …Awesome website

    […]I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.[…]

  54. …Recommended websites

    […]Great weblog right here! Additionally your website loads up very fast![…]

Leave a Reply