IN 2018, the Bangladeshi photojournalist Ashfika Rahman was selected for a week-long masterclass by the World Press Photo Foundation. Participants were asked in preparation to produce a photo essay on a common theme: Generation Y. “For some time, I kept wondering, what is so special about my generation in my country,” Rahman said. Conversations with those around her did not yield a compelling result. The answer came in the form of an unexpected tragedy.
A young man who had assisted Rahman on past projects was picked up, allegedly by personnel from the security forces. He was found a day later, wounded but alive. “I got the news that he was shot,” Rahman said, and “he actually lost one of his legs.”
Rahman was already familiar with a pattern of so-called clashes between security forces and individuals they claim are criminals, which often end with the killing of the latter. Now, she contemplated a concomitant and increasingly common phenomenon in Bangladesh over the past decade: enforced disappearances. A colleague, a friend’s sibling, an old acquaintance—all of them had been targeted. The pervasiveness of these incidents was matched only by the reluctance of those affected to speak about what had happened. For Rahman, the distinguishing legacy of her generation became evident: trauma.