The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been serving worldwide since its inception in 1863. Recently the largest network of humanitarian movements touched the milestone of 150 years of service. Marking the occasion, the ICRC Bangladesh Unit organised a five-day photo exhibition at Drik Gallery in the city to visually articulate its involvement in humanitarian actions in the last 150 years.
The exhibition, “150 Years of Humanitarian Action in 71 Photos,” hosted a collection of 71 emblematic photographs, with a predominant focus on its role in rebuilding war-ravaged Bangladesh. According to the organisers, the title correlated with the country's war of independence in 1971.
The collection included 10 photos describing the history of ICRC, first photos of its first operation in post-partition Bangladesh in 1950, and 20 contemporary photographs illustrating the organisation's works worldwide. The most significant part of the exhibition was the display of 36 photos depicting the ICRC's extensive operation in war-torn Bangladesh from 1971 to 1975.
The ICRC photographers captured some rare moments in the history of Bangladesh. Photos showing refugees coming back from India, people receiving relief goods, getting medical care, and searching their missing family members at ICRC camps evoke sympathy for millions of unknowns who had fallen victim to the war. When thousands were being killed and millions were being forced to leave their home to seek shelter in conflict-free zones in the border areas, the ICRC came forward and stood beside them. The organisation set up camps to host refugees, provided food and medical services, helped searching missing people and sheltered Biharis and Pakistanis who were not involved in the war.
Besides their support during the war, the organisation carried out large-scale operations in the post-war country. It repatriated 120,000 Bangladeshis and 108,727 Pakistanis in 1973. Those photos at the exhibition were testaments to the organisation's support during the most critical time of the country.
Apart from the Bangladesh chapter, the exhibition hosted photos of its operations during the Iraq war, Syria's conflict, Sudan's conflict, Sierra Leone, and photos of cyclone-ravaged Philippines, which, say the ICRC, can give hope to millions of vulnerable people.
The ICRC's communication delegate Michael Kifle said about the exhibition, “We support people impartially, and for 150 years we have been trying to uphold humanity through standing beside people who are affected by conflict.”
The aim of the exhibition was to bring forth the ICRC's works in front of the common people and let them know about the organisation's activities. Many people appreciated the initiative, while some others could not hold back tears as the photos reminded them of the inexplicable horror of wars. Many youngsters did not know of the organisation's role in our liberation war and the exhibition introduced them to our old friend, the ICRC.