A Reuters team was recently honoured with the Pulitzer Prize for their shocking photographs which exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in Myanmar since a military crackdown in Rakhine State began on August 25. Mohammad Ponir Hossain, a Bangladeshi photographer, was a part of that team.
Ponir has been working as a photojournalist for Thomson Reuters since July 1, 2016, and previously worked for the ZUMA Press from 2015-16, according to his Facebook profile.
Hailing from Chittagong, he graduated from North South University (NSU) in Dhaka and studied visual journalism atAteneo de Manila University, Philippines.
Of the 12 photographs captured by the Reuters Pulitzer winning team, three were taken by Ponir.
The Reuters photography team spent months in refugee camps at Cox's Bazar, as they attempted to document the unfolding humanitarian crisis by photographing survivors of the violence in Rakhine State.
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Rohingya refugees try to take shelter from torrential rain as they are held by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) after illegally crossing the border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, August 31, 2017 Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
“The extraordinary photography of the mass exodus of the Rohingya people to Bangladesh demonstrates not only the human cost of conflict but also the essential role photojournalism can play in revealing it,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J Adler.
Discussing the story behind one of the photographs, Ponir told the Dhaka Tribune: “It was on September 14 last year. I was at Shah Porir Dwip to find boats coming to Bangladesh carrying Rohingya refugees. Suddenly, I was notified by a CNG driver that a boat had capsized nearby before arriving on shore. I went there immediately and found a mother- Hamida- weeping while holding the body of her 40 day old son.
“She had twins, but one of them died, and she was holding his body with tears in her eyes. I get emotional seeingsuch tragic scenes, but as you know, we are professionals. So I kept aside my emotions and took the picture.”
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Rohingya refugees cross the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach to Bangladesh in Teknaf, Bangladesh, November 12, 2017 Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
Another one of his prize-winning photos, taken on August 31 last year, shows Rohingya refugees trying to take shelter from torrential rain while in Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) custody after illegally crossing the border in Teknaf.
The last of the three photographs shows Rohingya refugees crossing the Nafriverin an improvised raft in their attempt to reach Teknaf in November, 2017.
“It was rainingheavily between September and October last year. I saw Rohingya refugees- mostly pregnant mothers, children, and the elderly- coming to Bangladesh throughthick mud. None of them had any idea ofwhere they were heading, or whether there wouldbe any shelter, food, or security. The brutality and violence they faced in Myanmar was such that they had no option but to leave their motherland even if they were blind to the future,” Ponir said.
He added that he would return to the hotel and play the song “Manush Manusher Jonno” by Bhupen Hazarika while editing photographs in order to help keep his emotions in check.
About 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since insurgent attacks on police outposts in Myanmar triggered a military crackdown in its Rakhine State on August 25 last year.