(DOHA, March 2023) – On March 15, 2023, The 2023 Tasweer Photo Festival in Qatar featured the award-winning photography of Omal Khair, Dil Kayas, and Azimul Hasson, who are also the authors of the book “A Chance to Breathe.” This new book features an exclusive collection of photography and poetry, published by FotoEvidence with the valuable support of Doha Debates and Fortify Rights. The exhibition, also named “A Chance to Breathe,” was inaugurated at M7, which is renowned as Qatar’s premier center for innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of design, fashion, and technology.
From 2018 to 2022, the three authors were Media Fellows at Fortify Rights and Doha Debates, receiving training and support in photography and storytelling. By telling visual stories of life and resilience and the Rohingya struggle for survival, the exhibition helps reframe dominant narratives of death and victimhood often associated with the Rohingya people.
Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, member of the Qatari royal family and chair of Qatar Museums, attended the opening of the Tasweer Photo Festival in Qatar. At the opening ceremony, Fortify Rights CEO Matthew Smith presented Her Excellency with a copy of the photography book, “A Chance to Breathe.” Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani later shared on her Facebook and Instagram accounts a series of photos from the festival. Commenting on the event, she said in her social media post: “. . . I was also amazed to witness the strength and hope of the Rohingya community and viewing the faces of resilience in the A Chance To BreatheExhibition at M7. Their visual stories of life gave the world an inside look at their lives, and have certainly touched my heart.”
Although the Rohingya refugee photographers were unable to attend the Tasweer Photo Festival in person due to restrictions on their ability to travel out of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh, Fortify Rights helped facilitate their virtual participation via a portal provided by Shared Studios. Omal Khair and Azimul Hasson, two of the Rohingya photographers, were able to speak to Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani as well as other exhibition-goers through a portal. As part of the exhibition in Doha, Tasweer extended the fellowship of Omal Khair, Dil Kayas, and Azimul Hasson for a unique collaboration with Doha Fashion Fridays. From Ramadan to Eid, the trio will work with Doha Fashion Fridays photographers and Tasweer curators to photograph fashion and style in their community.
The festival received positive media coverage, including features about the Rohingya photographers and their work. For example, Al Jazeera English produced a short video about the festival, which ran throughout the day on March 16 and was later posted on Al Jazeera’s Twitter account. The video highlights the importance of refugee voices and access to education and includes interviews with Azimul Hasson and Omal Khair. Euro News also published an article and short video on March 16, 2023 about the Tasweer Photo Festival, including interviews with Omal Khair and Azimul Hasson. In the article, Omal Khair is quoted as saying: “I’m educated, that’s why I am doing photography and also I am updating my people all over the world, so that the world can know our situation.”