Interseliger 2014: A lively gathering of 4000 people including 800 International participants

I have never camped before, not with 4000 people together!

This week has been amazing as I have been traveling inside the Russia. This year, I have been invited along with 800 international participants to be part of interseliger 2014, an event going on for the last 5 years. From Bangladesh there are 4 invitees, of which 3 came to the place. 

The atmosphere is incredible, though it is a lot hot than I expected. For 6 days, international participants will learn about Russian culture, their ways and other educational forms. 

The first day was insightful as AIESEC president Vinicius Tsugue and UN youth Envoy  Ahmad Alhendawi talked came to share their enthusiasm and joy. There was a global village organized by the OCs where different countries presented their culture. 

In the second day, I chose PR and media for Lecture and it was a good one as you can see. 

I will try to keep posting,as the rules are stricts about class and time for shower, eating, charging devices is limited. 

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Generation Contract: Family Comes First

[Note: I wrote this about a year back and found it yesterday while sorting the files. It is something we all should think about.]

I come from Bangladesh, a country used to be considered as a Least Developed one. But the consideration is on the verge to change as it has become a role model for the developing world.

Population has more than doubled since the liberation war in 1971, according to BBS it was about 152.5 million in 2012 (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Approximately, 1000 people live in per square kilometres, which is even more than India, double than USA and more than thrice than Australia (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The country is 3nd in South Asia and 9th in the world by population (US Bureau of the Census, July, 2013). In the post liberation period, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger labelled Bangladesh as ‘Bottomless Basket’; Norwegian economist Faland, British economist Parkinson termed the country as a ‘Test Case’ for development (Rahman, 2013). Beside the international politics, there were enough symptoms to be labeled like this. For example, in the war devastative fragile economy, the per capita income was only $91.85 in 1972; more than 70 percent people lived below the poverty line in that year; the literacy rate was 16.8% at that time (Ministry of Education, Bangladesh, 2013); the country’s total budget was only BDT 5.01 billion having foreign aid of BDT 3.75 billion in fiscal year 1972-73 (CIA Fact Book, 2013); the export earning was less than $.327 billion in 1975 and the foreign remittance was only $ 23.71 million in 1975 (Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, 2013).

But the country has recovered and developed significantly in most of the indicators mentioned above. Moreover, Bangladesh is one of the few countries to achieve some of the MDG goals before 2015. Dr. Atiur Rahman the governor of Bangladesh Bank in 2013 identified three major forces behind this development and stated

  1. the growing agricultural sector propelled by farmers and agriculturalists;
  2. the booming RMG sector contributed by workers; and
  3. The accelerating remittance aided by the expatriate laborers.

Now to get straight to the point, the economy is driven by this three sectors and total contribution of them is more than 90%. The labour force that is put into work are mostly young. It is necessary here to mention more than 50% of the total population is under 25 years of age. So there is a strong juvenile and young community already contributing in the GDP and others are getting ready to join. But rate of employment creation is not up to the mark and the gap between generations are quite visible.

As such the situation, generation contract is not something people often think about, but it is present as a part of culture. Like the rest of the world, Bangladesh faces some common problems like zooming healthcare costs, rising public debts, unequal distribution of wealth and most importantly loss of trust among the generations. The moral and ethical anchors are breaking every day, setting new standards. Standards that often becoming cause of social decay and violence. No wonder, these problems are unique in nature from other countries and it will be an obstacle in the path of ongoing growth of Bangladesh.

 

Generation Conflict

The change is visible. But there is no trust. From family to work, from school to university, from private to government, everywhere there is confusion and doubt. In the family, the parents can’t depend on their children any more. Before, children used to take care of their parents when parents got older. So, the elderly persons used to retire and contribute in domestic chores. There was a balance. Now, as the young people refuse to take care of the old ones, elderly people do not leave their jobs and they urge to increase the retirement age.

The respect for teachers has decreased, mutual respects included. From school to university, young try to change old values without consulting the elders. As a result, conflict of interest takes place and both sides lose. Often, the young are considered as threat. But it is often forgotten, whatever good has happened, it’s the combination of the two.

In the government offices, people do not want to leave a secured life as their jobs provide security. Also they do not want to take in ideas from young people as it would create problems for people accustomed with ongoing system. They prefer young persons with the mentality to go along with the system. In the private sector, youths are mostly preferred as they can work with less pay and it allows the employers to let go of the old employees.

These things are not secrets. As a result, there is little trust among the inter-generation colleagues. Even in most offices, one can find the conflict of interest. If a young person wants to go for a start-up business, he faces a lot of obstacles. Mostly created by the people engaged in the same sector for generations. They take it as a threat for their business and for themselves.

When a father walks with his child and sees a group of young men hanging out on the street now-a-days, the attitude of the young make him feel scared. This was not the scenario 20 years ago. 20 years back, young people used to show respect more to their elders, used to help them in any means possible. The blessings of the elders used to mean something for them. Now, that has all changed. And the effect is seen at every level. This father being a person who is associated with the process of recruitment would not want to hire someone who resembles the young people of the street. And often a young person do not have the dedication which is required for an institution. Also, the institution may not guarantee safety for the new employees who will give the prime time of their life.

There is also no social security services. As a result, insecurity is ubiquitous. In a society where agriculture is the main sector, people at least know that they can survive by doing agricultural work. Now as Bangladesh walks toward becoming a developed country, its economy has shifted from agriculture base to industry base. Remittance and Garments export keeping the economy running. Also the number of people with higher educational degree and expectation to get a desk job is on the rise. This shift in economy has changed the unwritten generation contract that used to be in place. Even 20 years before, people could say a farmer’s son would become a farmer, maybe more educated. But he would continue to work in the fields. And there was this transfer of knowledge, security, property and debt. This paradigm can be given for any field, 20 years ago. Now as more young people thrive to take office or desk jobs, there is insecurity and trust issues.

I experienced such in my life too. I saw my parents suffer because they chose to do something that their parents never wanted them to do. As a result, they had no support at all from them and struggled their way towards becoming successful in life. Having the courage to come out of box and do something is good, I admit. But in this modern times, to do something meaningful in life, not just to survive-people of all generations in a family should work together.

The solution is simple for me—go back to the old system. Regain trust of each other. I think if the older people are given time to retire from their work and help in the domestic works, it will definitely help everyone. The children will be growing up with proper guidance and parents (young) will be relieved. Also, young people who have to learn from the experts need to show respect as well. The young people need to have more patience. Older generations should have the right kind of mind set to give space to the young deserving people.

The best thing to do is create opportunities for them to talk. Not many people talk with considerable attention with their younger or older generations. That is one vital thing missing in relationships these days. Sitting in one table and talking can solve many issues.

So my proposal is-to start dividing the responsibilities and not to break into more isolated nuclear families. It all starts from the family. We need to return to family for making things go right, socially and economically. Staying together does have it’s own issues, but it can save us from a lot of problems that we have seen in the last couple of decades. A family together can save people from financial troubles and social problems. We have to remember we—the young people cannot go further keeping our older generation in darkness. Also, older generation should remember that they have must try to understand the new ideas. Their next generation does not pose any threat to them rather they can make their life easy. We should all work together in this. Without working together, such issues can’t be solved. Our GDP may flourish, our reserve may increase, but the social development that is required for a developed society will become a problem for Bangladesh.

 

References

(2012, July 02). Retrieved from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics: http://www.bbs.gov.bd

(2013, June). Retrieved from Ministry of Education, Bangladesh: http://www.moedu.gov.bd

(2013). Retrieved from Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training: http://www.bmet.gov.bd/

CIA Fact Book. (2013).

Rahman, A. (2013). Four Decades of Bangladesh.

(July, 2013). US Bureau of the Census.

 

 

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Garden to Keep it Green: Dhaka City Corporation North Rooftop

 

Two weeks back, for academic purposes I had the chance to go to Dhaka City Corporation (North). I got to know about some of the amazing work they are doing including renovating public toilets, creating wifi zone within the corporation office arena, using the roof top space for composting, rain water harvesting and many more.

Here is a glimpse of some of the photos I got the chance to take.

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Composting instruments on roof top
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The Constant Gardener
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So many plants!Use of Space
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Straight (Far), rain-water harvesting instruments
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
2014-06-08 14.21.09
So many plants!Use of Space
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Forgot the name of the plant (I am bad with plant names)
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Mango!
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Mango!
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Fruit
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So many plants!Use of Space
2014-06-08 14.24.24
Pomelo Fruit on Roof Top Garden!

I really liked what they did with the building as well. Trying to recycle and improvise. Such initiatives and steps should be told to people to make them aware of the good things the government and the authority is doing.

 

Groundwater arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh: An interview with Dr Manzurul Hassan (Re-blogged)

Dr Manzurul Hassan is geographer and faculty member of Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh.  He did his MSc and PhD in the Department of Geography at Durham University. After completing his PhD in 2003, Dr Hassan did a number of research works on groundwater arsenic poisoning.  Apart from this, he has conducted some consultancies in the development field with different national and international organisations and donor agencies.  He is now actively involved in writing-up his book Arsenic in Groundwater: Poisoning and Risk Assessment with Professor Peter Atkins (IHRR/Geography) to be published by the CRC Press (USA).  An important update on part of this research is now available.

How did groundwater arsenic contamination become a health hazard in Bangladesh?

 

There were waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea in Bangladesh due to the drinking of untreated water several decades ago.  During the 1970s, UNICEF and some international donor agencies advised the Government of Bangladesh to tap groundwater for drinking purposes.  Drinking this groundwater actually reduces the level of diarrhoea, but at the same time it is increasing the risk of arsenic poisoning, leading to arsenicosis,hyperpigmentation, gangrene, and finally cancer.  The latency time of cancer symptoms is 15-30 years depending on arsenic content in the water and the period of ingestion.  Local poor people are not actually aware of arsenic poisoning.  They still think that tube well water is good quality and that it is much better than the surface water, whether it is contaminated with arsenic or not.

What are the social hazards associated with arsenic poisoning?

Some social problems have emerged other than health risk from arsenic poisoning.  There is a very common tendency to ostracise people who have visible arsenic symptoms on their body, particularly different types of skin lesions or gangrene.  People with arsenic poisoning can’t even go outside of their own home and they can’t participate in any social gathering.  There are even problems within families causing parents to separate or the infected to leave home.  They are isolated from society; they find it difficult to get a job and children cannot go to school.  These are the kinds of social problems in Bangladesh within arsenic-affected communities.

 

What policies have been developed in Bangladesh in response to health risks and hazards caused by arsenic contaminated drinking water?

If you think about risk to arsenic poisoning, two issues should be considered: (a) health risk with disease incidence; and (b) social implications.  Arsenic is a documented carcinogen and if people ingest arsenic contaminated drinking water for a long time, there is the possibility of non-malignant symptoms as well as different cancers.  There is a large literature regarding arsenic and health issues but the social implications of arsenic poisoning have yet to be focused on strongly.  There are serious social problems for the arsenic-affected people in Bangladesh, starting with children being excluded from school, followed by social isolation and family dislocation.  In 1997, the government established an umbrella organisation — BAMWSP (Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation and Water Supply Project) for arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh.  BAMWSP developed a policy in 2004 for arsenic-safe water options and these were: rain water harvesting, deep tube wells, pond-sand-filters and dug wells.  In 2005 there was an assessment of the options and the installation of deep tube wells was banned by the government until it could be determined whether the arsenic-safe deep aquifer was protected by an impermeable layer.  If the deep aquifer is ever contaminated with severe levels of arsenic, there will be no option for arsenic-safe drinking water.  Furthermore, the other options are not working properly in Bangladesh.  Therefore, government needs to formulate a constructive policy to save her people from arsenic poisoning.  It is worth noting that about 80 million people in Bangladesh are at risk of arsenic poisoning.

How can people protect themselves from arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh?

Since the educated portion of the population in Bangladesh is not large, it is sometimes difficult to convey awareness messages regarding arsenic poisoning. Some understand arsenic hazard, but others confuse arsenic with iron.  This is because the messages are sometimes complicated and lack clarity.  Generally, people think that arsenic poisoning is a contagious disease that spreads quickly.  This is a common misconception in rural Bangladesh.  If a mass awareness campaign is possible to alert the rural people, and if they can be provided with arsenic-safe water, the arsenic problem will be minimised in Bangladesh.  Arsenic-safe water is the only curative medicine for arsenic-related diseases at the primary stage.

What do you think is the most appropriate safe drinking water arsenic threshold for Bangladesh?

If you consider the Bangladesh standard permissible limit for drinking water that is 50µg/L of arsenic, around 30% of the tube wells are found to be contaminated; but this figure is more than doubled if the WHO guideline value (10µg/L) is used.  There is a lot of literature regarding the permissible limit of ingesting arsenic from drinking water. The guideline value of 50µg/L does not provide full protection from arsenic poisoning, but the implementation of the WHO standard would be very expensive.  The existing mitigation options for arsenic-safe drinking water are not working properly and there is no regular monitoring of drinking water quality.  There is still ongoing research on safe water options in Bangladesh, and there is debate about which technology is suitable and sustainable.  The low-cost technologies are suitable for the rural poor but might not be sustainable.  High-tech options are most applicable for towns and cities but they are expensive and not all consumers are able or willing to pay the cost of arsenic-safe water.

How were qualitative methodologies useful for your research in Bangladesh on social hazards and risks from arsenic poisoning?

Both quantitative and qualitative enquiry are useful for social hazard and risk research on arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, but qualitative methodologies seem to me to be the most reliable and effective in this regard.  In understanding the meaning of pain in the lives of arsenic-affected patients and their social problems, qualitative enquiry with the “interpretive hermeneutical phenomenology” of Max van Manen, and the “grounded theory approach” ofAnselm L Strauss and Barney G Glaser are suitable.  One can also use quantitative methods for assessing the health risk of arsenic poisoning, but they are not always suitable since it is not possible to quantify the “pain” of the arsenic-affected people.  Moreover, in making the relationships between social norms of the arsenic-affected people and their social problems with arsenic poisoning, the qualitative methodologies are most helpful.  Participant observation with ethnography could be used to detect the arsenic impact on social life of the affected people.  Arsenic-affected people are generally found not to disclose their disease to anybody in rural Bangladesh and they manage their social and family lives in their own way.

What role can IHRR play in addressing massive hazards like arsenic ground water contamination in Bangladesh?

There is arsenic poisoning now in 70 countries around the world and about 80 million people are at risk of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh alone.  At the beginning of arsenic detection in Bangladesh groundwater in 1993, a good number of international institutions, donors, research institutions and international NGOs contributed their efforts both in research and mitigation.  The British Geological Survey (BGS) with the financial supports from the DfID/NERC conducted research on groundwater arsenic poisoning.  Some foreign institutions, like Columbia University (USA), KTH (Sweden), Jadavpur University (India) are still working on arsenic in Bangladesh.  The Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) can play a role in research on this issue.  The objectives of the IHRR can be achieved with long-term research on different natural disasters that are frequent in Bangladesh.  The recent Link Programme with Jahangirnagar University under the British Council INSPIREprogramme can be the beginning of the research initiative.  I hope IHRR can have the scope to formulate new guidelines and policies for arsenic mitigation that could be helpful to save millions of people in Bangladesh as well as other arsenic-affected countries.

Manzurul’s website (under construction): http://manzurul.info/index.html

FURTHER READING:

Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C. Environmental irony: summoning death in Bangladesh. ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING A.    Volume: 39    Issue: 11    Pages: 2699-2714

Exploring groundwater arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. IHRR Blog

Hassan MM and Atkins PJ. Arsenic risk mapping in Bangladesh: a simulation technique of cokriging estimation from regional count data. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND HEALTH PART A-TOXIC/HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING. Volume: 42    Issue: 12    Pages: 1719-1728

Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C. Poisons, pragmatic governance and deliberative democracy: The arsenic crisis in Bangladesh. GEOFORUM    Volume: 38    Issue: 1    Pages: 155-170

Atkins P, Hassan M and Dunn C.  Toxic torts: arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and the legal geographies of responsibility. TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS. Volume: 31    Issue: 3    Pages: 272-285

Contamination of drinking-water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency. Bulletin of the World Health Organisation. Volume: 78 Issue: 9

Irrigation threatens drinking water in Asia. Futurity.org

Hellish Water. Sciencebase

Govt’s role to make people aware about climate change lauded

Collected from Financial Express Bangladesh. Link.

The experts have said that the government has been able to achieve marked progress in making people aware about the adverse impacts of climate change. Addressing a workshop in the city, they said that ensuring a sustainable management of common ecosystem in South Asian countries could address the adverse impacts of global climate change in the region. Speaking at the workshop, Dr Saleemul Huq, director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), said “There is a common ecosystem in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna river basins. We’ve to look into the things much more.” Oxfam Bangladesh in financial assistance from the European Union organised the Learning Sharing Workshop of the project, titled Strengthening the role of Non-state Actors in Climate Change Policy Formulation in South Asia and Enhancing their Capacities to Influence Global Climate Change Negotiations. Dr Saleemul Huq, also a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said Bangladesh has already raised its voice at international climate negotiations. About the preparation to cope with climate change impacts, the ICCCAD director stressed the need for providing half of the fund allocated for adaptation to the marginal and climate vulnerable people, according to a news agency.

History: To Think About

So while hanging out today, I found some interesting topic to think about. May I will give more thought/search about it. But, it’s already 1:30am and a world cup game between Germany and Ghana going on. So I just want to put this post on the wall and go back to football.

Now, if one reads the history of Bengal during the rule of Mughal one would definitely come across the name Shaista Khan.

Photo: Wikipedia

He is well-known for the prosperity of the region during his Tenure and we have him in our history books as a creditor of making things available to people of Bengal. Like people could buy 320 kilograms of rice with 1 Taka only, cows were 2.5 Taka and many more.

The question raised was-whether it would have been possible? I mean think about it. It was 1600 and the amount of paddy you need to get that amount of rice and the amount of land you need to produce that amount of paddy. Considering 1600, there were no fertilizers like now and also no way to save the crops in case of disease or bug attacks. Also, there would have been much more wastage during the collection of rice from paddy. Now, considering all this-how much could have a farmer cultivated in one season in a specific amount of land? Also, would they gotten the full One Taka? They would all depend on this price as the rest of the year they could grow another harvest.

The point being though  we think Bengal was prosperous, may not be the case actually. There were peace and harmony-written by people who used to come and travel. Who used to become state guests and take gifts from the state as well.

History can be changed, as we have seen again and again, over time. But facts can’t. The discussion may have taken place among others as well. But to me it is important that we know there can be other sides of history as well. One such thought provoking book is about USA by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.

Hope to work on this in future. Let’s see if I can get the time or not.

BIASD observes World Environment Day 2014

When my Professor first told me to attend the seminar, I was not sure what I was going in for. The seminar was organised by Bridging Institutions and Innovations in Action for Sustainable Development (BIASD). The seminar inaugurated a Campaign on Clean, Safe and Women Friendly Environment in Educational Institutions for Sustainable Development. Readers who prefer Bengali can read it here.

I was late and I was there in the middle of a presentation. The presentation caught my attention instantly as I was doing a research work on the topic—the environment around us. People with high rank and position in government and at university were present there. What I liked the most about the seminar was the speakers openness in admitting the problems and trying to give suggestions. It was not at all academic rather pragmatic.

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BIASD celebrate World Environmental Day 2014

Deputy Secretary Dr Abul Hossain of Ministry of Woman and Children Affairs told a undeniable fact—the way we portray Bangladesh outside is not the right way. He talked about his experience abroad, how he did not used to like cleaning the training premises at the beginning, where he got trained. Then later when he got used to it, he generally understood the importance. Tania Hoque, also mentioned that culturally we are lot aware of our personal hygiene. But we just think of our house and we keep it clean till our doors. Speakers emphasized on the fact that we should develop the habit of treating our surrounding environment as our own. It is our responsibility to keep it clean and we should.

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Professor Reazul Haque speaking at the seminar

Professor Reazul Haque stated that women are still treated as unwanted, even by women. The reason being the women do not want their children to go through the same harassment that they themselves went through.

For me, the important takeaway was that a lot is happening around, and I know a little part of it only. I should try to know more. Also, a question that usually comes in my mind is that how effective such campaigns be in the long run? I mean lots of campaigns kick off, how many does reach their desire goal or even half way?

Everybody agreed that the responsibility to keep the nature unharmed rest on the shoulders of young generation. I do agree with that completely. How much aware are they themselves, or do they really care? Time will definitely let us know whether they do or they do not, but for now, we can hope and try.

Other links:

==News online==

New Age

The Daily Star

The Daily Sun

The Independent

Children of War/ The Bastard Child

 

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I would not mind putting the review line in IMDB by one reviewer , “Not many film-makers have dared to make a film on 1971’s Bangladesh war of independence, showcasing those nine long months of untold brutal killings, rapes, painful sufferings and hatred spread over the region resulting in a big genocide.”

Truly it did. The brutality is often avoided, considering the audience. But it does create the false impression of what you see and what you read. visual is always more effective, and in case of one of the worst genocide of history-it is.

To me, there is no controversy about what it reflects and portraits. A history as plain and clear as it can be. The protagonists of the film did their part. There was a delay in release as Director faced a lot of challenge in making his way out of the censor board

The IMDB rating for the film I gave is 8 as in some moments, I could not watch due to my inability to witness such brutality. But it made me realize again, what as a Nation Bangladesh has gone through for it’s freedom. 

আরগো

আরগো।
রেটিং দেখে ডাউনলোড করতে দিয়েছিলাম চলচ্চিত্রটি।
ইরান সম্পর্কে তেমন কিছু জানা নেই আমার। স্টোনিং অব সুরাইয়া এম দেখেছিলাম শেষ। আরও গুটি কয়েক ইরানি চলচ্চিত্র দেখেছি বিটিভি’র সৌজন্যে।
বেন এফলেক পরিচালিত এবং অভিনীত ছবিটি মুক্তির পর থেকেই সমালোচকদের আলোচনার কেন্দ্রবিন্দুতে আছে।  চলচ্চিত্রটির পটভূমি ১৯৭৯ সালের শাহ পরবর্তী সময়ের মার্কিন দূতাবাসে কর্মরত মার্কিন নাগরিকদের ওপর ভিত্তি করে। সেসময়ের ইরান মার্কিন নাগরিকদের জন্য ছিল এক জ্বলন্ত কূপ।
ছয় মার্কিন নাগরিককে ইরান থেকে বের করে নিয়ে আসার কাহিনী অবলম্বনে চলচ্চিত্রটি নির্মিত হয়েছে।

ছবিটিতে বেন এফলেকের অভিনয় দুর্দান্ত হয়েছে। তবে ইতিহাসের কিছু কিছু অংশ বিকৃত করার অভিযোগ চলচ্চিত্রটির বিরুদ্ধে করা হয়েছে। তবু সেসময়ে কানাডিয়ান রাষ্ট্রদূত এবং সিআইএ’র ভূমিকা এখানে গৌরবাণ্বিত করা হয়েছে।
কিছু কিছু মুহূর্ত টানটান উত্তেজনার ছিল। যেহেতু বাস্তব কাহিনীটি আমার আগের থেকে জানা ছিল না।
রেটিং এর ভিত্তিতে আরগো আট পাবার যোগ্য।
প্রিয় উক্তি, “Argo, fuck yourself.”

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