BANGLADESH: Mounting concern for the safety of writers
Bengali writer, editor and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed on 12 May 2015 by religious extremists in the city of Sylhet. He is the third secular blogger to be murdered for his secular writings by religious extremists in Bangladesh this year. PEN International is shocked by the escalating pattern of violence against writers and journalists in Bangladesh, who appear to be targeted with impunity solely for the peaceful expression of their views. At least six writers have been attacked or murdered since 2013, and although there have been several arrests, no-one has been held to account for any of these attacks. PEN calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards. It also demands that all possible steps are taken to protect writers at risk in the country according to Bangladesh’s commitments under national and international law.
- Expressing mounting concern about the escalating pattern of attacks on writers and journalists in Bangladesh, which has culminated recently in the shocking murder of writer, editor and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das;
- Seeking assurances that all attacks and threats against writers and journalists are vigorously investigated so that those responsible can be brought to justice;
- Demanding that all necessary steps are taken to protect writers at risk in the country.
On 12 May 2015, 33-year-old Bengali writer, editor and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death at approximately 8.30 am in a busy street by a masked gang wielding machetes in the north-eastern city of Sylhet, who chased him as he made his way to work in a bank. He is the third blogger to be murdered for his secular writings by religious extremists in Bangladesh this year.
Prior to his death, Bijoy Das had received a number of death threats. His name appeared in two assassination lists compiled by the extremist Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (aka Ansar Bangla-7) in February 2013 and March 2015, which were published in the Bangladeshi media. The lists include many other secular bloggers described by the Islamist group as anti-Islamic and blasphemous. In an email to Swedish PEN on 20 March 2015, Bijoy Das writes:
Just after the list was published I am getting calls at my cell phone and home number from some anonymous people who are threatening to murder me and my family members. I nowadays stay underground away from my home. It is barely called living. I don’t want to get killed at home or on the street, most importantly I don’t want to endanger the lives of my family members. I need to live, for a lot of things are yet to be done.
The Ansarullah Bangla Team is believed to be implicated in a number of attacks and murders of bloggers between 2013-15, including the murders in February and March 2015 of two other distinguished bloggers, Avijit Roy – a close friend of Bijoy Dash – and Washiqur Rahman. Although several arrests have been made in connection with some of the attacks since 2013, no-one has been brought to justice. Bijoy Dash had been in hiding ever since Roy’s murder, and was urgently seeking protection. He had been accepted for placement by the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), and in early April 2015 he was invited to Sweden to give a talk by Swedish PEN. On 22 April the Swedish embassy in Dhaka refused his visa application. A statement by Swedish PEN can be found here
Ananta Bijoy Dash was also an editor of a quarterly magazine called Jukti (Logic) and headed the Sylhet-based science and rationalist council. He was awarded the Mukto-mona Rationalist Award in 2006 for his “his deep and courageous interest in spreading secular & humanist ideals and messages in a place which is not only remote, but doesn't have even a handful of rationalists.” His work focused on rationalism, atheism, and science, with a particular emphasis on biological evolution. He also wrote blog posts that criticised some aspects of Islam and also of Hinduism, as well as a poem eulogising the renowned Bangladeshi secular writer Taslima Nasreen, who fled to Europe in 1994 after threats to her safety by Islamist extremists.
For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: [email protected]
Send Your Letter To
Md. Abdul Hamid
Fax: +880 2 956 6242
Salutation: Dear President
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Please copy your appeals to the Ambassador for Bangladesh in your country, asking for their comments. A list of diplomatic missions can be found here.
**Please check with this office if sending appeals after 15 June 2015. Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.**
CALL FOR PROTECTION
PEN is aware of at least two other secular bloggers currently at risk of attack in Bangladesh and urgently in need of shelter. Please contact [email protected] if you are able to help.