PEN International statement:
The savage murder of an editor and leading gay rights activist of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine in Dhaka is another tragic example of the government’s gross failure to protect intellectuals, activists and writers in Bangladesh, PEN International said today.
Xulhaz Mannan, an editor at LGBT magazine “Roopbaan”, was killed alongside another victim, when unidentified attackers came to their apartment in Dhaka, posing as couriers. Another person was also injured in the attack
The killings come just two days after a university professor, 58-year-old Rezaul Karim Siddique, was hacked to death near his home in the northern Bangladesh district of Rajshahi, on his way to the city’s public university where he taught.
‘How many more writers, editors, and free thinkers in Bangladesh will have to pay the ultimate price – their life – in exercising their right to speak freely, before the government acts? What the government needs to do is pretty clear: it must say, unequivocally, that freedom of expression means the freedom to express views with which others, even the majority, might disagree’, said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
‘Bangladesh must ensure that the investigative authorities identify the murderers and prosecute them, instead of advising writers, editors, and bloggers about what is permissible and what is not, what they can say and what they cannot – all of which only ends up rationalising the murderers who have acted with impunity.’
There has been a spate of murders of secular bloggers and thinkers in Bangladesh over the last year. Earlier this month Nazimuddin Samad, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online, died when he was attacked with machetes and then shot in the capital, Dhaka. In 2015, four prominent secular bloggers were killed with machetes.
In May 2015, more than 150 PEN members and writers around the globe called on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to take immediate action. It is an appalling indictment of the failure of the authorities to act decisively in this regard that another three writers have lost their lives since then. PEN International reiterates its call on the Bangladesh authorities to make the protection of vulnerable writers and investigation of these crimes an utmost priority and to ensure that an immediate end is put to this cycle of violence, fear and consequent self-censorship.
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Amnesty International statement:
“The brutal killing today of an editor of an LGBTI publication and his friend, days after a university professor was hacked to death, underscores the appalling lack of protection being afforded to a range of peaceful activists in the country,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
“There have been four deplorable killings so far this month alone. It is shocking that no one has been held to account for these horrific attacks and that almost no protection has been given to threatened members of civil society. Bangladeshi authorities have a legal responsibility to protect and respect the right to life. They must urgently focus their energies on protecting those who express their opinions bravely and without violence, and bringing the killers to justice. The authorities must strongly condemn these horrific attacks, something they have failed to do so far.”
The brutal killing today of an editor of an LGBTI publication and his friend, days after a university professor was hacked to death, underscores the appalling lack of protection being afforded to a range of peaceful activists in the country. —Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director
Homosexual relations are criminalised under the Bangladeshi Penal Code. Amnesty International has interviewed exiled LGBTI activists who said that when they tried to report threats against them to police, the police instead said they could be charged for “unnatural offences.”
“While the Bangladeshi authorities have failed to bring these violent groups to justice, the attackers have expanded their range of targets to now include a university professor and LGBTI activists,” said Champa Patel.
“The Bangladeshi police needs to guarantee the protection of the country’s LGBTI community, not harass them or threaten them with arrest, as they have been doing.”
Since the start of the month, four brutal killings have taken place of Bangladeshi activists and their associates. On 7 April, four masked men attacked Nazimuddin Samad, 28, with a machete before shooting him dead. Samad was a student activist who had organised campaigns for secularism on social media. He was named on a “hit list” of 84 bloggers published by a group of radical Islamists in 2013.
On 23 April, Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, a much-admired university professor was attacked by men carrying machetes as he walked to the bus station in the city of Rajshahi. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by jihadists belonging to Islamic State.
On 25 April, Xulhaz Mannan, 35, the editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s first LGBTI magazine, and his friend Tanay Mojumdar were both hacked to death after a group of attackers posed as couriers to gain entry to Mannan’s apartment.
During 2015, five secular Bangladeshi bloggers were hacked to death using machetes.
The first attack of this kind took place in 2013. For the killings starting in February 2015, not a single person has been held to account.
Bangladeshi authorities continue to criminalise the country’s LGBTI community and, far from offering them security, have urged them to be “less provocative.” Many Bangladeshi LGBTI activists have been forced into exile because of the threats against them.