Tag Archives: Dhaka

Third atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh knife attack

Third atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh knife attack
Police say Ananta Bijoy Das was attacked in Sylhet city, months after fellow bloggers Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman were murdered.
By Saad Hammadi
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/12/third-atheist-blogger-killed-in-bangladesh-after-knife-attack

A secular blogger has been hacked to death in north-east Bangladesh, the third such deadly attack this year.

Police said Ananta Bijoy Das was murdered as he headed to work at a bank in the city of Sylhet, an attack that fellow writers said highlighted a culture of impunity.

Kamrul Hasan, commissioner of Sylhet police, said a group of about four masked attackers pounced on Das with machetes at about 8.30am on Tuesday on a busy street in Bangladesh’s fifth-largest city.

“They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body,” Hasan told Agence France-Presse. The attackers fled into the crowds and Das was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival, police and medics said.

Hasan would not be drawn on the motive for the attack but fellow writers said Das had been on a hitlist drawn up by militants who were behind the recent killing of a blogger who was a US citizen.

Imran Sarker, head of a Bangladeshi bloggers’ association, said Das was an atheist who wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona, a website formerly moderated by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US citizen who was stabbed to death in the capital, Dhaka, in February.

Sarker told the Guardian: “They [the government] should not stay in power, if they are not able to bring the perpetrators to justice. One after another incident is happening and they are not able to do anything.”

Debasish Debu, a friend of Das, said the 33-year-old banker was also an editor of a quarterly magazine called Jukti (Logic) and headed the Sylhet-based science and rationalist council.

Debu said Das had been receiving threats for his writing and that their frequency increased after the killing of Roy. “He had written about superstitions, but he wasn’t among the writers that would hurt the sentiments of religion,” Debu said.

According to the Mukto-Mona site, Das won the publication’s annual rationalist award in 2006 for his “deep and courageous interest in spreading secular and humanist ideals and messages”.

While most of Das’s output for Mukto-Mona focused on science and evolution, he wrote a number of blogs that criticised some aspects of Islam and also of Hinduism. He also wrote a poem eulogising the famed Bangladeshi secular writer Taslima Nasreen, who fled to Europe in 1994 after protests by Islamists.

In comments on Facebook posted early on Tuesday, Das criticised the local member of parliament from the ruling Awami League party for criticising one of the country’s top secular and science fiction writers.

His murder comes a week after al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for Roy’s killing on 26 February in which his wife was badly injured. An Islamist has been arrested over his murder. Another atheist blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death in Dhaka in March. Two madrassa students have been arrested over that attack.

Bangladesh is an officially secular country but more than 90% of its 160 million population are Muslims. There has been an increase in attacks by religious extremists in recent years. Supporters of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, which is banned from standing in elections, have been accused of being behind a spate of firebombings this year aimed at toppling the government.

Since 2013, at least five bloggers have been attacked by Islamists after another hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam.

Hefazat, led by Islamic seminary teachers, also staged a massive counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that unleashed violence and left nearly 50 people dead.

Increasing attacks on Bangladeshi activists – some facts

Increasing attacks on Bangladeshi activists – some facts
Islamic fundamentalists have stepped up attacks on secular Bangladeshi bloggers and campaigners in the past few months, with the latest being the murder of an LGBT activist. DW presents some facts about the killings.
By Arafatul Islam

https://www.dw.com/en/increasing-attacks-on-bangladeshi-activists-some-facts/a-19217814

War criminals and bloggers’ murders

On February 15, 2013, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death in front of his house in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Soon after his murder, an Islamist group claimed that Haider was an atheist who had made “blasphemous” comments about Prophet Muhammad and Islam on social media.

Haider was killed at a time when thousands of people had taken to the streets demanding capital punishment for a number of top Islamist leaders accused of war crimes during the country’s War of Independence in 1971. The unprecedented protest was organized by a group of secular bloggers and activists, who mobilized the people through Facebook. It was also the first of its kind demonstration representing the power of social media in the South Asian country.

Atheists are targeted

Since Haider’s assassination in 2013, five more secular bloggers have been slain in Bangladesh. All of these activists were self-proclaimed atheists and critics of religious fundamentalism. Islamist groups claimed responsibility for each of these killings on Twitter, releasing press statements in English and Bengali languages stating the reasons for their deaths. The jihadist organizations have said they killed the activists for their “blasphemous activities.”

Social media is considered a threat

Bangladesh is not a developed country but due to growing Internet connectivity, the number of people using social media and expressing their views publicly has been on the rise.

Bangladesh has now more than 30 million Facebook users, and secular bloggers and activists are making good use of it, criticizing religious fundamentalism and promoting secular values. After the murder of American-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka on February 26, 2015, it became clear that the country’s Islamists felt threatened by the secular writers’ social media activism.

Bloggers are not the sole target

Islamic militants have carried out 34 attacks over the past 14 months in Bangladesh. “Islamic State” (IS) has claimed responsibility for at least 15 of these attacks, whereas Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for eight. The IS attacked mostly foreigners and religious minorities, whereas Ansar al-Islam targeted atheist bloggers, freethinkers and gay activists. The recent killing of two LGBT activists is another proof of the expanding influence of Islamists in the Muslim-majority country.

Government denies IS existence

Recently, IS published a six-page interview with its chief in Bangladesh in its propaganda magazine, Dabiq, detailing why the South Asian country is strategically important for them. The militant group said it intended to carry out attacks in India and Myanmar using Bangladesh as a base. Despite these claims, the Bangladeshi government has always denied the presence of international terror groups on Bangladeshi soil.

Police inaction

Activists accuse the nation’s security agencies of inaction against Islamic groups. The general response from the police, they say, borders on apathy. After the murder of atheist activist Nazimuddin Samad earlier this month, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government shouldn’t be held responsible if someone got killed for criticizing Islam. The premier has generally shied away from condemning the killing of secular activists, with the exception of the assassinations of gay activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tanay Majumder.

Secularism is a strong force

Religious fundamentalism is still not as deep-rooted in Bangladesh as in some other South Asian countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. The secular culture is extremely potent. However, in the past few years, extremist religious groups have successfully created an environment of fear in the country. That is the reason why most Bangladeshis do not publicly protest the killings.

The tragic tale of an atheist blogger seeking asylum in Germany

The tragic tale of an atheist blogger seeking asylum in Germany
By Esther Felden
https://www.dw.com/en/the-tragic-tale-of-an-atheist-blogger-seeking-asylum-in-germany/a-38862855

The single-room apartment in which Goswami and his family, including his wife Juthi and their 16-month-old son Adrij, currently reside is still mostly empty. 

There’s hardly any furniture in the flat; only a few suitcases at a corner, a mattress on the floor, some toys and a laptop can be found in it. The family has been living in this tiny apartment in the western German city of Aachen for the past several months.

They were forced to flee Bangladesh last year as a result of increased threats from Islamists as well as government officials. Goswami found himself in their crosshairs due to his criticism of religious radicalism and advocacy for protection of minority rights.

The 29-year-old has been blogging since 2008, focusing initially on writing short stories and poems on “somewhereinblog.net,” the South Asian country’s largest community blog platform.

Gradually, the topics he wrote about shifted to more sensitive subjects, putting him on the radar of Islamists.

After becoming an atheist a few years ago, he began criticizing religious radicalism on the internet. His blog posts on contentious issues have been read by many Bangladeshis. Even though he used pseudonyms to publish his articles, extremists managed to discover his real identity and even government officials started monitoring his online activities.

“The authorities never summoned me, but I found some of them on my Facebook and Twitter followers’ lists. I was warned several times to think about what I write online.”

Threats on Facebook

It was in 2013 when Goswami started receiving threats on his life from religious extremists.

The enormous power wielded by bloggers in the Muslim-majority country became evident that year as thousands of ordinary citizens poured on to the streets of the capital Dhaka, demanding capital punishment for the Islamist leaders who were involved in war crimes during the country’s War of Liberation against Pakistan in 1971.

Some bloggers organized the protests via a Facebook event. Islamists were alarmed, and countered the protests by leveling blasphemy allegations against some atheist bloggers.

Atheism has long been seen as a crime in Bangladesh’s conservative Islamic society. Self-proclaimed atheist bloggers like Goswami thus became a target of attacks by radicals.

At first, Goswami didn’t take the threats seriously. But when Avijit Roy, a famous Bangladeshi-American blogger, was hacked to death in February 2015, Goswami began to worry. Shortly after Roy’s murder, Goswami noticed a surge in web traffic to his blog posts. Petrified, he pulled down his blog from the internet. Yet, he got a message on Facebook: “You may think that we might have forgotten you just because you took your website off the internet. But no, we will remember you and your time will come.”

The frightened blogger turned to the police for help. “But they told me to leave the country as they couldn’t give me protection,” he told DW.

Despite the growing insecurity, Goswami remained in Dhaka, even though he reduced his regular outdoor activities. By the summer of 2015, three other secular bloggers had been killed, including Niloy Neel, a friend of Goswami.

The murders heightened the anxiety of Goswami, who was spending many sleepless nights. His wife was also worried about their increasingly precarious state. The two were also concerned about the future of their three-year-old son.

In April 2016, the risk to Goswami’s life became so great that he decided to leave his country. With the help of an international organization, he first flew to Nepal, a country where a number of Bangladeshi bloggers sought temporary shelter after the series of ghastly blogger murders.

Goswami thought that his wife and son would be safe without him in Dhaka. But he was wrong.

“When I was in Nepal, I received threatening emails and Facebook posts saying that my family would be attacked as I was not in the country. My family is the most important thing for me,” Goswami said.

The blogger later contacted the German embassy in Dhaka, which issued him a visa at the end of September 2016. He then arrived in Germany on October 9. Three months later, his wife and child followed, and the family reunited in Aachen. 

Goswami is lucky – Three international organizations supported him in bringing his family to Germany.

“Leaving my country was not an easy decision. Everyone loves their country,” he said. “But the influence of extremists and militants has become so high in Bangladesh that ordinary citizens think it’s no longer safe to practice freedom of expression.

Forget everything – at least for a moment

Arnab Goswami showed us his blog and Facebook page while sitting on the mattress in his living room in Aachen. His blog was hacked just a few days ago.

He said he doesn’t know who the culprit was, but suspects that it could be a professional hacker. When his son crawled into the room, Arnab shined. He cuddled with him, made him laugh. At that moment, he seemed to have forgotten all his worries. When his wife took the child to the kitchen, his face once again turned serious.

“My family has been going through a tough time, maybe I’m safe here, but my future is still uncertain. The fact that I have been suffering for my writing hurts me,” he said.

The couple also misses their parents, whom they left behind in Bangladesh.

But Goswami stresses that he does not regret his writing. “It was not possible for me to stop writing in exchange for a secure life in Bangladesh.”

A gloomy situation

“Of course, it’s alarming to see that liberal writers have been killed for writing blogs, but shall we stop expressing our opinion to save our lives?” The answer to this question, he said, is a clear no.  

“Someone has to come forward to write on those issues. Otherwise, our country will enter into a dark age,” he warned.

Goswami criticizes Bangladesh’s government for not doing enough to protect secular voices. “It’s clear that they have been supporting Islamists to stay in power,” he underlined. “If they continue doing so, Islamic Shariah laws will be introduced at some point. We don’t want that. That’s why we have to continue writing, even though there’s a risk of being killed.”

Goswami’s wife Juthi backs her husband. “I support my husband’s scripts. Sometimes he discusses a topic with me before writing on it as a blog. Nothing is perfect in our life. No religion is perfect. No society is perfect. Some problems are there. And It’s important to write about those problems,” she stressed. 

When Goswami is busy updating his blog site, 27-year-old Juthi takes care of their son and does the household activities. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and wants to learn the German language to explore job opportunities in Germany. But their future in the European country remains uncertain.

Aachen – and then?

Arnab Goswami’s immigration lawyer, Volker Simon, has been supporting the family since February. In the meantime, the three family members have received a residence permit that expires at the end of 2017.

Simon wants to submit an application for asylum and he is optimistic regarding the family’s chances – even if Bangladesh is not considered a priority country by the German Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). According to BAMF statistics obtained by DW, there were 2,657 asylum applications from Bangladeshi nationals received in Germany in 2016.

The quota for accepted Bangladeshi asylum seekers during this time was 10.9 percent. This includes the number of accepted asylum applications, protection from deportation and granting of refugee status.

Help from the embassy

Arnab Goswami’s case for asylum is a special circumstance. “I see good chances for a successful asylum application,” said Simon. “The German Embassy in Dhaka has emphasized that as a critic of religion, a free thinker and a blogger, Goswami is in considerable danger in his country of origin. A few of his colleagues have already been murdered.”

A tragic incident involving another Bangladeshi blogger adds to the legitimacy of Goswami’s case.

“This person applied for asylum at the Swedish embassy and in the time it took to process the application he was shot in the streets,” said Simon. At the time, this helped give Goswami a reason to get out of the country quickly. Now, his future in Germany remains uncertain. 

Atheist Law Student Hacked To Death In Bangladesh

Atheist Law Student Hacked To Death In Bangladesh
By Camila Domonoske
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/07/473347159/atheist-law-student-hacked-to-death-in-bangladesh

A 28-year-old atheist law student has been killed in Bangladesh. The attack follows a string of murders last year targeting outspoken advocates of secularism.

Nazimuddin Samad, a student at Jagannath University, was hacked and shot on Wednesday night while he was walking in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, The Associated Press reports. Multiple attackers, who were reportedly riding on a motorcycle, have not been identified. They escaped while praising Allah, according to the news service.

Samad was an outspoken atheist who criticized radical Islam and promoted secularism on his Facebook page, the AP writes. It adds:

“A supporter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular Awami League party, Samad also took part in the movement that successfully pushed for prosecutors to have more scope for going after suspected war criminals.”

The Dhaka Tribune describes him as an activist with that movement, which is called Ganajagaran Mancha.

The perpetrators and the motive haven’t been identified by police, the BBC reports.

Last year, at least four secular bloggers were hacked to death in Bangladesh and a publisher who worked with one of those bloggers was stabbed to death.

After one of those murders, the editor of the Dhaka Tribune, Zafar Sobhan,spoke to NPR’s Robert Siegel about the rising tensions between secularists and Islamists in Bangladesh.

Zafar Sobhan on All Things Considered

“Recently, over the last couple of years, we have had war crimes trials in Bangladesh. This is to do with our War of Independence in 1971,” Sobhan said, referring to the trials that Ganajagaran Mancha had successfully advocated for.

“Most of the people who have been put on trial are Islamists … who were collaborating with the Pakistan occupation army back in 1971. Now, war crimes trials are very important. However, I think the downside is that they have been painted as a movement against religious people, against Islamists.

“So I think as a result, those who are of a religious bent feel targeted. I think they feel as though they are on the defensive. And so they have decided to step up their opposition and step up their campaign of terror and violence.”

The government of Bangladesh — which is officially secular — has been criticized for failing to protect prominent secularists.

Last May, Rafida Ahmed, the widow of one of the bloggers, spoke to NPR’s Rachel Martin about the attack. Ahmed was injured in the attack that killed her husband.

Rafida Ahmed On Weekend Edition Sunday

“You can do very little when your elected government doesn’t give you any support, especially when these kind of brutal murders are happening,” she said. “The government has stayed completely quiet about this. The prime minister called my father-in-law privately and tried their best to keep it a secret so that nobody knows that they have sympathized with us at all.

“The prime minister’s son … gave an interview to [the press]. Pretty much said that they are walking a fine line, and they’re scared. They don’t want to side with the atheists,” Ahmed said.

After the attack on Samad, the director of public policy at the Center for Inquiry, a U.S.-based secular advocacy group, called the murder “heartbreaking and maddening.”

“The government of Bangladesh must do much more to protect its own people from marauding Islamist killers,” CFI’s Michael De Dora said in a statement. “These murders keep happening because they are allowed to happen.”