Atheist Bloggers Under Attack in Bangladesh

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Writers in Bangladesh are on high alert after the second murder of a blogger roccurred in just five weeks within the capital of Dhaka. Both victims were found “hacked to death” after writing a number of articles against religious fundamentalism.
The first murder of Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American, occurred while in a rickshaw with his wife. According to reports, armed men attacked the rickshaw while en route, brandishing large knives. Roy was killed, while his wife sustained major injuries.
Roy was famous for his Free-Mind Blog and various books that delved into touchy subjects in Bangladeshi culture including homosexuality. According to family members Roy had been fielding hate-filled threats for some time.
The most recent blogger, Washiqur Rahman, had also written posts online which were critical of religion and Islam. Althoug haccording to reportshe had told friends he wasn’t worried about threats as his personal photo wasn’tonline and he wrote under the pen name Kutshit Hasher Chhana — which translates to Ugly Duckling —in the end this did little to ensure his safety.
Rahman was attacked with knives and meat cleavers, maimed so badly that police had to use his voter identification card to verify his identity. Bloody cleavers were also found at the scene of Roy’s death five weeks ago. Although suspects have not been identified, the identical nature of the attack has led many to believe the two murders are connected. So far there have been no leads in the identity of the killers.Criticizing religion in Bangladesh is often considered a dangerous act and reprisals against ‘freethinkers’ are not uncommon.
In January of 2013 a spate of killings began whenaward-winning blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, who also self-identifiedas an atheist was stabbed outside his office. Mohiuddin survived his attack and continued writing his blog.
In February Ahmed Rajib Haider, another atheist blogger, was attacked, succumbing to his wounds. And then, again in early March that same year,Saniur Tahman, an activist and blogger who took part in demonstrations against blasphemy laws, was also stabbed, although he survived the attack.Of the killers who were caught and prosecuted for these murders, most were loosely affiliated with Islamic groups. Very few were interconnected outside of religion. Meaning these are not planned attacks by one organization, but groups that have decided independently to murder writers. To many, this shows a widespread problem with intolerance in Bangladesh, rather than an isolated faction.
This atmosphere of violent repression against anybody who speaks out against fundamentalist religion tapered off slightly in 2014, but many are worried it has come roaring back with a vengeance.
Reporters without Borders’ Benjamin Ismail, who runs the Asia-Pacific desk,condemned the Bangladeshi government for not doing enough to protect their independent writers. “We offer our condolences to Rahman’s family andfriends,” Ismail wrote. “We condemn the government’s failure to protect bloggers, especially those who cover or comment on religion, fundamental freedoms and extremism of all kinds, and we again urge the prime minister to combat this growing violence or else all non-religious thinkers will flee and strict self-censorship will dominate all public debate in Bangladesh.”

Brought to you by – Sikandar Kumar Mehta
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