Here’s a joint letter in defence of Bangladeshi Bloggers. You can see updated signatories here.
To Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid,
We, concerned members of the blogging and activist community of Bangladesh and internationally, along with representatives of human rights organisations and other civil society organisations and supporters, wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the institutional attack on Bangladeshi citizens who profess humanist, atheist or secularist views.
In the last two years, five bloggers (variously identifying as humanist, rationalist, atheist, and variously writing about science, humanist values, against Islamist extremism, or in favour of human rights and justice) have been murdered, hacked to death by assailants acting for fundamentalist militant groups (according to their own claims of responsibility). These victims are: Ahmed Rajib Haider, the science author Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Niladri Chatterjee (pen name Niloy Neel). Four of these murders have occurred since February this year. In other cases, individuals like Jafar Munshi and Anjali Devi have been killed for alleged or perceived acts of ‘defamation of religion’, such as refusing to enforce hijab on students. And since 2013, supporters of the Shahbag movement and the war crimes justice process (the accused being Islamist leaders) have also been brutally murdered by similar Islamist entities. The victims include: Ashraful Alam, Arif Raihan Deep, Nurul Islam Faruki, Jagat Jyoti Talukder, Jakaria Babu.
The murderers and their ideological supporters are of course to be condemned and must be brought to justice.
In addition, instead of helping to confront this outrageous injustice, political and state institutions have begun blaming the victims themselves and making matters worse.
Following the murder of Niladri Chatterjee on 7 August, the Inspector General of Police engaged in victim-blaming, called for self-censorship, and threatened bloggers — the very people who are being murdered — with legal action under the current quasi-blasphemy law. Meanwhile, despite some counter-terrorism operations, the police have comprehensively failed to disrupt the networks that are ordering or carrying out these cowardly attacks. Even with two of the killers caught at the scene (after the murder of Washiqur Rahman) and claims of responsibility made openly on social media and via news outlets, still the attacks go on, and the extremists behind the killings remain at large. Instead of calling for vigilance and evidence against the murderers from the general public, police have instead encouraged the public to report alleged atheistic writings.
Faced with fresh death threats against numerous named Shahbag activists and others branded “enemies of Islam” in the week after the most recent murder, a police spokesperson told those threatened merely to “lodge police complaints” if they thought they were being followed! This is a grossly inadequate, highly negligent response to what is evidently a most serious and potentially fatal threat. [Read more…]