The IHEU tells the terrible story of the refusal by the Swedish embassy in Dhaka to give Ananta Bijoy Das a visa to travel to Sweden for a conference.
Ananta had been on a list of atheist bloggers produced by Islamist political parties in 2013. They demanded a death penalty for ‘blasphemy’, and since then several writers on the list have been murdered, always by machete attack. Ananta was also named on a new hit list in March [Bangla] in connection with a group called Ansarullah Bangla Team.
Ananta wrote to IHEU at the time:
“It seems to me I am one of the targets . I am not sure how long I will hide myself. But I am sure If they will find me they will do what they did with Mr. Avijit Roy. My life is seriously unsecured . I am not sure how can I protect myself & my family.”
International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) statement (12 May 2015):
Each of these murders is a crushing loss to the humanist and secularist communities of South Asia and the world.
IHEU condemns this murder in the strongest possible terms, as well as the failures of the Bangladeshi authorities to bring to justice the individuals and to break the networks behind this string of targeted killings. Whether from apathy, or incompetence, or intimidation, the police and government are utterly failing Bangladeshi humanist, atheist and secularist writers, thinkers and activists.
Ananta Bijoy Das had reached out to us at IHEU following the murders of Avijit and Washiqur. Accepting the very serious threat to this life, we advised Ananta in trying to make the difficult move out of danger. However, we have been informed that his application for a visa to travel to Sweden, under invitation from Swedish PEN, was rejected last week by the Swedish embassy in Dhaka, on the basis that he might seek to remain in Sweden.
We call on all countries to recognise the legitimacy and sometimes the urgency and moral necessity of asylum claims made by humanists, atheists and secularists who are being persecuted for daring to express those views.
And that includes you, Sweden.
Swedish PEN confirmed in a statement [Swedish] that they had invited Ananta to Sweden to talk about the threat to atheists in Bangladesh, but his visa application was refused, despite the clear and demonstrated mortal threat to atheist writers in Bangladesh, and despite the support of PEN for his visit. Swedish PEN demand:
“a detailed and credible explanation of why the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka chosen not to grant Ananta Bioy Dash the visa he needed to meet the Swedish PEN’s invitation to speak in Stockholm”
In the visa refusal letter seen by IHEU (sent by the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka to Ananta Bijoy Das on 22 April 2015) the embassy notes among other considerations: “you are unmarried and you do not have any children”, as reason to consider the applicant not “well established in Bangladesh”, therefore:
…you have not made it likely that the purpose of the journey is only for a short visit for a meeting and not settlement there. You belong to a category of applicants where there is always a risk involved when granting a visa that you will not leave Schengen area after the visit.
Furthermore, the purpose of your trip is not urgent enough to grant you visa. With regards to this and different circumstances in your case as well as different visa regulations you do not fulfil the requirements for a visa. Your application is therefore rejected.
Can you believe that? He belonged “a category of applicants where there is always a risk involved when granting a visa that you will not leave Schengen area after the visit” – meaning, presumably, he knew his motherfucking life was in danger – so that’s why they wouldn’t let him go there.
It’s a horror.