The dramatic war against freedom or beliefs and freedom of expression continues to make more victims in Bangladesh. After multiples attacks against humanist bloggers and the recent murders of four of them, Islamist groups have continued their macabre witch-hunt against proponents of secularism and free speech.
On Saturday 31 October, two progressive publishing houses were attacked by a regional division of Al-Qaeda and led to another person killed and three more seriously injured.
The first attack was conducted against Shuddho-Shor, a secular publishing house based in Dhaka. Three people were stabbed and shot: the publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul, the writer Ranadipam Basu and the poet Tareq Rahim. Later in the day, Faysal Arefin Dipon, from the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was found dead in his office.
Uncoincidentally, the two publishing houses had printed and distributed work by Avijit Roy, the humanist blogger killed in a similar Islamist attack in February this year.
“Law and order is all right” says Bangladesh Government
As usual, Bangladesh’s response to these attacks has been to deny any responsibility: after blaming victims for their “blasphemous” writings, the Government now insists that these attacks are “isolated incidents” even though several writers and bloggers have been killed in a wave of attacks.
When asked why such incidents were taking place repeatedly, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said:
Such isolated incidents occur in other countries as well. Can you give me a single place where such things do not happen? Such attacks happened in Australia, USA and France and the perpetrators have been nabbed. We will also track down those responsible.
In fact, we cannot trust the Bangladesh Government to do so since no serious or complete investigation has been conducted so far against the perpetrators of these repeated attacks.
The EHF strongly condemns these horrifying and brutal attacks and urges Bangladesh to stop this culture of impunity and effectively protect the lives of its non-religious citizens.
EHF President Pierre Galand commented: “Bangladesh has become a nightmare for those who want to express their non-religious views. These people are facing a terrible situation, caught between death threats from Islamist groups and arrest threats by a Government which still criminalises “blasphemy” offence.
We urgently call upon all European institutions, and more specifically High representative Federica Mogherini, to increase the pressure on the Bangladesh Government to ensure the protection of these people. So far, the EU has kept too silent to defend humanists’ and atheists’ rights abroad. It is high time it takes into consideration the persecutions that non-believers face in several countries.
We also call upon European Governments’ commitment to protect those who face direct threats for their free speech and approve asylum requests of Bangladeshi bloggers trying to leave their country”.
If you would like to speak for Bangladeshi free thinkers, see here the list of actions you can take.